Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bad Craziness

Weird, weird things you run across. Andrew Sullivan has noted, along with many others, how much Pope Benedict XVI has tastes in vestments that are far from sackcloth and ashes, running more towards Gucci and Prada, albeit within the strictures of how the Pope is to appear. As Sullivan puts it, for this pope, every aisle is a runway. For example, this lovely hat is quite correct, very tasteful, and no doubt very expensive.

I saw this when Sully referred me to a slide show of Benedict's taste for the fabulous in the Italian magazine L'Esspresso. What startled the hell out of me was seeing this image on the sidebar of ads, right next to Benedict:

It's promoting an article in the "Style and Design" section (yes they do it in English), and the caption is "Eros d'autore." I don't think that's hard to translate.

What a juxtaposition! Of course, Benedict didn't have anything to do with that. It was the magazine. Or somebody. But the snicker factor can only get higher so long as he keeps denouncing gays while surrounding himself with hunky young priests. Like Monsignor Georg Gänswein, his personal assistant who is described as "inseparable" from the pope, seen here exploring phallic symbolism.

Cummon, guys. Find a room.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Singing Engineers

My brother Don works for an Infamous Megamultinational Corporation, as he puts it. If he thinks it discreet not to identify it on his blog, neither shall I, though what he designs very likely has a lot to do with the computer you're using to see this.

But if megamulti it is, heartless it is not. They like to do a lot to help people -- they sure have the money -- and one project to promote a United Way fund drive was an in-house talent show competition at the facility where he works, near Sacramento. Actually, it may have been company-wide, for all I know, and maybe that's why it was videotaped. Looks like it was fun but -- believe me, I know -- the line in these cases between fun and terror can be a thin one indeed. Don put it succintly:

Risk-taking is one of the Corporate Values by which we are exhorted to live our work lives. Given that when it comes to public musical performance, the less the talent, the greater the risk, some of the performers truly took that particular value to heart.

He did good though. He and a few friends had been having a lot of fun in the last few years working up barbershop-quartet-style numbers, and they did a few for the show. Not bad for a bunch of engineers.

Did they win big? Don doesn't say, so I suspect not. He is, by the way, second from the right. You will notice that he employs by far the most extravagant and theatrical hand gestures of anyone in the group. So yeah, he's straight, but obviously we do share SOME genes.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dobson Insights

It's always interesting when Dr. James Dobson's in the news. Not necessarily good, but interesting. Recently, when Rev. Ted Haggard's little secret came out, Dobson quickly announced he wanted to be part of the team of clergy and experts who would set about "curing" Haggard of homosexuality. Not any more. He just told Larry King:

I was asked to serve on a three person restoration panel and I originally wanted to be of help and said that I would, but I just don’t have the time to do that. And I called my board of directors, we talked about it at length and they were unanimous in asking me not to do that, because this could take four or five years and I just have too many other things going on.

These are the people who urge us to put our trust in Jesus, because He will never let you down. I'd find that easier to believe if I saw that kind of faithfulness in those who claim to be His followers. They can't even stand by each other.

On the other hand, Rev. Ted may be better off in the end without this guy's help. Remember, Dobson has a Ph.D. in child development and is a licensed psychologist. He puts out a daily radio show and monthly newsletter both called Focus On the Family. While he will happily expound on the eeevil gay agenda at the drop of a tract, his main emphasis is on families and child rearing. I've seen his syndicated column in the local newspaper. He has published 31 books, one of them titled Bringing Up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the Next Generation of Men.

And, from that newsletter, published with Dobson's approval, here is reparative therapist Joseph Nicolosi explaining how fathers should act to guide their young sons in properly developing a strong masculine identity, advice on how to guarantee your son grows up straight:

[T]he boy's father has to do his part. He needs to mirror and affirm his son's maleness. He can play rough-and-tumble games with his son, in ways that are decidedly different from the games he would play with a little girl. He can help his son learn to throw and catch a ball. He can teach him to pound a square wooden peg into a square hole in a pegboard. He can even take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help but notice that Dad has a penis, just like his, only bigger.


That last sentence is just so disturbing I don't know what to say. And this reflects the thinking of the fundamentalist right's leading expert on bringing up kids? No wonder these people are so fucked up.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Helping Out

I had a pretty quiet Thanksgiving, no guests or anything, but I did go out earlier to help the NO/AIDS Task Force with its deliveries. They have a program, Food for Friends, for delivering food to HIV+ people in the New Orleans area who have trouble getting out and shopping for themselves. They needed a few extra drivers for an extra push getting some hot food to clients on Thanksgiving.

So I showed up at 11 AM at Covenant House on North Rampart St., at the edge of the Quarter. It's a shelter for homeless teenagers and young adults, and they were letting us use their kitchen facilities. It was an easy gig. I only had to make a few stops, dropping off some packages of stuff in plastic grocery bags.

Doreen, the Task Force volunteer director, was running the show. She was very concerned about the safety of her drivers, and there were about half a dozen of us. When I asked, she said it was not about lawlessness or violence, but just the physical hazards of this damaged city. It seems a lot of HIV clients who had nowhere else to go to have come back to places that aren't very safe. She told me of a nice old lady who is not only living in a condemned building, with a red sticker on the front, but on the top floor of a condemned building. Not the situation she wants to send a volunteer into. (FYI, with that old lady, she has her people yell up from the street that her delivery is ready, and the lady sends someone down.)

So as Doreen was marshalling her forces today, she said quite firmly, "At the top of your route sheet is my cell phone number. When you complete your route, you WILL call me. If you do not do so, if you do not check in, I will go one block down the street to the First Precinct office and report you as missing, and you WILL be on the Six O'clock News."

She got 100% compliance. From me, at any rate.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Excellent Question

One of my favorite opinion columnists is Leonard Pitts, Jr., of the Miami Herald. He's syndicated, so I get his columns here in the Times-Picayune a day after they run in Miami. Recently he did a column contrasting the experiences of the Rev. Ted Haggard and actor Neil Patrick Harris, star of Doogie Howser, MD, both of whom were involuntarily outed recently. The news about Harris was no surprise to gay folks, and when the issue was brought up directly on an online gossip site, he responded with a statement that included this wholly admirable sentence:
I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest.

Ted Haggard, in contrast ... well, I think you know what happened there.

Pitts also asks the following question, in reference to Haggard:
Between this guy, the late gay-bashing former Spokane mayor, James West, Pat Robertson biographer Mel White, and Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, leaders in the "curing homosexuality" movement until they fell in love with one another, can't we now safely assume that any conservative who rants about the homosexual agenda is a lying hypocrite gayer than a Castro Street bar?

Ah, Leonard, some of us have been asking that question for a verrrry long time.

Humor for a Good Cause

Speaking of Haggard (we were, weren't we?), while his actions are certainly a serious matter, they still can be nicely perked up with some ruthless sarcasm. One M. Spaff Sumsion provides us with some, based on Dick Van Dyke's big number in the old "Mary Poppins" movie.

Donald Lund performs it here.

* * * * * * *

I used to be a master of the anti-gay crusade
Until a butch disaster blew my pastor masquerade
But if it's true I'm pounding more than pulpits, don't blame me
It's 'cause I caught my hooker-tweaker-stud's infirmity

Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis
Worse than plague and bird flu crossed with osteoporosis
We were playing doctor and he gave this diagnosis:
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis

Umm Haggard Bakker Swaggart umm Tammy Faye
Umm Haggard Bakker Swaggart umm Tammy Faye

I found the perfect therapist - the kind that gives massage
I like to drive my Escort and I park in his garage
I swear he only serves me crank when all his Coke is gone
And then he helps me straighten out my Peter, James, and John

Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis
That's my greatest guilty pleasure next to Guns N' Roses
Good thing there's no ban on it in all the books of Moses
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis

Umm Haggard Bakker Swaggart umm Tammy Faye
Umm Haggard Bakker Swaggart umm Tammy Faye

It seems all pious public figures bugger on the sly
But Jesus loved republicans and sinners; so must I
Say "Holy moley, Mister Foley! That boy's underage!"
But I believe the congressman has turned another page

Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis
Next time, better cut me off at handshakes and Mimosas
No more meth and men for me - at least in overdoses!
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis!

(Just a spoonful of crystal helps the prostitute go down...)

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Good Cause, dammit

I'm sure my hordes of readers, all five of them blood relations, know all about Ted Haggard, the evangelical superstar preacher who imploded so spectacularly just before the election. When a gay hustler spoke up and identified ol' Ted as a long time customer for meth-fueled fuck fests ("he's definitely a bottom"), it did raise a few eyebrows, hmmm? It may even have been among the final straws that helped tilt the opinion of the electorate against the hypocrisy now in power, tilting it towards Throw The Bastards Out.

But whatever you think of Ted, the guy who outed him is also worth being concerned about. He has found a blogger champion, Joe.My.God., who has this to say about him:

It was at this time last week that the last bell finally rang on the 2006 election, delivering the House, the Senate, and the majority of state governships into the hands of the Democrats. The map is blue again. And so is the sky. My face is sore from smiling and my feets are aching from all this happy dancing.

And playing a possibly vital, perhaps pivotal role in this triumph was not a politician. Not a party strategist. It was a private citizen. It was a gay man. A man who although he was risking his personal livelihood, risking his arrest, and surely risking his physical safety, he came forward and did the right thing at the right time.

That man is Mike Jones.

Regardless of your personal opinions regarding Jones' chosen field of work, you cannot ignore his unprecedented accomplishment of almost completely upending the Republican Party's last minute campaign to divert the nation's attention from the true issue of the election: the Iraq war.

Talking Heads: "The terrorists have just blah marriage referendum blah blah....stem cell legislation blah blah...millions of illegal immigrants blah blah. Um, wait a minute. We have a breaking bulletin: Pastor Ted Haggard! Head of evangelical movement! Homosexual! Prostitution! Crystal meth! Close to the President! More! More! More! More!"

Repeat on every channel.

Headlines on every paper.

For five days.

The five days BEFORE the election.

All the billionaire George Soroses in the world could not have more effectively eclipsed the Republicans' usual last minute diversionary tactics. It was pure delicious serendipity. It was kismet. And most of all, it was KARMA, baby.

Since then, Mike Jones has been getting death threats from all those good kindly Christians. He's unemployed and at least temporarily unemployable, and may even get evicted from his apartment. Oh yes, the cops are hassling him too. He lives in Colorado, after all, not in New York City. Not the friendliest place to be a nationally known gay prostitute.

What disgusts me the most is that all the gay rights political organizations are giving Mike the ten foot pole treatment. He did something very courageous, running a greater personal risk than any of these lobbyists will ever dare, and they snub him. They are assholes. Period.

Joe of Joe.My.God., however, has stepped up to the plate where those pretentious prisses would not. He has set up a way for anyone to send a donation to Mike Jones through PayPal. Joe's post on this is here, and gives you a link to help Mike out if you're so inclined.

And Joe says that in the few days this has been going forward, it has helped:

He tells me that yesterday's donations have allowed him to get caught up on his car payments, his utilitities, and even more importantly, as he put it to me, "I can eat again."

Holy shit. This man, who so many would dismiss as trash, a mere hustler, took a huge risk because he thought it was right. And he's suffering for it.

I have made a donation to help Mike get through this. He did good.

Update: Just learned something interesting about the timeline of this story, something I didn't know before. Mike Jones learned that the client he knew as "Art" was actually Ted Haggard when he saw him on the TV in August, campaigning for the anti-gay-marriage amendment on the Colorado ballot. That's what spurred him to action. Within a few days, he went to a local news radio station with the story, which sat on it for TEN WEEKS while their lawyers looked it over. Only when the election was dangerously close did Jones force the issue by going to a competing station. So Mike didn't just blow the whistle on Ted, he had to fight to blow that whistle. I like him even better.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hail, Overlord!

It's so good to have an inside connection. My brother Don, a mole with a position inside a company that I may not even hint at, lest he be whacked, has smuggled out confirmation of what we all suspected. Rumsfeld has dropped his pretence to being human, and is taking up his position as Galaxy Lord of Sector Seven, ruler of all within its precincts. That's us.

BOW to the Rummylord! BOW!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Still Deluded

Unbelievable. After getting vigorously kicked in the nads by the electorate, the [temporary] House Majority Leader Rep. Boehner still keeps spinning the web. After confessing to being "deeply disappointed" he actually has the gall to say things like this:
We made progress this year by instituting greater fiscal discipline,

Fiscal discipline???? They've run up record deficits, causing even their supporters to complain that they're spending like drunken sailors on leave.
rejecting some $45 billion in wasteful Democrat spending,

Really? Perhaps replacing it with several times as much wasteful Repub spending? [See above comment.]
enacting comprehensive earmark reform,

Oh, please. They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, pulled out a finger, and called it "reform."
and continuing to provide tax relief,

To whom, exactly?? The megarich and the corporations? Thank you for that honest answer. Which you didn't give.
but clearly we must do more and we must do better.

At least you've got that right.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Final Thoughts

One final comment before tomorrow, when it's Let The Games Begin. Look ahead to 2008, and consider how many presidential elections we've had in the last half century or so in which a sitting president was not running for re-election. Four. Three of them were because the president had served his two terms and could not run again:

1960 - Eisenhower
1988 - Reagan
2000 - Clinton

Then there's:

1968 - Johnson

who could have run, constitutionally, since he had served less than 50% of JFK's term after the assassination, but was such damaged goods from the Vietnam War that he bowed out.
For completeness's sake, the other races were elections where the incumbent was either re-elected (Eisenhower - 1956, Johnson - 1964, Nixon - 1972, Reagan - 1984, Clinton - 1996, Bush II - 2004) or defeated for re-election (Ford - 1976, Carter - 1980, Bush I - 1992).

For those four, the significant thing is that each one had a vice-president who was trying to get elected to succeed him. Namely:

Nixon to succeed Eisenhower (lost)
Humphrey to succeed Johnson (lost)
Bush I to succeed Reagan (won)
Gore to succeed Clinton (lost)

Each of those four outgoing presidents knew that after the final mid-term election of his second term, he himself would never again have to face the judgment of the voters. But each also knew that his closest political teammate, his vice-president, would. And that, furthermore, the fate of that vice-president would be a form of referendum on the legacy of the outgoing president. This had a certain restraining effect on the president's actions after that final mid-term.

But in 2008, for the first time in decades, the outgoing president will have no heir apparant. Cheney can't run, and isn't considering it. He's too old, he's got a weak ticker, and even a lot of Republicans consider him just a bit too creepy. There will be other Republicans vying for the nomination, but Bush has no close ties to any of them. It will be wide open.

So what restraining effect will there be on the Bush White House after tomorrow, however the vote goes? What will be the administration's attitude?

If the Republicans hold onto both houses of Congress, the temptation will be: "Woo hoo! We won! We can do anything we want now! BWA-ha-ha-ha-ha!"

If they lose either or both houses, the temptation will be: "Fuck it. We lost. We can do anything we want now. We have nothing left to lose."

I don't know which is more dangerous. Whatever happens tomorrow, we're in for a few years of interesting times.

OK, Comic Relief

On the theory that it's better to laugh than to weep, let's bring back Jesus and Mo. An old friend has arrived to pay a visit: Moses. Our guys share a bed as they seem short of furniture, but Moses just doesn't understand:

Or does he? And it's nice to see that the boys are keeping up with current events:

Truly Appalling

Every time I think those people in Washington can't top themselves, they pull it off. (I seem to be saying that a lot lately.) But this is truly shocking. From Edward Hasbrouck's travel blog The Practical Nomad:
The USA Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed that airlines, cruise lines, and operators of all other ships and planes -- including charter flights, air taxis, fishing vessels, etc. -- be required to get individual permission ("”clearance"”) from the DHS for each passenger on all flights or ocean voyages to, from, or via the USA. Unless the answer is "Yes"” -- if the answer is "no"” or "“maybe"”, or if the DHS doesn'’t answer at all -- the airline wouldn'’t be allowed to give you a boarding pass, or let you or your luggage on the plane.

In other words, prior restraint on foreign travel imposed on all free US citizens, whether or not they hold a passport. It's true this isn't likely to survive legal challenge, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly held the right to travel to be a fundamental personal right. But that they should even want to do this is horrifying.

The most famous modern examples of such travel restrictions imposed on citizens were those of Nazi Germany and of the Soviet Union and its satellites. Indeed, those restrictions were the very symbol of the evil of those regimes, and everyone understood why. For what sane person who once got out would ever want to go back?

And Homeland Security wants to imitate those people?

Update: It gets worse. Google "Halliburton" and "detention" and you will find that Cheney's old company has been awarded an immediate contract to build "temporary detention centers" to be used in case of an "immigration emergency." Immigration emergency?? What the fuck is that??? Anything Bush declares it to be? Since he already has little problem with illegals wanting to get in -- as in a 700 mile fence to defend a 2000 mile border -- could it be he's worried about people wanting to get out??

This isn't just an Internet rumor. Halliburton has announced it on its website.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

One for the Record Books

I swear, every time I tell myself this election just can't get any weirder, it does. I was startled enough with the Mark Foley business, but now this with Pastor Ted Haggard is just unbelieveable. Except that it isn't. It's far too believeable. What a sad commentary that he seems to be more willing to appear to be a crystal meth user than a guy who likes to play on the other team now and then.

And what timing. By the way, I think it's disengenous of the evangelicals in damage control mode to try and minimize this by saying it's just politics. Of course it's politics! Mike Jones, the hustler who outed Pastor Ted, said he did it because of the upcoming election, and the antigay state constitutional amendment that Haggard was supporting.

You've heard of the film "Jesus Camp"? It's a current documentary about a rather chilling youth camp, in Kansas I believe, which indoctrinates children from a very young age to be political warriors for Jesus. "Indoctrinate" means just that. I heard a discussion on the radio about this, describing a child of about six saying how he had been searching for the meaning of life, and found it when he came to Jesus. Excuse me? A six-year-old losing sleep about the meaning of it all? Forget it. The poor kid was programmed to say what he did.

Pastor Ted has a cameo in "Jesus Camp," as it turns out. The filmmakers went to his church, the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. They filmed him preaching to his flock, saying, "We don't have to debate what we should think about homosexual activity. It's written in the Bible." Then he spots the camera, leans in close and says into the lens, "I think I know what you did last night." Then straightens up with a smirk and says, "If you send me a thousand dollars, I won't tell your wife." Shrieks of laughter from the crowd. You can see it on YouTube here.

How horrible. He was no doubt trying to stave off one of his own deepest fears, blackmail, by mocking it. Even worse than blackmail, of course, is exposure, which he is now facing. When you know his secret, the self-loathing on naked display in that clip is chilling.

And it's not as if this should have come as a huge surprise to anyone. Take a look at this painting by Thomas Blackshear:

Know where it's hanging? In the foyer of Pastor Ted's New Life Church. I don't know if he picked it out himself, but he certainly didn't object to it. And this is what the congregation sees when it comes in every Sunday. There are other Blackshears there too but this is the most homoerotic. Yeah, yeah, I know it's supposed to be Jesus lifting up a poor sinner weary with the evils of the world, but was it necessary to make it look like The Lord's starting to slip the guy's shirt off? Off of a guy who looks like he's thinking, if I just go along with this and don't say anything, it's gonna be really, really hot! Honestly, is this difficult for anyone to decode?

Man. I actually can feel some sympathy for Haggard, even though he brought it all on himself. But I feel terrible about his wife and kids. They didn't do anything wrong, except perhaps refuse to see the clues, but now their entire world has been torn to shreds. His kids were in the car for that agonizing TV interview Haggard gave, trying to sell that story about buying the crystal meth out of curiosity, but throwing it away before trying it. I can't imagine the misery of hearing your father try to save his skin with a pathetic lie like that. I expect any one of them could have come up with something more convincing if he'd just asked them for help.

What this whole mess, as well as the Mark Foley scandal, just goes to show is the horrible destructiveness of the closet. The damage it does to people and families when someone is forced to try and be someone he is not. It is a terrible place, the closet, and I'm so glad I got out of it as early as I did.

Mark Foley. Pastor Ted. Can't get much worse for the political and religious right than that. And at the top, a president so delusional he thinks he can still persuade us things in Iraq are going pretty well, and getting better all the time. Plus a Republican Congress that became so addicted to raw power that it abandoned all pretence of bipartisanship, even shutting Democrats out of committee meetings. It's not supposed to work like that. Not to mention the incredibly blatant corruption, just raking in the cash.

I'm with Andrew Sullivan on this. If all goes well this won't just be an election. It will be an an intervention.