Ron Paul, and Paulistas, Make the (Sexy and Dangerous) News

Surreality and reality hit Ron Paul and the Paulistas this week. First we find that Sasha Cohen’s Bruno will feature Ron Paul getting punked during last year’s Presidential run. He left the set muttering “queer” over and over. Paulistas are whining, and about a Missouri report on militias that targets Ron Paul bumper stickers.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Ron Paul is also going to make it in the movies, where he will be playing the punkee to Sasha Baron Cohen’s Bruno. The scene, as described in Slate, is really funny. Bruno’s character is the flip side to Borat, a very heterosexual character who punked his way across America on the way to being a film sensation. Heck, the full title says it best about Bruno: Bruno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-shirt.

Evidently Cohen, playing Bruno, talked Paul into an interview in a suite at a Washington hotel. When a light blew out on the set Cohen and Ron Paul retired to another room while the engineers set about fixing the problem. That’s when Bruno went to work, with soft lights and mellow music. The story, according to Slate, is that Ron Paul stormed out of the room when he realized Bruno/Cohen was attempting to seduce him, muttering the word “queer” several times ont he way out. Lew Rockwell is all angry, of course, as are many Ron Paul supporters. And there’s the usual litany of Republican whiney excuses and recriminations. From Slate:

A spokeswoman for Paul confirmed that the episode took place but declined to provide details. “We don’t want it to distract from his message,” said press secretary Rachel Mills. “Now is the time when people need to be listening to him on economic issues.”

Mills, who was present at the taping, did elaborate on the “queer” line. “I heard him say –weird,’ ” she wrote in an e-mail. “In any case, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Queer as Folk … it’s not exactly a shocking term if that’s what he did say.”

Mills also noted that Cohen’s people were “very deceptive in their tactics.” At the time, she thought they were “legitimate,” but now confesses to some concern. “I’m familiar with his work, so you can imagine how I feel about it,” she said.

Look, I’m not going to get into anything about the ideas of Ron Paul. But let’s face it. When he did this interview in early 2008 he was trying to convince the country that he could be President of the United States. Sure, Sasha Baron Cohen is good, but it is ridiculous for a Presidential candidate, with all the layers of campaign and PR people surrounding him, to be so thoroughly fooled. He disqualifies himself as Presidential material, and that’s the bottom line.

Now I’m going to get all sorts of comments on here defending Mr. Paul. His people are all about that. But I want to warn them that they are now targets of investigators in Missorui. Yeah, that’s the “Dangerous” part of the title up there. The State of Missouri recently put out a report called the “Modern Militia Movement,” and it gives out telltale signs of what to look for in a homegrown terrorist. That Ron Paul Bumper Sticker? It’s on the list. From KansasCity.com:

A new document meant to help Missouri law enforcement agencies identify militia members or domestic terrorists has drawn criticism for some of the warning signs mentioned.

The Feb. 20 report called “The Modern Militia Movement” mentions such red flags as political bumper stickers for third-party candidates, such as U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who ran for president last year; talk of conspiracy theories, such as the plan for a superhighway linking Canada to Mexico; and possession of subversive literature.

Of course this is getting blown all out of proportion by the Paul people. There’s whining at the American Conservative, at Right Side News, at Gather.com, and at Prison Planet. I particularly like Lew Rockwell’s frothing at the mouth, titling his blog post, “If you’re reading this blog, you could be a terrorist…”

Let’s get real. Police need to compile ways of keeping track of the possibility of homegrown terrorists. It is pretty clear in this country that those folks share some of the beliefs of Ron Paul, coming as it does from trend data about milit

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Steven Reynolds |

Dumb Cop Gets Real Lucky

As any long time reader of ASZ should probably know, I am adamantly anti-drug prohibition and don’t think any should be illegal. However, as long as the entire law enforcement industry is dependent upon drug prohibition money, there should be an even higher standard set, and greater punishment for police breaking the laws they’re [...]


Commentary By: somegirl

As any long time reader of ASZ should probably know, I am adamantly anti-drug prohibition and don’t think any should be illegal. However, as long as the entire law enforcement industry is dependent upon drug prohibition money, there should be an even higher standard set, and greater punishment for police breaking the laws they’re sworn to uphold.

But, y’know they’re also known for

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by somegirl |

Catapulting the Propaganda: Tender Sensibilities and Faux Outrage

When a foreign official accuses another nation of engaging in Goebbel-esque propaganda campaigns, it’s sure to make news. Yesterday, Brazil’s trade minister accused “rich nations” (read: the U.S.) of using Joesph Goebbel’s infamous strategy of repeating lies enough times that the lies become conventional wisdom. The Bush administration reacted sharply – but didn’t deny the accusations, only the reference.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Faux outrage always amuses me, particularly when it’s projected for media / public consumption. Here’s how it works: someone (say, a politician) will make an outrageous or insulting accusation; hyperbole to emphasize a point. Someone on the opposite side of the political fence takes public umbrage – “Gasp! How can you say that? Oh, my tender sensibilities!” – without disputing the main point of the accusation.

Such an occasion occurred yesterday at World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. According to reports, in advance of a WTO meeting this week, Brazil’s trade minister Celso Amorim accused “rich countries” of engaging in Goebbel-esque propaganda in attempting to ram through the Doha trade accords:

Brazil sought to play down a spat with the United States on Sunday that threatened to sour a week of key World Trade Organisation talks after its foreign minister likened arguments of rich countries to Nazi propaganda. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told reporters on Saturday that “misinformation” about the WTO talks recalled the comment of Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels that a lie repeated often enough will be accepted as truth.

A spokesman for U.S. trade chief Susan Schwab said Washington regretted the comment. “We are here to negotiate on substance and that kind of venomous name-calling does not have a place in these talks,” spokesman Sean Spicer said on Sunday…

By way of background, the Bush administration has been trying to hammer out an overarching WTO deal ( _blank”>the Doha accord) since they’ve been in office, and have met with tremendous resistance from developing countries. In response to this resistance over the past seven years, U.S. negotiators have done what the Bush administration has fashioned into an art form: catapulting the propaganda, telling outright lies and half-truths, and acting as an 800 pound gorilla on the world trade stage.

Admittedly, most Americans (and the legacy media) don’t pay a moment’s worth of attention to this stuff, but when the trade minister of another country starts making nazi references to characterize the Bush administration’s approach to trade talks, it becomes news. And apparently, the tender sensibilities of U.S. negotiator Susan Schwab were offended. The U.S. State Department immediately began dialing up the faux outrage, and issuing statements that refer to Schwab’s heritage as the child of Holocaust survivors.

What’s interesting is that none of the statements deny the crux of Amorim’s characterization of the talks, only that Schwab was personally offended. But then, that’s how the Bush administration’s communication apparatus has always rolled. Deflect, rather than deny. Ratchet up the rhetoric, rather than respond to the core issues (and certainly there are many core issues in dispute, at least in terms of agricultural trade).

In the end, though, Celso Amorim probably accomplished what he intended to do with such inflammatory remarks. He made the point that the U.S. is controlling the WTO “message” in a manner that does little more than amplify the interests

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |

McCain-Palin: The Perils Of Promoting The Past As Prologue?

John McCain’s decision to attach the imagery of Bill Ayers to Barack Obama is reckless. By casting this election as a continuation of the ideological conflict that characterized the unrest during the era of the Weathermen, John McCain may well be fomenting the reemergence of radicalism.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

It seems to me that a significant question will emerge in the aftermath of the 2008 election. The crux of that question has been framed by the inflammatory rhetoric of the McCain-Palin campaign in recent days. In its effort to sway voters and win this election, the McCain campaign has chosen to ignite animosities that will undoubtedly linger beyond November 4th…animosities that have the potential to unleash the very kind of violence that typified the groups and individuals the McCain campaign has attempted to link with Barack Obama.

At the core of the conflicts that marred the sixties and

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Daniel DiRito |

The GOP Price of Living (and Dying)

Those of us of a certain age have seen the economy expand, then contract, then expand again on many occasions. Things have changed, though – from Reagan’s “revolution” to GHW Bush’s “voodoo economics” through the unprecedented wealth transfer that has happened during Bush II’s reign, there’s a fundamental difference. In that difference lies the reason that I’m a progressive Democrat…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

The BeavI’m old enough to remember when the nuclear family was really the American dream: 2.2 kids, a house with a modest mortgage, mom met the kids at the school bus stop in the afternoon because she didn’t work outside the home, dad came rolling in later in the afternoon, dinner was served, homework was done, then maybe some TV (3 VHF channels and a couple of UHF “independents”). Rinse, spit, repeat.

The promise of technology and automation was never that Americans would lose their jobs to machines, but that the machines would make the jobs more efficient and lead to a better quality of life for everyone. LBJ’s “Great Society” was a product of progressive thinking – that yes, indeed, it was possible for the previous generation to leave the next generation just a little bit better off, and so on and so on.

In the past, I’ve ranted about how there was a palpable shift in the overall demeanor of big business back in the early days of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Perhaps I was a bit closer to it (“the shift”) at the time because of the point that I was at in my career – I’d been with the same employer for a couple of years, making a pretty good wage, and I was the sole breadwinner in the family. That was my role; that was the real role in life I thought I was supposed to play. But I could sense, even back then, that something was terribly amiss. I just couldn’t put my finger on it at the time. Something strange was happening in the work place that augured an uncertain future.

Allow me to use a personal story as a segue into a larger discussion on why I’m a progressive Democrat.

The company I worked for during the Reagan years made a very rapid transformation from a truly “family oriented” employer, to a “bottom line” company. Harvard Business School was just starting to churn out Michael Hammer-cloned MBA graduates using the “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap model of business education. The heady days of merger and acquisition really got cranking around the time of Reagan’s second inauguration. The atmosphere in the workplace shifted dramatically in the space of what felt like just a few short months. In fact, the change was so dramatic that, even in the quasi-professional / technical role that I filled, it was becoming obvious that the only way to survive was for those in my technical specialization to organize with a local labor union. And so we tried – I tried. I was very active in the effort.

I was active in the effort for several reasons, but the most important was that the HBS graduates were starting to fling around the specter of competition and deregulation and corporate survival as if to generate a self fulfilling prophecy. And, to a degree, the HBS’ers did just that. What a union offered, even a professional / technical union, were rules that the company and employees had to live by. I reasoned that, without a legally binding employment contract, non-represented, non-management employees were flying by the seat of their pants and without a net.

In the long run, I was right.

The company used a couple of really shady tactics, aided and abetted by a Reagan-reconstituted National Labor Relations Board ruling, to defeat the organizing effort, and the union local was not prepared well enough to respond. The threat of layoffs never emerged for the rank and file union members in the company, but the professional and technical specialties started to be purged in the late 1980′s, as folks like me began to simply make too much money.

As my salary and 401K grew, I clearly recall sitting at my kitchen table one night and amortizing the value of my salary and benefits 20 years into the future. I somberly recognized that evening that the company couldn’t sustain me and hundreds of my coworkers into the future. At some point, even a modest three or four percent increase per year in a fairly decent salary becomes like compounding interest to the bean counters in a company – and it was clear that something had to give. So the professional ranks started taking hits in terms of layoffs, “performance-based” firings, and early retirement package offerings to those in the organization who held the corporate institutional memory.

Here’s an example of how quickly the changes occurred, and why I worked so hard in the union organizing effort.

At one time, the technical and professional folks made time and a half for overtime (because the company would never compensate their professional people less than their union workers, don’tcha know…). Out of the blue, the non-represented technical workers were required to put in at least 45 hours a week to qualify for time and a half. The uncompensated five hours per week was euphemistically dubbed “professional time”. And then one day, word came down from the executive suite that overtime was completely gone for the professionals. You worked what you had to in order to get your job done, no matter how long it took or how much additional responsibility you had to assume because the guy’s desk next to you was suddenly vacated late on a Friday afternoon (the favorite time to issue pink slips), and there was no replacement for him or her.

But you know who didn’t go? The company never touched the union rank and file, because of the contract. There are still guys working for the company in union positions who were there when the great middle management purge of 1990 took place.

I was fortunate enough to see the handwriting on the wall, and started doing some serious programming work on the side back then, and that led to my ability to leave the company on my own terms in the mid-90′s. After all, computers were where the big money was, Tim Berners-Lee was rolling out the HTTP protocol, and the dot com boom was just getting underway. My services were in pretty high demand, and I brought not only my computer experience to a booming market, but my mature business acumen. It was a great combination that worked for awhile, and I made a pretty good living. And then the dot com bust hit.

Makin' the NutBy the time I was forced back into the job market in the early part of this century, even though my skills were at their peak, my earning power was not. The conservative mantra was, “well, you work whatever you have to work at. McDonalds, whatever. There’s no shame in working hard.” Indeed. It got to the point where I took one of the first jobs that I was offered that was even remotely reasonable in terms of compensation. And then that job was “mergered and acquisitioned”, even though it was in the non-profit sector. The last several years have been a struggle, having come down from positions of both authority and responsibility. In the business climate that I was unfortunate enough to experience, at a certain age, it’s impossible to regain career traction, and you settle for the best job that’s available in order to make ends meet.

I know I’m not alone in my tale, and that there are many out there like me. My real income has declined significantly since the mid-90′s. In fact, I was 1040–²ing more per year in 1995 than I am today. And I’m working harder today than I ever did in my life, for a relatively thankless employer whose executive battle cry at the end of every quarter is: “We’re not making the numbers!! Panic! Panic!!” So, the sales force forward-sells our product line to make this quarter’s numbers at the expense of bookings at the beginning of next quarter. It’s an endless cycle of stupid business decisions that leads to bargain basement deals for our customers, less revenue for the company, and a repeating of the cycle again at the end of next quarter.

The company that I work for in 2008 is by no means exceptional in the modern corporate world. There is no “quality of life”, so to speak. I’m tethered to a cell phone and a computer 24 hour a day, 365 days a year, and I spend my time reacting to business crises rather than getting a break from the bonds. I am literally doing the same work that three people did 20 years ago. But my employer thinks this is ok. (The customers don’t, but that’s another story for another day.)

This is the life that the Republican Party brought to me, and why I’m such a strong progressive, even if I’m getting a bit long in the tooth. I’m angry. I’m angry with the business climate that has upended my life and that of millions of others like me. I’m angry that I’m good enough at what I do that I’m the “go-to” guy when there’s a steaming pile of business shit that someone else has left for me to clean up, but there’s no one to back me up when I have a less than stellar day at the office. I’m angry that at this point in my life I’m locked into a fairly dead-end position because of the paycheck, but more importantly, benefits that I can’t (again, at this point of my life) afford to be without.

In the past year, I’ve seen one of my closest business associates hang it up because it just wasn’t worth it anymore – he bailed out early when he had the opportunity, even as he was somewhat unsure of his financial future. Another (15 years younger than me) had a heart attack just before Christmas. He was back at his desk last week. He’ll never make it to retirement. Another is opting for early retirement in March rather than spend another minute with her nose stuck to the grind stone.

The nuclear family is a dream of the past. There are so many among us (thankfully, I’m not yet one of them) who have to work two and three jobs just to pay the mortgage, electric bill, and put food on the table because real wages have declined so precipitously in years recently passed. But the GOP thinks that’s all right, in fact, they’re proud of it. They think it’s just peachy that mom and dad have to work themselves to the point of exhaustion, and then on the other hand they wonder why the nuclear family has disintegrated.

There is more than just a mortgage crisis at hand, and I don’t think anyone in a position to say so really wants to admit it in polite company. There is a very real family financial liquidity crunch that is underway, and sooner than later, the crunch is going to affect all of us. The unprecedented wealth transfer from poor and middle income families to the uber rich is nearly complete. The folks at the bottom of the GOP-led financial pyramid scheme are nearly bled dry, and the pyramid is about to collapse. To sustain itself a little longer, the folks at the top of the pyramid will have to start an Amway-style ritual of financial cannibalism amongst themselves. I think that (to an extent) this is exactly what we’re seeing in the stock markets and big financial houses as the true meltdown begins. Is this is how it starts?

An executive of a collapsed subprime mortgage lender jumped to his death from a bridge Friday, shortly after his wife’s body was found inside their New Jersey home, authorities said.

The deaths of Walter Buczynski, 59, and his wife, Marci, 37 – the parents of two boys – were being investigated as a murder-suicide, according to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office…

[He] was a vice president of Columbia, Md.-based Fieldstone Mortgage Co., a high-flying subprime mortgage lender that made $5.5 billion in mortgage loans and employed about 1,000 people as late as 2006.

However, it has since filed for bankruptcy and now has fewer than 20 employees. The company had recently filed court papers seeking approval to pay about $1.1 million in bonuses that would be divided among Buczynski and other staffers so the company could wind down its lending operations and go out of business…

Even in the last throes of corporate failure, the bosses reward themselves.

It’s only speculation, but perhaps this tragedy happened in part because the Buczynski’s were embroiled in some intractable sort of financial difficulty. Still, for each VP of a failed company that can’t take the personal pressure any longer and leaps from a bridge, how many more bodies and destroyed lives from the lower rungs of the economic pyramid have they left in their wake as they pursued the Republican holy grail of financial success and “A-list” cocktail parties?

When consumers stop spending, the economy is going to crash hard. Signs already point to a significant contraction in consumer spending, which is why George Bush today offered up a

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |

Bushie Kyle Sampson Claims Ignorance of the Law

It wasn’™t just Monica Goodling who broke the law in the DOJ and appointed career attorneys based on political criteria. Kyle Sampson also broke the law, though in his case he’™s making the usual whiney excuses, such as the notion that he, a member of the Justice Department, didn’™t KNOW the law he was sworn to uphold.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Our own Daniel DiRito has an excellent article about the lawbreaking of Bush Justice official Monica Goodling, a marginal lawyer, at best, who was empowered to make huge decisions in the Bush Justice Department under Albert Gonzales. This case will be part of the Bush legacy of both incompetence and politicization of our government’™s functions, a shameful legacy indeed, for surely the Justice Department is designed to serve all Americans, and not just Republicans. But it is the incompetence I write about today, and not Monica Goodling. In separate stories in the Washington Post and the New York Times, Kyle Sampson’™s lawyer, Bradford Berenson, gives a couple whiney excuses for Sampson’™s behavior, excuses that show Sampson himself was incompetent to fill his role in the Bush Justice Department. First, in the Washington Post

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |

President Bush Says No To Insuring More Children

There is an inherent risk for those who ‘œhave’ to infer that those who ‘œhave not’’¦deserve not’¦that what they lack results from their lack of effort and that if they are coddled by the government, they will never demonstrate the necessary initiative to alter their situation absent the assistance of the government.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Sometimes comparison proves to be the best means to understand the intentions of those who have been elected to public office’¦especially since the spoken word is often the tool by which politicians manipulate voters. When it comes to understanding President Bush, comparison is necessary’¦and the results offer a string of contradictions that defy the rhetoric of compassionate conservatism.

In a New York Times article, Paul Krugman provides readers a look into the position of the President with regard to the expansion of programs to cover uninsured children’¦programs that the President supported in the past’¦but programs that the President is opposed to expanding despite their success.

When a child is enrolled in the State Children’™s Health Insurance Program (Schip), the positive results can be dramatic. For example, after asthmatic children are enrolled in Schip, the frequency of their attacks declines on average by 60 percent, and their likelihood of being hospitalized for the condition declines more than 70 percent.

Regular care, in other words, makes a big difference. That’™s why Congressional Democrats, with support from many Republicans, are trying to expand Schip, which already provides essential medical care to millions of children, to cover millions of additional children who would otherwise lack health insurance.

But President Bush says that access to care is no problem ‘” ‘œAfter all, you just go to an emergency room’ ‘” and, with the support of the Republican Congressional leadership, he’™s declared that he’™ll veto any Schip expansion on ‘œphilosophical’ grounds.

The House plan, which would cover more children, is more expensive, but it offsets Schip costs by reducing subsidies to Medicare Advantage ‘” a privatization scheme that pays insurance companies to provide coverage, and costs taxpayers 12 percent more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.

Strange to say, however, the administration, although determined to prevent any expansion of children’™s health care, is also dead set against any cut in Medicare Advantage payments.

Well, here’™s what Mr. Bush said after explaining that emergency rooms provide all the health care you need: ‘œThey’™re going to increase the number of folks eligible through Schip; some want to lower the age for Medicare. And then all of a sudden, you begin to see a ‘” I wouldn’™t call it a plot, just a strategy ‘” to get more people to be a part of a federalization of health care.’

Looking at this particular situation offers ample opportunities for relevant and informative comparisons. First, let me suggest that the President’™s position is neither conservative nor compassionate. There has been little disagreement that George Bush’™s Medicare prescription drug program was the largest expansion of entitlements in recent memory and most analysts believe it will cost far more than the original estimates.

On its surface, one might argue that adding a prescription drug benefit was an act of compassion’¦and to a degree that conclusion has some merit. However, this is where comparison becomes an enlightening tool.

It is well known that the President is in favor of privatizing entitlement programs and one could argue that the prescription drug benefit was a logical step in that direction and likely the only means by which he could initiate such a plan’¦given that is has the appearance of compassion. One can look at the high costs of the program as the essential seed money for turning the corner towards privatization.

As we know, the program has been viewed to have achieved mixed results but there is no doubt that it provided insurance companies with a subsidized entr–©e into the living rooms of millions of Americans. Let me attempt to explain. The prescription drug benefit allows those on Medicare to purchase the benefit from an array of private providers’¦a move that begins to put in place a ready made structure for further privatization.

Such a plan achieves two important goals for a President in favor of privatization. One, it begins to give insurance companies an expanding role in providing care for the millions of seniors on Medicare’¦a move that is good for large corporations in the business of health care’¦including drug manufacturers. Two, it is an important incremental step in taking the government out of the health care business and entitlement programs.

Coming back to the Schip program, one can begin to use comparisons to uncover actual motivations. The number of uninsured Americans is well documented as a politically charged issue. In approving a plan to cover a number of uninsured children, the President achieved points for compassion just as he did with the prescription drug benefit. These programs also helped to hold off calls for universal government health care’¦a direction which this President opposes.

When one looks at the Bush administration position on the relative costs for the Schip plan and Medicare Advantage, we see that compassion and conservatism are secondary to the ideology of privatization. Granted, one could argue that the ultimate goals of the measures endorsed by the President have conservatism at their core’¦meaning less government and more market determined programs and costs.

In that regard, perhaps these spending measures’¦which are seemingly incongruent with conservatism’¦and which have raised the ire of traditional conservatives’¦have been shrewd considerations and calculations on the part of the President intended to push the country towards more privatization.

Now, why should Mr. Bush fear that insuring uninsured children would lead to a further ‘œfederalization’ of health care, even though nothing like that is actually in either the Senate plan or the House plan? It’™s not because he thinks the plans wouldn’™t work. It’™s because he’™s afraid that they would. That is, he fears that voters, having seen how the government can help children, would ask why it can’™t do the same for adults.

And there you have the core of Mr. Bush’™s philosophy. He wants the public to believe that government is always the problem, never the solution. But it’™s hard to convince people that government is always bad when they see it doing good things. So his philosophy says that the government must be prevented from solving problems, even if it can. In fact, the more good a proposed government program would do, the more fiercely it must be opposed.

This sounds like a caricature, but it isn’™t. The truth is that this good-is-bad philosophy has always been at the core of Republican opposition to health care reform. Thus back in 1994, William Kristol warned against passage of the Clinton health care plan ‘œin any form,’ because ‘œits success would signal the rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy at the very moment that such policy is being perceived as a failure in other areas.’

But it has taken the fight over children’™s health insurance to bring the perversity of this philosophy fully into view.

Krugman’™s analysis is valid but perhaps it stops short of identifying the ultimate misconceptions that underlie such a philosophy. George Bush is no doubt a product of privilege and in that reality his ability to comprehend the struggles of those at the opposite end of the spectrum is undoubtedly insufficient.

There is an inherent risk for those who ‘œhave’ to infer that those who ‘œhave not’’¦deserve not’¦that what they lack results from their lack of effort and that if they are coddled by the government, they will never demonstr

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |

Deciphering What Is Written On The Bathroom Stall

Clearly, there has been an inordinate historical focus upon the pursuit and punishment of those engaged in same sex encounters’¦likely a derivative of established social norms and values. Over time, it also appears that there has been a growing awareness that programs to limit public sexual activity need to evolve and to begin incorporating methods that seek to extinguish the behavior as opposed to criminalizing it.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

As the blogosphere has sought to digest the meaning of the Larry Craig incident, it has begun to spur a worthwhile debate‘¦one which has been ignored and has lurked in the background in ways eerily similar to the behavior that led to the arrest of the Senator.

Generally speaking, the public is opposed to encountering unexpected or offensive behaviors in public environments’¦and that is a reasonable concern for those within government to address. Clearly, the opinions regarding which behaviors constitute a nuisance or create the conditions under which to charge an individual with a crime will vary from individual to individual’¦often dependent upon one’™s values, one’™s religious beliefs, ands one’™s propensity for tolerance. The fact that there are discordant beliefs simply complicates the task for those charged with monitoring such activities.

By and large, citizens believe that law enforcement departments are committed to treating each individual fairly and with the same level of respect for their civil liberties. At the same time, history tells us that this isn’™t always the case. Regardless, most citizens afford our law enforcement departments the benefit of the doubt’¦which is as it should be’¦but only to a point.

In writing about the Larry Craig situation, I broached the question of whether the targeting of men who have sex with men (I avoid using the term gay because studies indicate that many of the men who participate in these clandestine encounters are married and consider themselves to be heterosexual) receives a level of attention that is commensurate with that given to those who engage in opposite sex liaisons in public locations.

I have asked readers and colleagues to ponder the question and to cite any examples whereby tactics similar to those employed in the Senator’™s case are being utilized to charge those engaged in opposite sex public encounters. At the moment, I have not been provided with any such examples’¦though a few individuals have cited prostitution stings as examples. I have discounted such examples because they constitute a specific crime that is not at play in circumstances like that of Senator Craig’¦meaning that the individuals charged in men’™s restrooms are engaging in consensual sex without the exchange of money (by definition the exchange of money is an act of solicitation), which generally leads to charges of lewd behavior, indecent exposure, or disorderly conduct.

I don’™t want to devolve into a legalistic discussion though some basic understandings are required for this debate. Firstly, laws can and do vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction so one size doesn’™t fit all. Secondly, courts have offered a number of rulings on the subject though no definitive across the board position can actually be derived.

Relevant to this topic, the Senator’™s actions constituted disorderly conduct’¦despite what he may have intended to do. In essence, intention doesn’™t necessarily equate with the ability to convict on the lewd behavior charge. The fact that he plead to the lesser charge (disorderly conduct) is evidence of this reality. Further, in some of these cases, the accused have successfully argued that their actions in a closed door stall in a restroom facility cannot equate with disorderly conduct because their actions didn’™t actually take place in public. The argument is open to interpretation and it can progress into questions of a fundamental granting of constitutional privacy privileges.

With that said, one can see that the issue is more complex than one might expect. Notwithstanding, it is important to note that the issue isn’™t solely one of legality as it is reasonable to consider other factors’¦such as what the public can legitimately expect upon entering a public restroom. While I am personally opposed to using these restrooms for sexual liaisons, the issue requires a much more comprehensive analysis.

To introduce the other considerations, let me begin with a simple example that will hopefully illuminate my concerns. Suppose one conducted a survey whereby the objective was to gauge the public’™s reaction and response to witnessing an apparent sexual encounter in a public restroom. In the study, the respondents witness 50% of the situations involving same sex participants and the other 50% involving opposite sex participants. In both cases, the sex of the participants is obvious, as is the sexual nature of the activity.

The respondents are then confronted as they exit the restroom in order to gauge their reaction as well as what they believe to be the appropriate response from law enforcement. Each respondent is asked to explain what they believe they witnessed to insure that they properly identified the sex of the participants. Once that is determined, they are asked to respond to a multiple choice question outlining the action they believe should be taken.

The first answer is, ‘œWhile I don’™t think they should be doing this in a public restroom, I’™m not in favor of it being a crime.’ The second answer is, ‘œI think that they should be charged with a crime in the event that a law enforcement officer were to be summoned’. The final answer is, ‘œI think that law enforcement needs to establish a sting operation to target those who might intend to engage in such activity in order to catch and charge them’.

My own belief is that the responses would be skewed towards answer number one with regards to opposite sex participants and towards answer number three with regards to same sex participants. I say as much because it would likely reflect the beliefs held by most Americans’¦meaning that heterosexual sex is viewed to be more acceptable than homosexual sex. In fact, I would contend that many of the respondents would laugh off the heterosexual activity while many of those witnessing homosexual activity would be outraged.

Therefore, one must ask whether the existing law enforcement actions being conducted in situations similar to that in Minneapolis’¦which led to the arrest of the Senator’¦reflect a societal bias with regards to homosexuals. In the absence of similar operations aimed at heterosexual activity, it seems safe to conclude that the treatment is not equal’¦and is likely reflective of prejudice.

Let me offer an even simpler example to reinforce my argument. All things being equal, a kiss between same sex couples in public will elicit a negative reaction (a moral judgment)’¦while a heterosexual kiss may elicit no reaction or at worst a negative reaction that such behavior doesn’™t belong in public’¦but rarely a negative moral judgment.

If that same bias is being applied to the actions of law enforcement (and it seems difficult to assume otherwise), we have a problem with selective and unfair discrimination.

Let me share part of a discussion I’™ve been involved with on this very topic. The information is from an individual who works with this issue and the men who are being charged with these types of offenses. I am not including his name or the organization as a matter of privacy. While I don’™t agree with every point made, I think it provides some important insight into a perspective that is often omitted from discussions of this issue.

Ok. The agency I work for has worked on hundreds of these cases. We have won lawsuits on the matter so I am going to respond to this last post with a few items.

1. Undercover operations have 0 deterrent effect. There is no evidence that sting operations against gay men have a deterrent effect. In fact the opposite is true. When members of the public see uniformed police ‘“ THAT is a deterrent. It makes many people feel more safe and if you combine it with signs saying that illegal behavior will be prosecuted or that surveillance is occurring (it doesn’™t have to be occurring) then you could argue there is a deterrent goal by the facility. But hiding a police officer does not prevent crime all it does is A. catch criminals or B. invites entrapment by overzealous cops who are frustrated with cautious perpetrators that refuse to take the bait. This is the reality.

2. Charging people is the goal. Police are very politically motivated. Their jobs and their bosses jobs are very much designed around getting rid of undesirables including queers. These operations usually carry a higher charge like in the Craig case where he claimed he had to negotiate it down to a misdemeanor. Charging felonies is about getting queers on the sex offender registry, shaming them in public, or costing them so much money they won’™t dare fight the charge in court. We had a case of 770 arrests in 4 months. Almost all were innocent. 50 of the guys got in touch with (agency name omitted) and all were acquitted because the officer refused to show up for court, meaning that he would commit perjury about what he put in the police reports. There is a fine for the charge, a fine for the court fees, attorney fees and sometimes there is a ‘œnuisance abatement’ charge so they can take your car which costs hundred to get it back. This is thousands more if you go to court. I repeat. These charges do not deter men or else every cruisy area where there were arrests would see reductions. This is not the case.

3. Police mostly are not responding to public complaints. Police know about cruisy restrooms because of websites and a few public complaints. We have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after FOIA after FOIA and never once have we received a public complaint of public sex. If this is such a big problem, which justifies an undercover operation, there should be some documentation. Nada. In (state omitted), the State Police even called their operations ‘œBag a Fag’ operations and printed T-Shirts saying so. This is the sign of bias not serving and protecting. If there are really people observing public sex (which is rare because most of this activity is committed by guys that do not want to be seen or caught) then a uniformed cop walking in should be able to see the same thing right. Right. But they don’™t want to deter it or stumble across it, they want to invite it. They want it to happen. 9 times out of ten these men never get a warning and sent away. They invest so much money and time that they love charging on the first offense, charging high and publicizing the hell out of it.

4. I have trained over 1000 police, some as a condition of our lawsuit and nearly all of them believe that gay sex is so sick they would do anything to root it out. I have had cops say out loud in a training that they would watch two women go at it, send a str8 couple home and bust a gay couple. I have also had cops admit in these trainings that these operations are scams designed to make money and shame people. Some chiefs and some prosecutors won’™t honor them at all. In (state omitted) we have shut down many of these when high level chiefs have admitted that uniformed cops are an effective way of dealing with the ‘œproblem.’

I think this is invaluable information’¦information that gives the reader a first hand view of the realities confronted by those who have engaged in such activity and the obstacles they face’¦but it also provides insight into which methods may be effective in limiting or deterring these activities as well as exposing the possibility that the motivations of those who establish programs like the one found in Minneapolis may be biased and misguided.

It’™s difficult to argue in favor of a program that isn’™t effective’¦unless, of course, one is particularly prejudiced against those who are participating in the behavior. If the goal is to extinguish this activity, it appears that these sting operations are less than effective.

Rather than rely upon one source, I consulted a document prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice titled, ‘œIllicit Sexual Activity in Public Places’. The following excerpts are from this lengthy document and they reiterate and reinforce some of the concerns shared in the prior quotation.

There are widely different perspectives on public sexual activity. Some do not believe the behavior constitutes a public safety threat; some view the behavior as a ‘œvictimless crime’ involving two consenting partners; and some see the behavior as a threat to the community’™s ‘œmoral decency.’ ‘œImpersonal,’ ‘œcasual,’ and ‘œanonymous’ sexual behaviors have negative connotations to many people, as they stand in contrast to ideals of romantic love, monogamous relationships, and long-term commitments. Moral overtones pervade discussions of nudity and sexuality, particularly when they address same sex interactions. These judgments often underlie the public’™s concern. Community morals and beliefs about how the law should regulate morality will affect how each community addresses the problem. This guide does not adopt any particular moral perspective; it is intended to inform you about the effectiveness and consequences of various approaches to controlling public sexual activity.

Primarily, such activity constitutes nuisance behavior and does not pose a serious threat to community safety.

The responses to public sexual activity can be fraught with difficulty. Charges of harassment, entrapment, bias and discrimination against homosexuals have historically surrounded efforts to address public sexual activity between men. Therefore, it is vital that you objectively analyze the problem so that you develop fair and effective responses.

Certain patterns (e.g., opposite-sex coupling at a ‘œlovers’™ lane’) have not been studied empirically, while others (e.g., same-sex contact in public restrooms) have been studied much more extensively. It is important to note that engaging in same-sex activity does not necessarily imply a homosexual identity; in fact, many men who have sex with men in public places are married or otherwise heterosexually involved, and do not consider themselves to be gay.

When apprehended, many offenders may suffer substantial social repercussions, in addition to any criminal justice related consequences that may ensue. Threats to their marriages, friendships, jobs, reputations, and social standing often cause them to try to distract attention from their behaviors by showing exaggerated degrees of respectability, such as strong ties to the religious community or passionate condemnation of homosexuality. The larger the community’™s moral objections to public sexual activity mean that participants have much to lose if they are discovered.

Two things are immediately apparent. One, The Justice Department realizes that efforts to limit this type of activity have moral considerations’¦and that can lead to prejudicial judgments. Two, the fact that same-sex activity is the only activity that has been extensively studied supports my contention that little effort is expended to suppress similar heterosexual activity. It also suggests that a bias has existed for many years with regard to homosexual activity and it has often been targeted.

A lack of privacy may also be the reason for male sexual activity in public restrooms. In particular, men with heterosexual identities may want to conceal their behavior from significant others. Their heterosexual identities also deter them from using other, less-public venues such as gay bars or sex clubs. Some homosexual men also lack the freedom to pursue same-sex partners privately due to family or peer disapproval. A community’™s condemnation of homosexuality may drive the behavior to remote, although public, locations, particularly among those exploring their sexuality and not yet connected to the gay community.

Most researchers and practitioners agree that focusing solely on arresting those engaging in public sexual activity is unlikely to reduce the overall scope of the problem. In your response strategy, you should acknowledge that it will be difficult to affect people’™s motivations for engaging in the activity. A balanced approach combining enforcement strategies and those targeting environments that support the behavior is most likely to decrease the prevalence of the activity and the public’™s concern about it.

Used alone, enforcement efforts are likely to lead to displacement. Although not the most desirable outcome, there is evidence that when displacement does occur, the magnitude of the problem decreases with the move to a new location.

In addition, an exclusive focus on environments in which same-sex interactions occur can result in charges of bias and discrimination. Therefore, you must address the full range of public sexual activity and target particular locations based on objective, justifiable assessments of threats to public safety.

Again, the report confirms many of the same conclusions offered by the party quoted above and with whom I discussed the issue. I view the warnings in the last paragraph to be a tacit acknowledgment that there has been a focus upon same sex encounters. Note the use of the word objective’¦a

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |

Bailout Imbroglio: Politics, Power, Pulpits, & Profit

The failure to pass bailout legislation is a symptom of a larger issue’¦one that percolates in the background. Good governance must promote a social structure that insists the nation be neutral while accepting the soul’™s autonomy. Preserving our American identity hangs in the balance.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

We’™re in uncharted waters with a leaky boat and a storm on the horizon’¦but the GOP wants us to know that Nancy Pelosi is a mean-spirited partisan.

Let me see if I can get this straight. The Republican president of the United States sends the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Chairman to Capital Hill with a message of impending economic doom’¦asking the party in power to put aside partisanship and pass necessary legislation.

The party in power (Democrats) holds its nose and puts together a bill premised upon the gravity of the situation, endures John McCain’™s grandstanding at the eleventh hour, allows him to characterize his involvement as critical to the success of the process, spends hours meeting with those in the GOP who want to amend the bill, comes to an agreement on a bill the GOP leadership can support, and then brings the bill to a vote.

In that vote, over sixty percent of Democrats support legislation that was requested by the head of the opposition party, two thirds of the presidents fellow Republicans jump ship and oppose the bill, and the GOP house leadership wants Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to shoulder the blame?! Well there you have it’¦nothing illogical about that, right?

Frankly, I’™ve personally reached the point at which I’™m opposed to any attempt to glue what remains of our failed government back together. Unless and until politicians are held accountable for the consequences of their actions, I’™m in favor of pulling the rest of the metaphorical china from the cupboard and smashing it all on the floor. I say as much because I don’™t think anything will change until the American public is forced to face reality’¦even if that means standing in line for a loaf of bread and a bowl of soup.

Look, let’™s be honest as to what all of this GOP partisanship is about. From their self-serving perspective, it’™s power and money’¦and they’™re willing to do whatever it takes to obtain both. Voters, on the other hand, have allowed themselves to be drawn into an ideological struggle to define morality. Taken together, this is the underlying formula for the disaster we’™re witnessing.

Instead of a candid discussion on the merits of rescuing our financial structure, the political combatants have spent years defining our differences in terms of good versus evil; right versus wrong. While voters blindly engage in this theoretical tug of war, the real battle for dominance is waged in the trenches’¦replete with lobbyists looking to commit larceny in tandem with their trusted troopers’¦the political elite.

The unseen metrics of today’™s maelstrom center upon the pursuit of profit. Those house Republicans who opposed today’™s legislation tell us they are concerned about main street. In truth they, in concert with their corporate benefactors who want the government to insure their success without foregoing the profits that may eventually result from the government’™s intervention, see main street as a peripheral player.

Let me explain. If the bail out takes the current form, the companies that avail themselves of it will have to forego the upside of the very assets that have made them a ton of money during the housing bubble and now leads them to the edge of financial ruin. Conversely, if the legislation is structured as an insurance mechanism, they receive the financial assist they need without foregoing the future profits that may ensue with the passage of time and an improved economy.

In other words, house Republicans are carrying the water of Wall Street while telling us they’™re looking out for the interests of taxpayers. You see, one need only look at the proposal that came from the Bush administration’¦a virtual blank check to assi

Sunday, July 31st, 2011 by Richard Blair |

So a whole bunch of bipartisn politicans are going to meet in Oklahoma to talk about how the next leader of our country should be a real uniter. So which of the current candidates will they pick? I’€™m thinking the decision will narrow to McCain and Obama. Let’€™s hope McCain’€™s pandering to special interests moves that choice to Obama.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

There’€™s a whole bunch of talk out there about the meeting on January 7th at the University of Oklahoma, hosted by their President, former Senator David Boren. (One of the members of our local Drinking Liberally Chapter this last year is there in Norman, and I’€™d love to hear from him.) The meeting is being attended by a whole bunch of retired political folks who have real bipartisan credibility. William Cohne, for instance, a former Republican Senator, served under Bill Clinton. Others include Sam Nunn (D), Michael Bloomberg (R), Charles Robb (D), Chuck Hagel (R), Bill Brock (R), Gary Hart (D), Christy Whitman (R), etc. This is a high-powered bunch, though I’€™m not hyping it here as a bunch that could possibly start a third party, as David Broder seems to be hyping. Still, I recently read Orson Scott Card’€™s book Empire, which gives us a dystopic view concerning our very partisan nation. Oh, sure, I have arguments with Card, but his warning about how ugly our partisan politics have become rings true.

The point of the conference at OU is to push the current Presidential candidates to commit to a bipartisan approach to running this country, and I think what they’€™re saying is that they need to see a commitment by the current presidential candidates to appointing bipartisan cabinets. I’€™ll take David Boren at his word that this is not a Michael Bloomberg for President convention. As reported by the Norman Transcript:

‘€œOur political system is, at the least, badly bent and many are concluding that it is broken at a time where America must lead boldly at home and abroad,’€ according to the invitation letter signed by Boren and Nunn. ‘€œPartisan polarization is preventing us from uniting to meet the challenges that we must face if we are to prevent further erosion of America’€™s power of leadership and example.

‘€œThe next president of the United States will be faced with what has been described as a gathering storm both at home and abroad. Serious near term challenges include the lack of a national strategy to deal with our fiscal challenges, our educational challenges, our energy challenges, our environmental challenges, as well as the dangerous turbulence triggered by the current financial crisis,’€ the letter states.

Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a potential independent candidate for president, is among the invitees. However, Boren said the meeting was not an attempt to bring attention to a potential Bloomberg candidacy.

‘€œBloomberg is just an invitee,’€ Boren said Sunday afternoon. ‘€œIt’€™s not a Bloomberg for president meeting.’€

I might just now speak with a bit of pride about my Okie background. My parents met in Oklahoma, and we lived there for a time when I was very young. I remember them campaigning for a Republican when I was young, a former football coach, the legendary Bud Wilkinson. (I’€™m a big football fan, and an Oklahoma fan as a result.) I also am a collector of the art of Oklahoma artist Charles Banks Wilson (Hey, there’€™s one of my pieces on this site!) And I continually tell my wife about how the Broadway play Oklahoma was all about liberal values, of folks trying to get along even with class differences in the way. Enough about my Oklahoma roots, though. This post is about how the conference where a bunch of folks in the political center want to sway this year’€™s election, and about how they’€™ve got a litmus test ‘€” this year’€™s candidates, in order to get the support of this group of bipartisan politicans, must commit to a plan for a bipartisan administration. So which of the candidates can do so? Which of these candidates among both parties might best suit the standards of this bipartian group? I’€™ll go through a list of a few candidates and see. First the Republican side:

Mitt Romney: Here’€™s a guy who has switched positions on almost every cause held dear by liberals. Choice, immigration, the War in Iraq, civil right for gay citizens. The list of flip flopping by Mitt Romney is long. I can find complaining about those flip flops from both the rabid conservative and the liberal sides of the aisle. No, Mitt Romney will not be the choice of the Oklahoma conference, not by a long shot.

Mike Huckabee: Can anyone really believe that Huckabee will appoint Democrats to key positions. Yeah, Romney accuses Huckabee of being liberal, in a ‘€œtax and spend’€ sense, but Huckabee has a history of demonizing the Clinton Administration in order to climb the political ladder, by pardoning a murderer, in this case. No, Mike Huckabee will not be the choice here.

Rudy Giuliani: Rudy might seem to be a good candidate for bipartisn government, but it just ain’€™t going to happen. Everyone on the Democrat side has seen Rudy for what he is, a shrill spokesperson whose only message is 9/11, 9/11, 9/11. For a real Democrat to join his administration he or she would have to agree to torture, and that just ain’€™t going to happen.

John McCain: Here’€™s the only man among the Republican candidates who might be able to attract Democrats to serve in his Administration. After all, McCain allied with Democrats on the immigration issue, and his stances are a whole lot like Chuck Hagel’€™s. Still, the most important issue on which John McCain has allied with Democrats is turning sour, that of campaign finance reform, as revealed by a Washington Post article today. No, McCain is not to be trusted in the ‘€œstraight talk’€ arena, not anymore.

The Democrats:

Hillary Clinton: It is possible that Hillary Clinton could appoint Republicans to her cabinet, but it just is not likely that she could garner support from the whacked out folks in this country who think she is the center of a whole bunch of really crazy conspiracy theories. Come on, folks, do you really think Hillary Clinton can garner support from the brainwashed folks who think she had Vince Foster killed. Please understand I do NOT think Hillary had any role in that incident, but there’€™s enough whack jobs on the right who do. Scratch Hillary from this list for sure.

John Edwards: Mr. Edwards is the endorsed candidate of Allspinzone. That does not make him the candidate of the Oklahoma bipartisan group, that’€™s for sure. John Edwards is far too liberal for the guys meeting in Norman. John Edwards is a trial lawyer. I’€™ll stick by my lovely wife on this one, a centrist Republican. She’€™s not about to go for a plaintiff’€™s lawyer, and I’€™ll go with most Republicans not going to a plaintiff’€™s lawyer, certainly not those meeting in Norman, OK.

Barack Obama: Here’€™s the guy on the Democratic side who fits the mold of a bipartisn uniter. At the very least, he has talked that game all along. Sure, he’€™s garnered support of the woman who Rush Limbaugh sees as the epitome of liberal values, Oprah Winfrey, but Obama has shown that he’€™s bipartisan, though that stance has not been tested in any real sense. We’€™ll need to see him get some support of Republicans for him to be the choice of the group in Oklahoma.

Hmm. This could be exciting.

Sunday, July 31st, 2011 by Richard Blair |
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