Monday, April 28, 2003

Friday night, when the news teams had gone home and Americans were busy making plans for the weekend, the Pentagon quietly announced the departure of Secretary of the Army Thomas White. It now appears that White was kicked out by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who has had conflict with him for a while now.

More interesting is the fact that White was appointed in the first place, since he is one of the persons suspected of exploiting California's energy crisis on behalf of Enron Corp. How many oil executives can be involved with this White House? Quite a few, it turns out, and White hasn't exactly been forthcoming.

Which brings us to a reminder: Kenneth Lay has still not been indicted.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

More Santorum...he and his apologists have actually done a good job of explaining his statements in context. An excellent argument has been made that the Senator--when he made his remarks about gay sex--was indeed referring to the original court statement that allowed that opening the door for one sex crime opened the door (legally) for others.

The problem with this deduction is that the original statement is itself prejudicial--it presumes that all of the sexual behaviors under discussion are criminal because they are included in some statutes as crimes. For those who are fond of "Is 'is' is?" statements, this is a good example of one. Yes, the acts are all criminal because in some states they are crimes. But making these comparisons doesn't deal with the real problem of criminalizing behaviors that do not harm anyone. And if Santorum had really wanted to be sensitive toward gay people, he would have avoided the legal argument that he made for the very reason that it presumes and perpetuates the criminalizing of harmless behavior.

So he is technically correct that he spoke with no malice, but the spirit of what he was defending betrayed his bigotry.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Looters in Iraq have stormed not only museums and government buildings, but hospitals. Hospital guards have fled in fear, medical records have been burned, and doctors have been stalked by robbers and vandals. Contaminated water (sound familiar?--that's right--Desert Storm) has caused an increase in illness, and humanitarian organizations have had difficulty getting food and clean water into the country.

None of this is a surprise. However, the occupying forces chose not to guard museums, libraries, government buildings and hospitals. However, it is reported that they are on the job 24/7 guarding the Iraqi oil wells.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."

These are the worrds of Senator Rick Santorum, uttered in reference to the Texas sodomy law case. His apologists (including "civil rights proponent" Chris Matthews) say that Santorum was referring to a legal issue, not displaying bigotry. But the quickest glance at the remarks indicate that he could not possibly have been referring to a legal issue because bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery are all behaviors that either hurt someone else, or stand a chance of hurting someone else. The sexual behavior of gay citizens within their own homes--in and of itself--cannot possibly hurt anyone.

In fact, comparing incest with adultery is ridiculous. How can having sex with children be placed in the same category as having an affair outside of marriage?

Obviously, Santorum was talking about values. We understand that Santorum was taught that homosexuality--a condition of one's genetic self--is wrong. It is absurd to call a part of one's genetic makeup "wrong," but people like Santorum do it all the time. But to find a legal harm in the relationship between one gay individual and another, and to compare it with child abuse, is outrageous.

More compassionate conservatism. When will people demand that it end?

Saturday, April 19, 2003

"All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community."

This is a statement made by Rod Paige, the United States Secretary of Education, and it is only the latest in a series of offensive, insensitive and outrageous statements made by members of the Bush administration and its colleagues. What is wrong with it? Everything.

First, why would the values of the Christian community be superior to the values of other communities? Are there not admirable values in the Jewish community? The Muslim community? The Buddhist community? The community of people who don't hurt others and try to do the right thing?

Then there is the matter of the Christian community itself, which is a community not represented by the White House. The White House represents the "Christian" community, a core of people who do not respect the rights or beliefs of others, who are anti-Constitution, who blame the poor for their problems, who do not tolerate those who deviate from their narrowly defined values, and who freely promote killing.

Of course, there are many Christians in the nation who do not subscribe to the dangerous teachings of the White House "Christians," but who still hold values that others may not consider superior--such as promotion of capitol punishment and the exploitation of animals.

Americans hold a variety of values. Some are based on compassion and tolerance, and some are based on fear, ignorance and disregard for the welfare of others.

To say that a child is better off in a school that reflects the values of a Christian community--especially the kind of "Christians" Paige is talking about--is absurd. And it is yet another Bush White House slap in the face of what America is supposed to stand for.

Friday, April 18, 2003

What a culture!

This morning, I heard a woman call into a radio talk show and say to the host "Happy Good Friday!"

Let's deconstruct this greeting...If the woman is a non-Christian, then why would she be talking about an exceptionally holy day in the Christian religion, and why would she be referring to it as happy when it is a day of mourning? If the woman is a Christian, why on earth would she suggest that the most somber day in the Christian year be happy?

Of course, the Easter culture is a lot more ironic than that. Yesterday, on the radio, I heard a steak house ad suggesting that everyone come over to the restaurant for an Easter dinner of steak. Everywhere, people are buying grocery store eggs to dye and hide, or to use for decorations. So we can celebrate the Christian victory over death by dining on cows that have been horribly abused and slaughtered, or by eating eggs from chickens who have been tortured beyond belief throughout their miserable lives.

There is something deeply wrong with this picture.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

It is good news, indeed, that prisoner of war PFC Jessica Lynch was rescued and is receiving medical treatment for her injuries. Everyone is so happy about Private Lynch's survival that no one is commenting on the blatant sexism with which her rescue is being handled by both the news media and the military. "How is Jessica?" "Jessica is our hero." "Jessica has stories to tell." "You go, girl!" Does anyone think for one moment that if Private Lynch were Robert or Eddie or Tim that the talking heads and their military experts would be referring to him by his first name?

And what about all of the other U.S. soldiers who are injured and lying in hospital beds? Why aren't they the flavor of the month? Just not cute enough, I guess.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

The National Museum Of Iraq is no more. Looters carrying knives, guns and pieces of jagged metal stormed through it, carting off thousands of precious antiquities, many of them thousands of years old. Statues, carvings, and various other artifacts were taken away, some in the pockets of children. The museum had been closed for some time, and now, for all practical purposes, it does not exist.

This is a terrible loss for the art world, for historians, and for the Arab world in general. It is a tragedy all on its own. But looting in Iraq has been treated as an expectation, not a crisis, and now the premier collection of the Middle East is gone forever.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

According to an MSNBC source, the Los Angeles Times recently ran a poll to determine whether its readers approved of "embedded" reporters. 60% of respondents approved. 40% disapproved because they believe that having the reporters situated with troops could give the enemy too much information.

Didn't anyone disapprove because "embedding" (I can't take this word seriously) ensures that U.S. news reporters will be sure to cover up the ugly stuff and report only what the White House and the Pentagon wants them to? When U.S. soldiers fought in Vietnam, reporters were prohibited from telling the public anything the government didn't want us to hear. This kinder and gentle administration has found a better way to control the media--by flattering them with "relationships" with U.S. troops. Of course, it isn't all kind and gentle--we have learned how the White House reacts to anyone who questions the current military or political strategy.

And since you probably won't be seeing this on your favorite TV news show, here's the latest tidbit from Afghanistan (remember Afghanistan?): The U.S. just made another mistake and dropped a bomb in a residential area, killing 11 innocent Afghan citizens.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Today is the 35th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. If he were alive today, what would he be doing? What would he be thinking?

I like to think that if Dr. King were still with us, he would be a feminist and a gay rights activist, as well as a leader of his people. I like to think that he would be helping the black community fight against HIV infection, and that he would teach young people how to stand against injustice and how to make change happen, no matter how much resistance they encountered.

Of course, these are just my fantasies, but I think they are well-grounded, given Dr. King's personal and political history. His death was one of the ugliest moments in modern American history, but his life was one we can all emulate.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Hail Margaret Cho yet again! In her latest concert, Cho Revolution, she takes on everything from Catherine Zeta-Jones' pregnancy to the difficulty of growing up with immigrant parents to her own ambivalence about having children. Cho's material is always deeply personal--for me, it is sometimes too personal--and it is always used in the service of helping people (especially women) become satisfied with being exactly who they are. More important, it is also always used in the service of causing me to laugh until my entire body hurts.

It turns out that our Margaret recently visited Thailand, and the phrases yelled to potential customers by the "barkers" in front of the Bangkok sex parlors become the thread that is woven throughout the entire 90 minutes of the Cho Revolution concert. Cho's riffs on these crude enticements sent me into uncontrollable gales of laughter every time, even though I knew they were coming.

Cho fans know that no concert is complete without at least one monologue about Margaret's Korean mother, and she doesn't disappoint. She recounts her mother's unchanging conviction that anything can be glued to anything using rice, and she provides a visually hilarious tale about why her mother refused to have cosmetic surgery to Anglicize her eyes.

Cho is equally adept at both social satire and physical comedy, and she uses them together to expose the horrors of American racism, sexism, commercialism, and homophobia. Never have such disturbing subjects been so gut-splittingly funny.