Tuesday, August 31, 2004

In Praise of Log Cabin Patriots

So much to say, so little time.  Politics:  Gotta love those Log Cabin Republicans.  Perhaps second only to the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries and/or ACT-UP, they have put themselves on the line, especially when it comes to bearding the lion in his den.  These gay and gay friendly grassroots folks brave the insults, sneers, neglect and cold shoulders of a party whose official response to them is "good riddance."  Alone of those groups opposing the officially hateful party platform of the GOP, they are able to do so vocally and visibly inside Madison Square Garden during the Republican National Obfuscation.  For that, they earn my eternal respect.  But I still cannot support the candidate they want to put in the White House (presumptively, that is: the Log Cabinnaires still have not officially endorsed Bush).  However, I must support their continuing efforts to be visible inside the GOP.  Braaavo, say I.  Keep speaking up and living well, sipping chardonnay and giving your boy/girlfriends chaste kisses on their cheeks in full view of the G.O. party faithful.  You go, girl!

Monday, August 30, 2004

"Iceberg Right Ahead"

Such must be the words of the DNC chairman about the campaign boat captained by John Kerry.  The pundits have long said about Kerry's candidacy that the election is his to lose and he appears at this time to be proving them right.  Two weeks ago I actually felt a kind of stupefying relief that Kerry's approval numbers were good, that Dubya was doomed.  Now it appears that the incompetence of the incompetent president's incompetent advisors does not extend to his relection committee. 

The swift boat debacle over the past week has been a brilliant blitzkrieg of negative campaigning: coming from a GOP activist who had the ear of President Nixon: John O'Neill, author of Unfit for Command.  No matter the reasoned refutation of O'Neill's assertions point by point in the press, online or otherwise, O'Neill isn't appealing to the rational.  His strategy is simply harassment.  Throw the Kerry camp into disarray and confusion, without a clear message and cover the entire Vietnam issue with a thick layer of tarnish.  Use Kerry's service record against him, in any way possible, and above all, keep President Bush out of it.  That way, the president can float above the fray and act presidential.  America is still in denial about the 60's, so much so that even veterans who served honorably cannot count it in their favor.  Such is the cynical irony of Vietnam: those who wisely avoided going there through connections or string-pulling are now seen as having better judgment than those who actually served.

The swift boat strategy seems to be working like gangbusters.  Bush's approval ratings have topped 50% for the first time in months, and this on the eve of the GOP national convention.  Unless the undecideds wake up to the dire reality of four more years of Bush, the worst of which will be a reconstituted Supreme Court so far to the right that it will take a generation to moderate it, then I'm afraid that Bush's chant of four more years will turn out to be prophesy.

Friday, August 27, 2004

A moment of magic

Like most men, I don't like being sick.  I'm finding, however, as I age, that it sneaks up on me.  Take the past few days, for example.  At some point in the last week I remember injuring my ankle.  I remember the sharp jab of pain, but I didn't think anything about it until Wednesday night, when I took off my sock and found a rather large red welt covering my ankle and streaks of red climbing up my calf.  I went to the doctor the next morning and was told to take a heavy dose of antibiotics and to rest and elevate the leg.  So, I've been off work for the two days since.  I don't say this to elicit sympathy, though any expressions of "poor Mike" will be accepted, of course.  I say it because it grows increasingly important to take care of myself.

One of my best friends, Mike B.'s partner Steve P., is a nurse at Harborview ICU.  He recently told me a story about how one of his patients died of septic shock after a knee infection grew beyond medicine's ability to intervene.  She was in her mid 50's.  One day she's playing golf, two weeks later she dies of septic shock in the region's best trauma center.  Infection is nothing to play around with or ignore--no matter how innocuous it seems in the moment.  Steve's cautionary tale weighed heavily on my mind when I made the decision on Thursday morning to go to the doctor, rather than ignore the symptoms and hope they went away. 

It was a little bit of synchronicity in my life.  A moment of magic for which I am extremely grateful.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Why I Sometimes Like Republicans

Sometimes I like Republicans.  It's a rare event.  But usually it's when they remind me of my Dad and reflect my Dad's values.  Such is the case with Vice President Cheney's view points on gay marriage expressed in Davenport IA (of all places) yesterday. Speaking candidly about his gay daughter, Cheney expressed the view that freedom was for everyone, that people were free to engage in relationships of their choice, that the states should be free to determine marriage free from interference at the federal level.

It wasn't his comment about states' rights that charmed me, it was the acknowledgment of the essential humanity of gay people.  After being labeled "sick, twisted, satanic, tragic, sinful and perverse" it's nice to hear something different coming from the very top levels of an administration more than willing, in fact, enthusiastic, to use gay bashing to achieve their political purposes.  It is a different side of the party than the Santorum/Bauer/Reed cabal, rather; it is the fair-minded side, the one that attracts my father, the individual I hold to be the most estimable human being currently alive on the planet.

Vice President Cheney's comments struck me as being personally true, and then his willingness to support the president's agenda to write discrimination into the Constitution also struck me as true.  For, ideology trumps personal values when it comes to both political parties.  So, while I respect Vice President Cheney's sentiments, and his humanity, I cannot champion his cause.  Kerry and Edwards represent the vision of the America I want to live in.  Vote Kerry/Edwards in '04.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Heckle & Jeckle

A man from my sister's home state of West Virginia was recently fired for heckling President Bush at a political rally.  Evidently the heckler's presence at the rally was due to tickets given to his employer, a graphics design firm, by a client.  When the heckler's behavior at the rally offended the client, the client complained, and the heckler was terminated.  I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like grounds for a lawsuit.

Heckling goes with the territory of being a public speaker.  There's a long tradition of it in America, and although we no longer tolerate throwing rotten fruit and vegetables at orators, certainly a few choice verbal barbs fall within the purview of the right to speak one's mind and the inalienable right to make an ass out of oneself in public, I right I cherish and would die to defend.  Heckling cuts through the scripted, polished, buffed and waxed nature of these rallies, and makes the speaker respond with some kind of unvarnished, non-vetted real tone, if not substance.  The nature and content of that response is often illustrative of the candidate's character and ability to think on his feet. 

GWB has shown time and again that he is more than capable at responding to such challenges.  But to fire the heckler?  That just seems wrong.  You ought to be able to have a political viewpoint and be able to keep your job.  I hope he sues.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Blind Justice

That it took only three days to decide a first degree murder case and only two hours to deliberate a verdict is no reason to criticize Oprah.  This was Chicago, not California, and the legal standards were the ones which apply to the poor, not the cases covered by Court-TV.  The reality of the situation is that justice is simply easier to dispense when the defendant isn't famous.

Have you ever served as a juror?  I have.  My case involved three counts of first degree rape of a child.  The trial took three days and we deliberated four hours.  That was two hours more than the jurors in the Oprah case, but, we were evenly split 6-6 when we took our first poll, which means it took a lot of deliberation to reach a unanimous decision.

Oprah said that it was a life-changing experience, and that was certainly true for me.  But for me it was the deliberation that was life-changing.  Human lives were at risk.  Although we weren't allowed to entertain the sentence or penalty when we deliberated, certainly the awareness that the crime was incredibly serious and the penalty would match did.  And that was appropriate.  As jurors we did our job.

For us it came down to a 'he-said/she-said' situation.  But because of the young age of the victim (7) we were able to hear from her social worker.  During that process I made up my mind that I would never, ever send someone to prison based on the opinion of an expert. Somehow, some day, you or I might be sitting in that defendant's chair.  And if so, I hope to God I have someone on the jury who believes the same.   However, the little girl also testified, and she testified extremely well.  In the end, we believed her.  Without her testimony we couldn't have convicted the defendant. 

In this culture saturated by CSI and Law & Order we expect tidy packages.  This trial wasn't neat, it had loose ends.  There were questions about some of the principals involved that wouldn't be answered until after the verdict was in.  There was no physical evidence, there was no DNA evidence, the victim hadn't even been examined by a doctor (a point brought up by the defense). 

Could you convict under those circumstances?  That was why it was difficult for the 6 who voted to acquit.  We ultimately did, but only on one of the three counts.  Each count was a different sexual act, rather than a different event or time, and only one of them had enough proof to be beyond a reasonable doubt.  The other two were vague, maybe they happened.  Maybe they didn't.  Not good enough. 

So our jury reached a compromise, convicting on one of the counts, and acquitting on two.  But in these days of zero tolerance for child molestation, that was enough to send him to prison for 160 months (ten years).

I'm proud of the service I rendered on that jury.  I'm proud of how we behaved toward each other and the decisions we reached.  Justice was served.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Valhalla Rising

Clive Cussler is a piss-poor novelist the way Liberace was a piss-poor pianist.  I'm sure my assessment will send him crying all the way to the bank.  What he does do well (character and point of view not being among those qualities deemed well-done), is spin a pretty good yarn.  And in Valhalla Rising, he imagines a terrorist plot to destroy the World Trade Center, as well as most of the southern tip of Manhattan, using a vehicle of transporation, in this instance a ship, rather than airplanes.

Most of this novel is one adventure after another, a kind of novelized adventure serial of the old school, from one hot pickle to another.  It's rousing in an old fashioned way.  Definitely plot driven guy stuff, as opposed to character driven chick lit, and the body count is very, very high.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Bad Taste

During the past week I was accused of having poor taste.  I don't dispute that.  During my internship at the Guthrie Theater back in the early 80's director William Gaskill once remarked that maybe someday I might develop some class (presumably if I tried hard enough).

I tend to have very little "class" because I'm so cynical and skeptical of the good intentions of anyone anywhere anytime.  So, with that said, barbarian that I am, I must admit that my previous post about Governor McGreevey was cruel.  For a much more balanced and human opinion on this story, please read the linked article at Advocate

My previous harsh tone was one that was based on yet another highly placed individual being "forced" to come out after having done nothing for the GLBT community.  When I was living in Minneapolis about twenty years ago, a superior court judge was forced to come out of the closet due to sexual harassment allegations by one of his clerks.  At that time, the act of homosexuality was a felony in Minnesota, and the Supreme Court had not yet ruled that same-sex harassment was even actionable under the then existing statutes.

That story disturbed me.  When I asked my friend and "auntie" Carl Chrisman why the gay community wasn't rallying around the judge, he said, "what did the judge ever do for us?" 

The advocate article coming twenty years after those events, provides for a much more humanistic, inclusive and reasoned approach to the idea of the closet, and Governor McGreevey in particular.  It has a lot more class than I possess.   I guess I'm still waiting to see if Mr. Gaskill's prediction will come true.  Or not.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Defamation/Slander/Libel/Fan Fiction

Click here for a an excellent resource on the legal ramifications of fan fiction.

The elements that must be proved to establish defamation are: (1) A publication to one other than the person defamed; (2) of a false statement of fact; (3) which is understood as being of and concerning the plaintiff; and (4) which is understood in such a way as to tend to harm the reputation of plaintiff.

An attack by speech on the good reputation of a person or business entity.

Libel is a defamatory statement expressed in a fixed medium, such as a writing. It is considered a civil injury, as opposed to a criminal offense. The tort of libel is often compared with that of slander, which is also characterized as a defamatory statement, but one made in a transitory form, such as speech.

Libel per se is libel for which special damages (e.g. actual loss of revenue) need not be proved in order for a plaintiff to recover general damages (e.g. for emotional distress). Libel per se applies only to slanderous publications which impute to the plaintiff one of the four following categories:

  1. a crime involving moral turpitude,
  2. a loathsome disease (e.g. a sexually transmitted disease),
  3. Unchastity (particularly concerns women)
  4. conduct that would adversely affect ones business or profession

General damages are presumed legitimate even in absence of proof of special damages when a plaintiff proves libel in one of these four cateogories.

Slander is a defamatory statement expressed in a transitory medium, such as verbal speech. It is considered a civil injury, as opposed to a criminal offence. Actual damages must be proven for someone to be held liable for slander. The tort of slander is often compared with that of libel, which is also characterized as a defamatory statement, but one made in a fixed form, such as writing.

Sunday, August 15, 2004


So many of the films of 2001 fade away into the ether, overshadowed by national events.  I didn't go to the cinema much that year.  Now, I'm catching up courtesy of Netflix.  One fine film worthy of a look is Bully, based on true events, given the Hollywood treatment and taking a bunch of real people who were pretty average, and replacing them all with talented Hollywood folk who are really goodlooking.  The film explores the lives, and one death, of a group of kids on the cusp of adulthood.  One, Bobby Kent, is just about to graduate from high school.  His best friend, Marty, is a surfer boy loser who has dropped out, and faces a lifetime of shitty jobs for shitty pay.  The rest of their circle variously live with their parents, or with their friend's parents.  They don't work yet they have fast cars, gas to put in their tanks, and drugs to put in their bodies.  They seem devoid of ambition other than to get high and fuck each other's brains out. 

Right off, something seems quite strange about Bobby.  He is extremely aggressive with women who he treats like something stuck to the bottom of his shoe.  His attitude toward Marty is by turns affectionate and brutal.  In one scene Marty is driving Bobby's car, and skids the tires against the curb.  In a rage, Bobby punches Marty twice (while Marty is driving) and bloodies his nose.  In another scene, while getting a blow-job in the front seat, Bobby turns to watch his buddy screw his girfriend in the back seat.  Clearly, Bobby is conflicted. 

Later, Marty's girlfriend hatches a plot to kill Bobby.  She gathers people to the plot like conspirators in Julius Caesar.  Something seems strange about her, too.  Her need to be loved by Marty overshadows everything else in her life.  Bobby is a distraction for Marty, he exercises some kind of strange control/dominance over Marty that must end.  But the only way that can happen is if Bobby dies. 

The film contains a great deal of nudity and simulated sex, which with these goodlooking actors is rather enjoyable to watch, if you like watching nudity and simulated sex.  There's so much of it that it almost feels like a kind of pornographic crime fantasy: lots of tits and ass and a really gruesome murder at the end. 

The great plan falls apart quickly after the main event.  Nobody can keep their mouths shut, which is what happens to non-pathological criminals: they confess.  Everyone goes to prison.  It is a very interesting, moody, atmospheric film full of screwed up characters behaving as though they know what they're doing.  Their misplaced confidence in the power of the group to do what one alone cannot, is a fascinating study in how violence goes from the planning stage to execution.

Friday, August 13, 2004

But who was on top?

Sex scandal in New Jersey, of all places.  Handsome 47 year old governor James McGreevey has announced his resignation, it appears, moments before sexual harrassment litigation was set to explode across the headlines.  The amorous object of the governor's affections?  One Golan Cipel, an Israeli national who was appointed to a number of highly paid jobs in the McGreevey administration despite dubious qualifications, leading to allegations of croneyism.  Well, the Republicans must be licking their chops now.  After all, they KNOW what do to with closeted gays--who can be easily destroyed.  It's the out of the closet gays they can't shame into shutting up and giving up. 

Of course, we all want to know what Mr. Cipel, former Israeli soldier looks like.  For a glimpse, click here.  Dare we wonder who did what to whom?  :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Manson's Women

Hard to miss stories about the Manson Family in this 35th Anniversary season.  Last night A&E aired a program, "Manson's Women," which purported to delve in-depth into the stories of the girls who slew at Manson's bidding.  Of course, it was simply a rehash of the grisly murders for those who might have been born after they took place and who have no memory of the events in question.  However, the snippets of interview they held with Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkle and Lynette Fromme were interesting. 

Van Houten and Krenwinkle were teenagers when I was an eleven year old boy.  Now they look rather like my mother, taut, vaguely athletic, assertive in that sense some might call "mannish."  They spoke simply and directly about the murders in which they participated.  Pat Krenwinkle described killing Abigail Folger with the dispassion she might have had describing any other process in her life, with no display of hard emotion.  It's been 35 years, though.

Lynette Fromme, on the other hand, drips with delusionary sweetness.  She speaks in a breathy voice, her eyes alight with mirth, or perhaps, joy.  If so, it's a secret joy she shares with no one behind the camera.  She alone of Manson's women evinces what might typically be called femininity.  She smiles mysteriously at questions that trigger memories of that time in her life, when her life intersected with something enormously powerful: meaning.  For she had no meaning before it, and certainly no meaning since.  Her interview is intercut with interviews of Manson, pathetic, self-pitying, whiny, with that messianic patois still falling off his lips like sacred screed.  Hard to believe how anyone could have fallen for it.  But then, they fell for Jim Jones and David Koresh and L. Ron Hubbard and Joseph Smith, too.

Nobody asks any questions about Scientology.

But it's to Van Houten and Krenwinkle that my thoughts return.  They seem normal, if butch, and they speak clearly and without any hint of the emotional/mental vortices that swirl inside Manson and Fromme.  The third of Manson's women who killed, Susan Atkins, did not appear in front of the camera.  Perhaps she has tired of talking about it.  Perhaps she believes that her actions speak for themselves. 

If any of Manson's women are parolled, it will be Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkle.  And their studious, dispassionate approach will be the making of them.  For they can show that they have grown, accepted their responsibility, and felt remorse, oh, such remorse, remorse that has grown as bitter and toxic as battery acid over the years.  Whereas, the survivors, with their strident calls for everlasting vengeance, are the ones who actually appear insane.

Friday, August 6, 2004

Dubya Redux

Don't count the Dubya out yet.  He's proving on the campaign trail to be a formidible adversary, pulling out the stops as a countrified, down-home preacher man beset by east-coast elitists who won't listen to his message of healing.  If religion is the opiate of the masses, then corn-pone country jamboree evangelicalism is the crack of the masses.

Thanks Dubya, but the last incumbent to suggest that America needed healing was Jimmy Carter.  I'm just fine the way I am.  How arrogant, really.  The only thing that needs healing in America is our reputation abroad.  But I know that that message doesn't play well with hickified yahoos who salivate over populist messages that equates your party with patriotism while on the other hand you rob your adherents blind to fund an incomprehensible deficit. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Gay Marriage in Washington

Today Judge Downing struck down the defense of marriage law in the state of Washington, paving the way for legal marriages between people of the same gender in this state. 

Rather than a sense of victory, however, it fills me with apprehension and fear.  The backlash, I fear, will be swift and decisive.  There is no rational basis to illegitimize gay relationships.  Not after Lawrence v. Texas struck down gay people's inherent criminality.  But we're not dealing with the rational, or at least those who think rationally.  The bigotry in this country is a force majeure.  We trifle with it at our peril.  Ugh.  Please wake me up when it's all over...

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Kerry's No Bounce

Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker:  "Dumb, Dumber, Dubya."  It made me smile, then it made me scowl.  This is the kind of sentiment that only plays into the hands of the president's reelection committee.  I'm from the midwest, and calling the president stupid doesn't go over well there.  The midwest, i.e., middle America, is tired of being talked down to by east and west coast "elites" (the conservative radio waves have made excellent use of this label, spinning straw men into gold votes).  Middle America wants a guy in the White House with the common touch, someone not unlike themselves.  Someone who ain't too big for his britches and talks down to them.  That's why Kerry has no noticeable rise in the polls.  Because, right or wrong, he is perceived as such.

The media has breathlessly announced that Kerry received no bounce from the Democratic National Convention.  Kerry's performance at the convention was exemplary in my view, but he only achieved one half of his purpose: he energized the party faithful.  The fact that he has no bounce reveals that he did not achieve the second prong of his purpose: reaching out to independents and undecideds. 

The Democrats have an up hill battle with this election.  Kerry is part of the liberal elite, a prince of the senate, and wealthy.  He's not afraid to take a risk though--I remember when he mortgaged his Boston townhouse to pay for his primary campaign.  And that makes me wonder, do politicians, like movie producers, have a code that states only fools put their own money into their projects?  But Kerry proved himself to be no Bill Clinton, common as dirt, part lothario, part evangelist.  Someone everyone could see a little part of themselves in, who might loaf around on Sunday morning in his undershorts, just like them.

Monday, August 2, 2004


Unlike J. Alfred Prufrock, today I dare to eat a peach.  The peach is now in my gut, and my, wasn't it tasty going down?  Now, if I can only get the mermaids to sing to me, instead of to each other, life will be grand.