Wednesday, October 31, 2007
by Wayne Besen
With a wealth of good candidates - particularly on gay issues - many Democratic voters are still undecided going into the primaries. The only thing they are sure of is that they loathe President George W. Bush and none of the Republican contenders present themselves as viable options. One-time GOP moderates - like Mitt Romney, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani - are reinventing themselves as right wing conservatives who can't wait to appoint "strict constructionist" judges. Even if one likes their policies on defense (I don't) the notion that they might stack the court with more Scalia-types is too frightening to countenance.
Hillary Clinton is the current frontrunner, but it is clear that her lead is tenuous and could evaporate with any serious missteps. At this week's Democratic debate
, moderated by NBC's Tim Russert and Brian Williams, the challengers vigorously worked to dethrone her. Some made headway, but no one delivered a memorable blow to change the calculus of the race. Here is a snapshot on how the candidates performed in this crucial Democratic contest:Hillary Clinton:
She was targeted by nearly everyone on stage and portrayed as an untrustworthy, status quo candidate. However, she helped her case by coming across as the Timex candidate: She took a licking and kept on ticking.
However, at times Clinton did seem too packaged and at some point she needs to answer questions more directly. She also mentioned Bush way too many times, and that strategy grated on my nerves after the first hour. But, she did help herself in the general election - if she gets there - by talking tough on defense. This debate generally bolstered Clinton's campaign because she looked like a brawler - exactly what is needed against Republicans.Barack Obama:
While he began the debate comparing himself to Rocky, it is increasingly clear that this man has no clue how to throw a punch. First, he acted surprised by the hype surrounding the debate - even though he is the one who hyped it in the New York Times, signaling that he would aggressively challenge the frontrunner. However, he looked unsure of himself, terribly uncomfortable with political combat and withered under Clinton's piercing glare. He got better as the debate went on - but delivered no decisive blows. The only thing rocky was his tepid performance in a crucial debate.
Indeed, Obama still seemed to be reeling from his gospel gaffe
, where he lacked the leadership to dump outspoken "ex-gay" singer Donnie McClurkin
from a campaign gospel tour in South Carolina. Obama is a very talented politician who will learn and grow from these experiences. One day he will be president - just not in 2008.John Edwards:
Edwards effectively played the attack dog role that Obama should have embraced. Still in the hunt, Edwards drew distinct differences with Clinton and sharp contrasts. He will do better than people think and may sneak up on Clinton if she keeps equivocating. Edwards made it clear with his assault on Clinton's record that he is playing for keeps, believes he can make a difference and is not looking for a shot at a Vice Presidential nomination.Dennis Kucinich:
On the same day he questioned President Bush's mental health, he admits to seeing a UFO. Note to Kucinich: Americans say they want our politicians to be honest - they don't really
mean it. E.T. has a better chance of winning the presidency. But, thanks for adding entertainment value to the debate! Who said politics can't be fun?Christopher Dodd:
When your campaign is up in smoke, why not endorse decriminalizing pot? Hey, at least its not UFO's! But, just think what a party joint appearances with foreign leaders might be? It is a shame that in America we cannot have a reasonable debate on drug policy - but after all, we are the country that reelected Bush. On the plus side, if he wins the pothead vote, he's way ahead of where he was before this debate. And, truth be told, he handled himself quite well and looked presidential.Bill Richardson:
For some reason, when Richardson discusses his thick resume, it seems like he is boasting. Instead of being impressed with his accomplishments, I find myself wondering how a guy that seems so disheveled got so far in life. With his campaign in shambles, he auditioned for the vice presidency, lecturing the other candidates to tone down their attacks on Clinton. He probably scored some points with her and kept his political career alive.Joseph Biden:
Like Richardson, he auditioned for the vice presidency by ruthlessly attacking Giuliani and calling him unqualified. Quite frankly, he was an effective hatchet man and performed well in the debate.
If anything, this debate will get Democrats in the fighting spirit they need to take on the Republicans. The country desperately needs a new direction and having nominees from both parties taking the spotlight further off lame duck Bush will lead to a much-needed discussion on the direction we want to take our country.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
by Wayne Besen
In the Middle East, homosexuals don't exist because there is a discernible lack of rainbow flag waving, show tune loving and Mimosa-sipping gays. There is also an absence of out politicians, ala Barney Frank, GLBT political organizations or trendy gay nightclubs. This, of course, is because homosexuality is a Western invention and Arab men - without the moral corruption of foreigners - have no capacity to fall in love with others of the same sex.
These are the incoherent ramblings of Joseph Massad, a Columbia University professor and the author of, "Desiring Arabs", published this year by University of Chicago Press. Ironically, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran had no gay people in his infamous Columbia University speech, he was greeted with belly laughs. In the case of Massad, on the other hand, instead of jeers he gets cheers and is up for tenure.
In this week's New Republic magazine, James Kirchick discusses
how this dangerous ideologue is part of a larger movement to justify the brutal repression and murder of gay people in the Middle East. The idea is borrowed from the sometime intellectual wasteland of "Queer Theory" which says that homosexuality is a "social construction" and not inborn.
What I find amazing is that these pseudo intellectuals never seem to grasp the obvious. When you put a gun to a gay person's head, they "construct" a closet. Given the option of freedom, they construct gay institutions - political organizations, social clubs and marriages. This is universal and not confined to Western civilization - precisely why we have gay people escaping the Middle East to find freedom in the West, and we donâ€™t have gays clamoring to enter Saudi Arabia - where they are beheaded.
Those whose sexual and romantic interests are centered on the same-sex have a right to proclaim their inherent worth and demand that governments protect their families. Borders cannot be used as an excuse to butcher, nor culture a justification to kill. What we are talking about is state sanctioned, cold-blooded murder no matter what intellectual, regional or religious garb (or garbage) it is wrapped up in.
The emptiness of the social construct model is seen in the arguments put forth by Massad. In his tome, he discusses the mass arrests of fifty-two gay men in Egypt on the Queen Boat in 2001. The men were publicly humiliated, imprisoned in hideous conditions, paraded like animals in front of the media and some were tortured.
In Kirchick's New Republic article, he points to a gay activist who called the incident, "our own Stonewall." Massad disputes the Stonewall analogy by saying it was different because "the drag queens at the Stonewall bar" embraced their sexual orientation while the Egyptians did "not seek publicity of the events by the media by covering their faces in order to hide from the cameras and from hysterical public scrutiny."
Is this guy a university professor or the last place finisher on a Middle School debate team? The circular logic is astounding and shows either intellectual shallowness or remarkable antipathy towards homosexuals. Is it not obvious that traumatized and imprisoned gay men facing an "hysterical public" might not be so enthusiastic about wearing their freedom rings?
This sort of disjointed thinking can be applied to any group in the Middle East. For example, a woman who drives in Saudi Arabia will also be humiliated and arrested. I suppose we can twist this to show that cars are a product of colonialism and women do not drive in Saudi Arabia, thus proving that they have no desire to do so. We can take it further by saying that any woman who expresses the desire to drive has been corrupted by a Western mindset.
It is tempting for some misguided Americans to buy into this nonsense in the aftermath of George W. Bush's botched invasion of Iraq. The administration's inattention to cultural differences contributed heavily to the current quagmire. Still, we must be wise enough to distinguish between regional differences and universal truths - such as love. The only difference between gay people in Tehran and Toronto is that one group is protected while the other persecuted.
Massad, and others university professors who promote such barbarism, should be denied tenure for their shoddy scholarship and offering the "intellectual" underpinnings for mainstreaming murder.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
by Wayne Besen
Author A.J. Jacobs just released his new book, "The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Quest to Follow The Bible As Literally As Possible." For 365 days, the agnostic Jacobs skipped around in a robe and sandals while growing a Moses-like beard. He herded sheep, and refrained from sins, such as gossiping and lying.
While reading a review
, it occurred to me that this faux fundamentalist may be the last one in America who actually walks the walk - in sandals - and doesn't talk the talk, while caught up in tawdry scandals.
In the latest outrage, Louisiana Republican Joey DiFatta withdrew from
his State Senate race after police detained him twice for looking to hook-up in public restrooms. Of course, like Sen. Larry Craig and Florida House member Bob Allen
, DiFatta swears he isn't gay. Isn't it time that the GOP just admits what modern conservatism really stands for by holding the Republican National Convention inside a giant domed commode?
It is all starting to make sense as to why senate colleagues applauded Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) when he returned to work after admitting a tryst with a female hooker? The fact that the GOP has at least one politician that verifiably likes women was enough to earn him a well-deserved standing ovation.
The most spectacular fundie-fiasco is the alleged plundering
of Oral Roberts University by the school's president Richard Roberts and his greedy wife Lindsay. This is the Bible Belt school made famous by a 60 foot bronze statue of praying hands and immortalized after ORU's founder and namesake once said God told him to raise $8 million dollars or he would be "called home."
Well, that might not have not been so bad, as the charges reveal that the younger Roberts' home has been remodeled 11 times in the past 14 years and includes a ranch with a stable of horses for the family's children. When not riding on their high horse, the family was flying high on the university jet to the Bahamas.
Mrs. Roberts' Imelda Marcos-like
spending included more than $39,000 at one clothing store in less than a year. Apparently, she justified the expense by saying, "As long as I wear it once on TV, we can charge it off."
Of course, she had to look good in that white Lexus SUV and red Mercedes convertible given to her by ministry donors. Mrs. Roberts also had to appear spiffy for the boys, as she racked up cell-phone bills of more than $800 per month, with hundreds of text messages sent between 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. to "underage males who had been provided phones at university expense."
In yet another illuminating development, churches are now recruiting young evangelicals by setting up TV monitors in basements where kids can play the bloodthirsty videogame
Halo 3. One preacher defended these hellish games in the New York Times by saying he wants to "make it hard for teenagers to go to hell." Kedrick Kenerly, founder of Christian Gamers Online, calls the video violence "a way to fellowship" and justifies their use by saying, "I'm shooting pixels on a screen." So, is porn now considered okay because you are shooting, so to speak, to pixels on a screen? If fundamentalism keeps going down this road, they might consider setting up booths at the Folsom Street Fair.
With such political and moral depravity sweeping conservatism - not to mention disgust over Bush and the Iraq war - the country is moving back to the center. This is reflected in the presidential race, where hardcore wing nuts, like Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Tom Tancredo (R-CO) are in the back of the pack. This has set up the unlikely scenario where a nominally pro-choice candidate, like Rudy Giuliani, could win the GOP nomination.
If this occurs, Focus on the Family's James Dobson and other leading fundamentalists have threatened to back a third-party candidate. The problem is, the conservative brand is so tarnished that they can't find anyone with credibility (or who hasn't been divorced multiple times) to run. Still, with evangelicals representing 26 percent of the population, if only a quarter of them defect to a spoiler candidate, it will hand the election to the Democrats.
The self-righteous and corrupt Religious Right is already destroying itself, we can only hope they will be as successful at ruining their partnership with the Republican Party. What could be sweeter in 2008 than Dobson playing the role of Ralph Nader, with King James crowning Queen Hillary?
As much as the right may cringe at the prospect, compared to its closeted toe tapping, serial divorcing, university pilfering, bloody videogame-promoting constituency, Hillary Clinton's lifestyle - and that of the other leading Democrats - appears quite conservative.