Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What A Surprise: Galloway Lied

Looks like he took money from Saddam after all.

The Times of London reports:

GEORGE GALLOWAY faces possible criminal charges after a US Senate investigation tracked $150,000 (£85,000) in Iraqi oil money to his wife’s bank account in Jordan.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will refer the Respect Party MP for possible prosecution after concluding that he gave “false and misleading” testimony at his appearance before the panel in May.

I'm looking forward to seeing Galloway react to a criminal prosecution. Lying to the Senate, especially in the bombastic manner with which he did so, is bad precedent and should be punished with the full force of law. As should the alleged graft -- stealing oil money from the children of Iraq who were the intended beneficiaries.

Hopefully the lefties who are obsessed with George as their new hero will come to their senses and realize just how damaging an affiliation with this corrupt hack who praises Islamic extremism truly is. Those of us who opposed the Iraq war out of a sense of conscience deserve far more effective voices than the ranting anti-semetic loons ala Galloway and Sheehan who have been presented to date.

Indictments On Plame Leak To Come Today?

CBS News reports that indictments in the Plame case may be handed down as early as today. It's long overdue. Here's hoping that the goons who compromised US national security to take a pot-shot at a rival get the long jail sentences they so richly deserve.

Yes, you conservatives out there, I've heard all your rebuttals -- Joe Wilson lied, he was attacking the president, a very literal reading of the law could exonerate key White House officials, etc. I don't care. Wilson could a Michael Moore clone, and it doesn't change the fact that in order to "get" him, senior people in the White House deep-sixed a key intelligence operation designed at halting the spread of WMDs and jeopardized the lives of key operatives who were protecting the security of the country.

The constant protests, literalist readings of the law, and self-righteous defense of the indefensible conduct of Rove, Libbey and perhaps Cheney only confirm my suspicion that the right's tireless anti-Clinton moralizing of the 1990s was hot air bereft of substance.

Let's hope the President does the right thing and allows the justice process to bring those responsible to account.

Republican Judicial Selectivism

I'm not going to argue that Harriet Miers is at all qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice. In fact, I think it's pretty clear that her grasp of constitutional law is pretty thin.

However, I cannot help but chuckle when I read the conservative denunciation of Ms. Miers and her "lack of qualification and knowledge to sit on the court." After all, arch-right-wing judicial wingnut (and paleo-con hero) Antonin Scalia has been willing to jettison established constitutional principles such as equal protection in favor of his own bizarre religion-as-law beliefs for years -- and the conservatives blasting Ms. Miers love Scalia.

That's why this whole process of Supreme Court nominations has become so laughable. The supposed "principles" that both sides stand for -- "strict constructionism" on the conservative side, "equal rights" on the liberal side -- all come tumbling down in a giant farce of cronyism, conflicting agendas, self-repudiating press releases, and plenty of political puffery. A justice who provided key arguments that helped gays win significant new advances in the privacy-right-advancing Lawrence vs. Texas decision becomes a "homophobe opposed to privacy rights," and a close confidant of the Bush administration who is a long-time supporter of anti-abortion legislation becomes a "liberal pro-choice plant."

Don't we Americans deserve better than this?

What's $8 Trillion Between Friends?

KipEsquire notes on his blog that the US national debt has surpassed $8 trillion. The universal reaction to this by big-spending politicians? A collective yawn -- neither "conservative" Republicans nor "fiscally responsible" Democrats seem concerned with this runaway spending.

Assuming simple interest of 4% per year, we'd be paying well in excess of $300 billion per year in taxes just to pay the interest on this debt -- a debt that continues spiralling out of control. In fact, we're not paying extra taxes to pay this interest -- we're issuing additional BONDS to pay it!

If you think it's bad now, just wait until the boomers retire and start tapping the insolvent Social Security and Medicare entitlements. The only move the Bush administration has made which I approve of is its look at the pending insolvency of Social Security -- an impending scandal that Democrats and Republicans alike are pretending isn't coming. Well, with these sorts of budget numbers, someone's going to have a lot of explaining to do come 2017, when the whole house comes tumbling down. The choice at that point will be whether to cut benefits, or increase the already punitive tax load on the smaller, poorer, less economically-booming Generation X who will have to shoulder this unprecedented burden.

There is a third choice -- reform of entitlements to a needs-based program and encouraging ingenious immigrants to settle in America and invest and build our economy rather than go back home ot India, China and Europe to find their fortunes. But I'm not optimistic about either prospect. Remember, Washington, Ottawa and Mexico City have governments that are so inept they cannot even agree on a universal labor and commerce zone in North America to take on the EU! In 21st century America, the idea that our neighbors should be able to work in our country is "controversial." We just stick our heads in the sand, act as though business as usual is viable, and pretend that the pension demographics that are bankrupting General Motors, Ford, United Airlines, and other corporate icons won't eventually bankrupt our already-insolvent federal government.

Meanwhile the clock keeps ticking.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Homophobia and Its Discontents

I often stifle a chuckle when some of my more Europhile friends insist that Europe has banished homophobia into the ether and gays are equal in all aspects of society. It's a bit like the American national myth that all Americans are freer than anyone else -- it makes the adherent feel good, but it's a ridiculous statement.

Unfortunately, homophobia in Europe has been on the rise for a while, fuelled by a combination of anti-gay statements from the Anglican and Catholic hierarchies, the continued rise of Islamic fundamentalist politics, and the general increase of social unrest as Europe continues to heterogenize.

As of late, gay bashing has been a serious issue in Europe, with fatal bashings increasing in intensity and severity. Further, police departments in Europe have been slow to prevent these sorts of crimes, and given that self-defense is essentially illegal in most of Europe, this has resulted in severe danger for gay men in the "wrong" place at the "wrong" time (as Washington Blade editor Chris Crain discovered after being severely bashed in "gay-friendly" Amsterdam).

In Britain, this means that hate crimes, including bashings, have been soaring. Often, the bashings are around "cruising areas" where closeted gay men often meet others for sex. I'm not familiar with this practice myself, nor am I particularly interested. Neither is my friend Brett Lock, a British-based gay activist who has been in a committed relationship for over a decade now. Nonetheless, he recently participated in a talk show to defend the notion that no, society doesn't really have the right to kill or injure gay men who may (or may not) be hanging around cruising grounds.

Did he get a forceful agreement? Did the ubertolerant London citizenry ring in with a resounding endorsement of the rights of all, including gays, to walk the streets unmolested and without fear?

I'm afraid not:

. . . the show sparked off an orgy of homophobia. Someone suggested inventing a “poofter-scooper” to clean up the parks. On the scatological theme, another person phoned in to say that what she objected to most was the piles of human shit (she meant this literally, if its any consolation) left behind by cruisers. Apparently, and she explained this very delicately, one has to evacuate one’s bowels before anal sex and men do it in her park. Now I couldn’t believe this.

This is not something I’d ever heard before so I signed on to OutEverywhere (a gay community discussion list) and asked if anyone had ever heard of this. Most said it was preposterous. . .

Certainly, one would expect this sort of chatter on a talk radio station in Alabama, Texas, or Florida. But tolerant, progressive London? Are we really in London, or Alabama? Perhaps the differences are less stark than either jurisdiction would dare contemplate. To deny the fundamental humanity of others, regardless of whether one "thinks they're yucky," inevitably leads to dehumanization, then targeting and suffering. The plight of gay men and women seeking dignity and equality under the law from Tehran to London to Houston bears witness to this today. Without basic dignity for all, even the clandestine married closeted guy who goes off to a park at midnight, how will progress evolve?

And more importantly, how can societies, American or European, which deny dignity and basic expectations of personal security to a proportion of their populations call themselves "civilized?"

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

When Gay Rights Groups Forget About The Rights Of Gays

Many column-inches have already been expended over the Tehran regime's brutal treatment of gays and lesbians, including the recent public execution and posthumous smearing of two young gay men. Now, The New Republic has devoted additional column-inches to the issue, questioning the direction of Washington's gay lobby groups:

Last month, when Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to New York to visit the United Nations, he was greeted by thousands of Iranian protesters from the United States and overseas. America's gay and lesbian activists did not join in. Ireland, who has tirelessly reported abuses against gays and lesbians in Iran, was livid; he wrote that the failure of gay activists to protest Ahmadinejad represented the "the death of gay activism."

Contrasted with the breathlessly hysterical and largely baseless campaign waged by gay organizations like HRC and NGLTF during the Roberts confirmation related to abortion (a non-gay issue), the comparison is indeed striking but not too surprising. Even the once non-partisan PFLAG was transformed into a virtual Democratic Party organ, issuing a buzzword-laden press release that reads like it could have originated from the word processor of DNC chair Howard Dean.

Gay rights lobbies in America have become inherently political organizations that are unafraid to engage in tit-for-tat back-room dealing to preserve their own political power. Unfortunately, what this often means is that when issues that affect gay lives become part of the public debate, "our" groups are not effective advocates.

Thus, Bill Clinton can endorse and sign two anti-gay federal laws (DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell) in violation of his campaign clauses and get strong endorsements from both HRC and NGLTF, while John Roberts can provide material support for the freedom of gays in the landmark Lawrence vs. Texas ruling and be relentlessly bashed by the same groups.

Of course, virtually every single charge levelled against Roberts (especially the bizarre claim that despite his work on Lawrence, he didn't support the right to privacy) was shown to be groundless during his Senate testimony. Such are the corrosive effects of party politics on the gay rights movement. "Our" national groups were asleep at the wheel, and worse, have lost their effectiveness as independent advocates for the cause of gay liberty in these crucial areas as well as others.

As I see it, two key questions remain unanswered as of yet:

  1. Don't we deserve better than this?
  2. What are we going to do about it?