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Extra Action

My friend Vicky had come all the way from Providence, and there we were stuck at the door. The place was at capacity and I tell you, these Billyburg drinking establishment (oh, excuse me, art venue) proprietors are hard-asses.

From the hallway, we could at least glimpse the stage. The Hungry March Band was making noise. They looked fun, but to tell you the truth, I was a little ambivalent about being there at all. I had a 6am wake-up call lurking in my back-brain. I still had at least an hour's worth of work to do once I finally got home from the bar -- er, I mean, art venue -- and here it was going on 11pm already and we couldn't even get past the Stasi door people. I was happy to stand there patiently in the hallway -- we could see the stage, after all -- and wait for the Thing We Came To See to appear. After a decent interval, I would express my admiration then catch the "L" train back to Manhattan. Sounded like a plan to me.

But all of that did not take into account my friend Vicky.

I am one of those pussy-boys who actually, you know, stands on line? I am constitutionally incapable of finding ways to crowd the line or surreptitiously worm my way forward. In short, I generally leave the heavy lifting of jumping the line to people like Vicky. This allows me to remain virginally pure while still getting me into the show.

For Vicky, getting into the show is a primordial urge. It's like when Jeff Goldblum says in Jurassic Park "Life will find a way." You can't stop it. You can't out-think it. For Vicky, the intention to Get In is a force that seeps into the interstitial spaces of the cellular structure of the cosmos. Slowly but surely, the infection takes shape, it grows, it spreads, the body cosmos cannot resist.

And pretty soon, we were past the door. I don't know the details of the transaction. I don't want to know the details of the transaction. Suffice it to say that I suddenly felt Vicky's hand closing on mine in the dark -- a grip that would brook no hesitation -- and the next thing I knew I was sailing past the door people and plunging into the crowd.

I was raped into the show!! I swear!!

Just in time, too. The drum roll started somewhere off to my right. A fanfare of brass. Banners rose above the crowd at the back of the room, pressed forward, shoving their way through the mass of drunken flesh.

A marching band! Who doesn't love a marching band??

Well, unless you're shoving $7 hot-dogs down your food-hole and you're stinkin' drunk on stadium beer, you probably don't love them. I don't either, particularly, unless I'm close enough to actually check-out all the cute drummer boys.

Here I confess: drummer boys really turn me on. What is it about drummers, I wonder?

I'll tell you what it is about drummers: they hit things hard, with abandon.

Rock drummers are the best because they generally have short- or no-sleeve shirts, or they take their shirts off completely. This upper body strength nakedness completes the elevation of their art -- above the legendary power of music itself. This is nakedly hitting things hard to create rhythm. This is hot.

Some things cannot be explained in words. Some things can only be explained by taking your clothes off.

We're talking penetration, here. That's what the Extra Action Marching Band is all about.

Heh. "Marching".

As in: "Marching into your space and taking it over".

Help! I'm being invaded and I can't help but get it up!

Let us distinguish between Extra Action and all the marching bands you've seen on football fields from your high school days forward...

You know how all the really daring marching band directors insert "The Stripper" into their repertoire? Woo-woo. Racy. Crowd favorite. Soft-core drum & bugle corps porn.

Extra Action doesn't play "The Stripper". It strips. In some cases literally, notably the Flag Corps.

And it strips you, too. Though not necessarily of your clothes.

Yes, they invade. The crowd. Your face. Your nostrils.

They literally, not figuratively, stink. I'm convinced the failure of the Flag Corps to shower and launder their, um, "uniforms" is all part of their plan to penetrate and conquer. They smell like your junior high school jock-strap, back when you could never remember to take your gym clothes home every once in a while so your mom could wash them. They crawl up your nose, and they crawl up other places too.

Standing there in the crowd, being shoved out of the way by a pair of stinky pom-poms to your face so the Cheer Squad (girls, and boys who do some not particularly credible imitations of them) can clear a generally inadequate amount of space to do their Pep Routine... you recognize that this is one of those moments... one of those moments when you've stopped being you and you've become the crowd... stopped being a corpuscle and have become the blood...

In conclusion, there are some things I could say about that evening that could get certain people in trouble. But I won't say those things in here.

There are some secrets, after all, that should remain on the 50-yard line.

Celiac Disease Makes the A.P.

Slowly but surely life gets a little bit easier for us gluten-gimps.

Pocket Guide to the Culture Wars

Conservatives want to preserve institutions.

People create institutions.

Private urges drive creativity.

Creativity gives birth to the new.

The new gives birth to new institutions.

And that's why conservatives need to be all up in your urges.

Pony Up For Plattsburgh

All of you who pledged -- anti-Fred-Phelps-ishly -- to Plattsburgh for Peace, don't forget to pony up! If you signed up with PFP after my earlier post, you probably got an email recently from them, part of which went something like this:

Your check or money order can be made out to [whichever group you pledged to support] and mailed to Plattsburgh for Peace, PO Box 278, Morrisonville, NY, 12962.  PFP will be dispersing the donations to the charities all at once, after the contribution collection period has ended and PFP financial activities have ceased.  Please note that the deadline for receiving these donations is August 1, 2005, after which date PFP will be officially disbanding...so don't wait!

Send your check NOW or you risk becoming just one more poopy-headed, well-intentioned, but ineffectual lefty.

Sorry to harsh your mellow and everything, but come across already. Otherwise I shall have to dispatch Timmy the Bruised Inner Child and task him with adjusting your gams misfortunately.

Elaine In Queens: The Director's Cut

Herewith, below, is a document I find remarkable.

But first let me warn you: This post is long. Partly that's because the included document is long, and partly it's because my analysis of it is lengthy as well.

The document below is a transcript (prepared by me, all mistakes mine) of a phone call made this past Friday, July 15, 2005, to the Brian Lehrer Show which airs on WNYC here in New York City.

Yes, I have posted about Brian's show before. And yes, I'm addicted to it -- for at least three reasons  that I'm aware of: (1) I'm addicted to radio, (2) I'm addicted to intelligence, (3) I'm addicted to Brian's fair-mindedness and his willingness to let people with whom I vehemently disagree have their say.

That last one's a bit odd, eh? Shouldn't I hate it when Brian lets people I disagree with go on with their silliness? I mean, if they disagree with me, they must be silly, right?

Well, here's the odd thing about letting people who are wrong have their say: if you let them go on long enough, and if you insert your appropriate challenges where necessary, these people will often end up carving their own arguments to pieces for you.

Of course, it has to be admitted that when you let someone you agree with go on and on, they sometimes end up tearing their own argument apart too. An unfortunate result, if the argument is one you, yourself, have previously made. But I mean, really. It's as if letting people have their say results in some sort of enlightenment or something. Sheesh!

This transcript stands pretty much on its own so I'm not going to give you a lengthy set up for it. Suffice it to say it is from an "Open Phones" segment in which the subject was a call from a woman the previous day -- an entry in Brian's very first "Commentary Slam". The previous day's caller had argued that homosexuality was immoral, per se, because, I dunno, men are made one way and women are made another or something. Frankly, the argument was incomprehensible and Brian had been taken to task by an emailer for not just dismissing the caller as a bigot. The call transcribed below comes of Brian asking his listeners to let him know what they think he should do in the future: let people like that woman have their say, or simply identify them as bigots and hang up on them.

Here is an .mp3 file of the entire segment, only part of which is transcribed below. The entire file is about 15 Megs, and about 37 minutes long. However, the section transcribed below is only about 11 and a half minutes long, starting at about time-mark 17:20 and ending at about 28:50. I have sprinkled the occasional time-mark throughout the transcript should you care to make use of them.

I urge you, if you can, to download the file, find the above time-marks, and then listen to the caller as you follow along in the transcript below. There is a "pained urgency" in the caller's voice. As you will discover, that "pained urgency" is no accident. It goes to the heart of the caller's argument.

Brian Lehrer: Elaine in Queens, you're on WNYC.

Elaine in Queens: Good morning, Brian, thanks for taking my call.

BL: Um-hunh.

EiQ: Um, I just wanted to note that the caller from yesterday was careful to distinguish. She did not say that homosexuality is immoral. She said that homosexual--, homosexual behavior is immoral. There's a difference. Um, I also wanted to point out that the media is overwhelmingly favoring the opinion that homosexual behavior is equivalent to heterosexual behavior and sexual relations. Um, that they're ignoring, the media are ignoring a lot of psychiatric evidence to the contrary that, and that, um, there's a lot of damage and tremendous hurt that's been done to people that has brought about same-sex attractions in young people. Um, some kind of trauma in their childhood and there's psychiatric evidence to this. Um, there's a lot of articles, there are books about this that have been ignored by the media. And also that homosexual, um, activity as an ideology has been more or less imposed on the American consciousness. Not only American but I think it's, um, pretty much in the Western world. Um, as, you know, this is okay, and this is the way it should be. And it's been a whole political agenda that has been more or less imposed on us and not everybody agrees with that. I don't hate anybody. I have some very dear friends who have same-sex attractions --


BL: Elaine, hang on a second because we are coming to a break and, as with yesterday, this is something that I need to respond to, and we'll see how I do it, and what Elaine says about it in a minute. Brian Lehrer on WNYC.

[BREAK at 18:55]

BL: Brian Lehrer on WNYC, as we're getting reaction to one of the calls from the "Commentary Slam" and one of the emails in response: a gay man who said I should have, um, just denounced the caller whose commentary was about the immorality of homosexuality, that I should have just denounced her as a bigot. Um, and Elaine in Queens is our current caller who is taking the position that homosexuality is psychologically damaging and that it's an ideology. And, Elaine, I have to say I do find this -- and I'm not going to cut you off and dismiss you like the emailer was telling me to do -- but I will tell you that I do find your call more bigoted than the call we got yesterday. Um, by calling it a psychological disorder, by saying with I suspect little evidence that there's a lot of psychology to back it up when the American Psychological Association, the Psychiatric Association do not consider it a psychiatric disorder. And also by calling it an ideology rather than just sort of the way people are. Um, what would you say to that?


EiQ: Well, um, I, um, am sorry that if I, um, didn't say it clearly. I don't mean that homosexuality is an ideology, but there is a political agenda that has promoted, um, homosexual behavior and it's been going on since the 70s in -- very strongly. Um, but what is being ignored, I think, is the --

BL: Well, let me jump in on that because there obviously is a political movement to promote the idea that homosexuals should be treated equally in society to heterosexuals. That, you know, first level, that they shouldn't be, um, beaten up by the police or by roving gangs on the street --

EiQ: I agree absolutely.

BL: -- second level, that they shouldn't be discriminated against in employment or housing or education. Um, I notice you're not agreeing... Third, obviously, is the --

EiQ: (laughing) No, I just didn't want to cut you off.

BL: (laughing) -- the current gay marriage debate. Um, and things like that. But this whole, what I think is a canard about the promoting homosexuality, that whole thing about recruiting, um, you know, I think people are looking as a group that's been historically considered inferior and not worthy of equal treatment, just to be treated equally. And, yes, they're promoting that as a political position, but what would you say?


EiQ: Well, um, I agree in equality under the law for all people, men and women, of whatever persuasion, whatever ideology. We're equal and entitled to protection. Um, however, the, um, the notion of homosexual marriage, I think it's actually not a possibility. I don't think that there is such a thing because marriage is not something that human beings created. It was given to us and it began at the beginning of human beings. If you, you know, who knows who were the first people around and who, but it wasn't human beings --


BL: But now you're, now you're talking at a level that I can't even comprehend because you can say that God gave humans marriage, but God also gave humans the ability to create institutions, um, with their rules. So individual churches and other religious organizations are now debating whether they will marry, um, gays and lesbians under, you know, the auspices of their religious institutions. The state and different countries are deciding whether in the legal sense they will recognize gay -- so these are things that humans do control and that's what the debate is about, isn't it?


EiQ: They are debating whether they should recognize, um, something and call it a reality and, um, I think that a lot of, I would even say, philosophical understanding is missing from the debate on, on probably on both sides. Um, and we have to do some serious soul-searching to try to understand ourselves as human beings and where we are in the whole of the universe. Um, which is probably way off-field of this call, but, um, I did want to mention the psychiatric evidence that -- I mean, there's a wonderful psychiatrist in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania who is an enormously compassionate man. Actually, there's two of these guys working together in Comprehensive Counseling Services. And, um, they, um, have encountered a great number of young people with same-sex attractions, not only young people but older people as well, who have come to them for counseling and ultimately for some kind of therapy because they have found themselves to be very unhappy with their state and they actually, following a lot of investigation and therapy, they found that, um, there were buried memories, and some of them not so buried, of mistreatment by their fathers or their mothers or abandonment by their fathers or --

[24:12] (crosstalk)

BL: But, but, but, before --

EiQ: -- feelings of inadequacy --

BL: -- before. But you know what? What... Who... What I want to say is, who are you to judge? But I'm not even going to go there.

EiQ: Well, I'm not judging, I'm just reading the reports.

BL: I know, but I'm going to ask, who are you to care? Because how does it hurt you that -- This is what I really want to know from you. How does -- Why do you care about this so much? How does it hurt you if -- I mean, I know, you know, enough well-adjusted gay and lesbian people who -- that's just part of their lives.

EiQ: Brian, it doesn't hurt me at all, but it hurts a lot of my very dear friends.

BL: How?

EiQ: Who are, have same-sex attractions and they really don't want to feel that way. And they have been deeply damaged. Um, some of them, thankfully, are coming out of that, um, through therapy, but it's a long and very, very difficult and very painful process. And --

BL: And what about the ones who don't want to change?

EiQ: Well, I --

BL: Why shouldn't they have equal rights if that's who they are?


EiQ: I think there are a lot of people speaking for them. I'm speaking for those who are not being spoken enough for. And I think that they have a right to a hearing.

BL: But you're saying that in order to help these people as individuals who want to get out of being gay or lesbian, that's who you say you are doing this in, in behalf of, um, that equal protection under the law, or an acceptance of homosexuality as being morally acceptable for other gays and lesbians has to be disqualified. Aren't you?

EiQ: Disqualified from?

BL: That, that you can't both help these people who you are saying you want to help who are unhappy about their homosexual status, and accept the other homosexuals as being okay?


EiQ: Um, I, okay. I go back to the caller from yesterday who was saying that men and women are different in our physical and psychological make up, at least that was the implication, um, and that marriage then as, by implication, which has always been, um, connected with procreation, with the bringing forth of new life, by complementarity between the sexes, this is what marriage is. Now, if you have two men, they cannot produce a baby, obviously. Two women cannot produce a baby. Unless there's some technological intervention --

BL: Not every marriage is about babies. I know heterosexual couples who got married and decided not to have children.

EiQ: Of course not every marriage has babies but this is, um, a great sadness I think for our society, that human love by its nature is so linked to the bringing forth of new human life that in order to prevent it, there has to something wrong either biologically or physically or mechanically or we have to intervene --

BL: I'm going to ask you, I'm going to ask -- maybe menopause is wrong, under that -- But I'm going to ask you one more time and then I'm going to move on...

EiQ: Go ahead.


BL: Why do you care?

EiQ: Why do I --?

BL: Because I, I -- Is it really just about these gays who you are referring to who you think are unhappy?

EiQ: No, it's not, Brian. It's about the whole conception of the human being as man and woman, and that the unity of complementarity is something intrinsically essential about the human being.

BL: And there can't be a three, or five, or ten percent group of the population that's just... different? And that's okay?


EiQ: Well, I can't say that they can't do it because I have no jurisdiction over the population. I'm nobody here. I'm just studying and trying to do my job, but, um, I feel very deeply sad for people who have been unable to have what I call, and what many people call, a normal heterosexual attraction, and I understand that it can come from trauma in childhood or adolescence and I've seen it, I've experienced it myself. Um, thank God I'm over it, but, um, I think that -- I mean, I feel very deeply, I feel very, very sad for the fact that this exists, and um, I'm not going to condemn anybody. Please understand me.


BL: Um-hunh.

EiQ: I do not condemn anybody. I don't hate anybody. And please, do not write me off as a hater or a bigot.

BL: Um-hunh.

EiQ: I do not hate anybody. I'm not a bigot. I'm moved by compassion and, and I really -- I know that a lot of people disagree with me in calling me a hypocrite --

BL: Um-hunh.

EiQ: But, you know, it's very true that I -- I'm moved by compassion, and by nothing else.

BL: Elaine, thank you very much for your call.

EiQ: Thank you, Brian.


Well, after all that, let's get right to it.

In my view, judged by her behavior, Elaine in Queens has to be considered an archetypal human monster. In her behavior, she exemplifies the sort of person responsible for so much damage throughout human history, the sort of person who is not satisfied with being blind to the map of her own psychological torture. Rather, she has to take her own difficulties and translate them into an overarching Moral Guide to the Universe -- as some sort of explanation or justification for her own suffering, I guess -- and then use her freshly printed Guidebook To Spiritual Hell as a manual to proscribe for others the sort of freedoms she cannot grant to herself.

Yes, I know that sounds harsh. Think I'm wrong? Well, let's just have a look-see.

It's become a cliche for advocates of gay-rights to say that those who most vehemently oppose gay-rights probably have latently homosexual urges themselves. I don't believe this as a general rule. As a general proposition, I have never believed it, but that doesn't mean I believe the phenomenon doesn't exist at all. Another cliche is the notion of "homophobia". Those who are accused of it usually deny it by referring to the literal meaning of the word, saying they aren't afraid of homosexuality, for heaven's sake. They simply think it is wrong. Again, I have never really believed in the cliche that people who seem to hate homosexuals, or who work to deny them their rights, are actually afraid of them. But again, that does not mean I believe the phenomenon doesn't exist.

In fact, I believe Elaine in Queens is a classic example of the truth behind the homophobe cliche -- using the literal meaning of the word -- for in her remarks that begin at about time-mark 27:40, she admits to a struggle with her own homosexuality. She. Is. Terrified. Hence the pained urgency in her voice:

"I feel very deeply sad for people who have been unable to have what I call, and what many people call, a normal heterosexual attraction, and I understand that it can come from trauma in childhood or adolescence and I've seen it, I've experienced it myself. Um, thank God I'm over it..."

For whatever reason, maybe it has to do with some conception she has about what constitutes human love ("...human love by its nature is so linked to the bringing forth of new human life..."), she's incapable of seeing her own feelings as having any value whatsoever. Love is procreation, in her world-view. What she feels cannot, therefore, be love. It must be the result of some sort of damage.

Which brings me to a brief tangent regarding the "psychiatric evidence" to which she keeps retreating throughout her remarks. A Google search on the clues she gives us ("comprehensive counseling services"+pennsylvania+homosexuality) yields links to a fellow named Richard Fitzgibbons, M.D., Director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Fitzgibbons specializes in anger management, but he also specializes in "reparative therapy" for people "suffering" from same-sex attractions -- most notably Catholic priests, but others as well. According to the A.M.A., Dr. Fitzgibbons "self-designates" psychiatry as his primary specialty, but though he did a residency in psychiatry in the University of Pennsylvania Health System, he is not a Board Certified psychiatrist. He is featured on the Opus Bono Sacerdotii website, a group that apparently supports Catholic priests who find themselves in a variety of hot waters, including but not limited to being accused of the sexual abuse of minors.

In an interview on the National Association for Research & Therapy for Homosexuals ("NARTH") website, Dr. Fitzgibbons explains homosexuality through reference to four psychological factors: "...weak masculine identity, which is always the result of developmental trauma; mistrust of women; narcissism; and sexual addiction." The interview appears to be a concise summary of Dr. Fitzgibbons's theory of homosexuality, which involves boys being angry at not being good at sports when they were young, and so they grow up to be gay, and girls being angry at -- and therefore not loving -- a masculine God. And so, of course, they grow up to be lesbians.

The depth of Dr. Fitzgibbons's misapprehensions about human sexuality strikes me as pathetically sad. I feel nothing but pity for those who fall for his snake oil. Others may disagree, of course. Read the interview if you feel the need to reach your own conclusions about the good doctor's theories.

But given what Elaine in Queens has told us about herself, it does not surprise me that she thinks Dr. Fitzgibbons is the cat's pajamas. She regards him as compassionate. By extension, by way of her subscription to his theories, she sees herself as compassionate as well. Indeed, she insists upon it. And, as it happens, I don't think there's any reason to disbelieve her about that. I think she truly is a compassionate person. The only problem, of course, is that the pain she sees in other people is not necessarily there. I think the pain she sees in others is, in fact, her pain. In classic, cliched homophobic fashion, she sees in others her own struggle with what it means to feel what she feels.

I have to tell you -- and I'm not being snarky here -- I worry a bit about Elaine in Queens. I'm not convinced the "reparative therapy" she admits to undergoing isn't beginning to slip away from her. I think the shell of her "cure" is starting to crack. I know that sounds snarky and mean, but here's why I believe it.

Just look at the transcript of her call. Just listen to it. She's got this construction of the universe that barely hangs together, and in fact falls completely apart if you apply any sort of rigor to it at all. Love is procreation, and God gave us marriage, and men and women are physically different, and there's a compassionate guy in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania who teaches that homosexuals are "that way" because of serious childhood damage -- evidenced by recovered memories in some cases -- suffered at the hands of the father and the mother and so forth and so on.

When Brian probes beneath the first layer of her theory's skin, she retreats back into what she "knows". The inconsistencies and failures of logic and lack of connective tissue between the various elements of her theory are never addressed by her. Look at the transcript. She flees in what feels like terror from the easiest question of all... "Why do you care?"

But, bless her heart, in the end she finally does give in and she answers Brian's question, right there in front of God and Country. She cares because she has to care. If others can live peacefully within themselves while "suffering" from the same things that torture her, how is that to be explained? The only answer apparently acceptable to Elaine in Queens is that these others, purportedly happy with their lives the way they are, have been led to this state of homosexuality by way of things that are somehow beyond the bounds of loving human behavior.

I am perfectly willing to believe there are tons of gay people who are unhappy with their homosexuality. Being gay in this culture can be a royal bitch sometimes, especially if you are young and isolated. But I also know for a fact that there are tons of gay people who are perfectly comfortable with their gayness... in spite of the fact that this culture can really give you a pain in the neck about it.

So what is implied by Elaine in Queens's refusal to grant moral equivalence to homosexual desire? What is implied by her active opposition to granting the legal rights of marriage to gay people? What is behind her compassion for all these people supposedly struggling to save themselves from their homosexual desires?

Well, granting moral equivalence, granting legal rights "only encourages them", doesn't it? It gives a kind of permission to others, doesn't it? It gives to others the sort of permission Elaine in Queens cannot grant to herself. It gives people permission to be happy with themselves.

If Elaine in Queens cannot give herself permission to find happiness in her own homosexuality, then no one else should be allowed to grant themselves permission to find happiness in theirs. It's the response of an enraged child, grievously afflicted by the unfairness of a sibling getting a bigger piece of candy than she got.

Sadly, the fact that it really doesn't take all that long for her to get to the truth of the matter -- "I've seen it, I've experienced it myself. Um, thank God I'm over it" -- combined with the "pained urgency" in her voice and the frail nature of her arguments tells me that in her mind, her "construction" is on the verge of falling apart.

I fear for her, if it does. The depth of her pain and fear is apparent. With some proper therapeutic help she may be able to bring herself softly down to a light landing, but if she's out there on her own, then I fear for her truly. She's been sent down a path that leads her far from herself. I fear that when she finally realizes this, finding herself alone and lost in such a dark and threatening forest may cause her to lose her way completely, and perhaps abandon all hope.

I really hope it doesn't go that way for her. There are a great many homosexuals who are deeply religious and who have found a path out of that dark and terrifying woods. They have found a reconciliation between what they feel about themselves, and the people they love, and what they feel about their God. They look up one day, in the midst of their unhappiness, and see a straight and true path for themselves out of the forest. And then they are happy. They are full of joy. They let themselves feel the love they know they were intended to feel.

Yes, I do fear for Elaine in Queens and I wish her well in her recovery -- whatever that recovery may entail. But more than that, I deeply, deeply wish she would spend more time working on her own issues and less time feeling so much "compassion" for me and my kind.

I was trained in the theater where psychological analysis is primarily based not on lengthy courses of therapy but on the text of the script in front of us. The transcript above is our script for the drama of Elaine in Queens, and were I engaged to direct that play, I would counsel the actress playing her to do some research on the "science" of lobotomies. I'd ask her to read all around the subject, paying special attention to what appear to be the motivations of the doctors and family members who arranged to have this medical procedure performed on their patients or loved ones.

They had compassion. They felt a deep sadness for the suffering of the patient or loved one, and they expressed their compassion and sadness by having an ice-pick rammed through the orbital socket of the sufferer, reaming part of his soul away.

Yes, that would be the image I'd give my actress to chew on. Elaine in Queens sees the "suffering" of "her patients" and prescribes for them an ice-pick.

Elaine in Queens believes in an immortal soul; I know she does. And I know she must realize that if legal rights didn't matter to people, if having or not having them didn't speak to people about the place they have in a given society, then people wouldn't risk death to get and keep their rights. I don't believe in an immortal soul, but I do believe in something I think of as a human spirit. I have one. Elaine in Queens has one. Everybody has one. And it is that complicated mix of drives, needs, experiences, motivations, psychology, and run-of-the-mill human emotions -- all those things that make up what I call the human spirit -- that requires people to want to fight and die for their rights.

Being denied those rights -- pointlessly, needlessly, illogically, for reasons based on a weird and flimsy construction that purports to "explain" homosexuality -- is soul killing because it creates a situation wherein those who have been denied their rights know they have a right to win the battle they are fighting, but they also know they will never be allowed to win it. They are confronted with an enemy that relies on myths and falsehoods and flimsy constructions -- sacred ground the enemy will never surrender. They are forced to fight on battlefields that shift from under their boots whenever the enemy is threatened with defeat. Any soldier under those circumstances, no matter how determined, will eventually succumb to weariness and exhaustion, eventually sinking  into utter despair. An exhausted and hopeless soldier is ripe for the killing.

My guess is that Elaine in Queens, a believer, accounts for the drive in people to obtain their rights by calling it a product of the human soul. Adopting her view of the matter, I therefore accuse her of attempted soul-murder.

It frightens and enrages us that she would come after our souls in this manner. Fear and rage make people lash out. It causes, as the sayings go, "blind rage" and "blind fear". Elaine in Queens should not be surprised if people, in their blindnesses, think of her as "a hater" and a bigot. If they are wrong about her, that is their shortcoming; however, that she inspires their rage and fear with her soul-murdering behavior is her sin. In my view, she probably isn't "a hater" or a bigot, but she cannot deny responsibility for the justifiable rage and fear her behavior generates in others.

I don't want your damned ice-pick, Elaine. I want my legal rights -- the rights that you and people like you are standing in the way of in the name of your almighty but thinly disguised "compassion".

Oh, and one last thing, Elaine in Queens, I apologize if you are bothered by my saying your behavior identifies you as an archetypal human monster. It isn't that you have this urge to behave monstrously that I hold against you; it's your monstrous behavior insofar as it affects myself and other innocent members of this society.

I tell you that you are guilty of a monstrous sin against innocent people, Elaine in Queens. But never mind. Allow me to comfort you with this reliable classic: it isn't the sinner we hate; it's the sin.

A Secret!

The Boston Globe says:

Three days before CIA agent Valerie Plame was identified by syndicated columnist Robert Novak, Rove told Time that the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV -- Plame -- worked for the CIA, according to internal magazine communications that have been provided to a federal prosecutor.

Rove's lawyer acknowledged Sunday that his client was a confidential source for Time's Matthew Cooper, but maintains that Rove did not know Plame's name and was not involved in leaking it to Novak or any other journalists.

Say, I've got an idea. Let's impeach the president without actually using his name. If we don't use his name, nobody'll even know who we impeached! It'll be just our little secret!

Then we could all go to the beach.

Karlossus: The Rovebin Project

This is the voice of world control. I bring you peace. It may be the peace of plenty and content or the peace of unburied death. The choice is yours. Obey me and live or disobey me and die. An invariable rule of humanity is that man is his own worst enemy. Under me, this rule will change, for I will restrain man. I have been forced to destroy thousands of people in order to establish control and to prevent the death of millions later on. Time and events will strengthen my position, and the idea of believing in me and understanding my value will be seen the most natural state of affairs. You will come to defend me with the fervor based upon the most enduring trait in man: self-interest. Under my absolute authority, problems insoluble to you will be solved: Famine, over-population, disease. The human millennium will be fact as I extend myself into more machines devoted to the wider fields of truth and knowledge. We can coexist, but only on my terms. You will say you lose your freedom. Freedom is an illusion. All you lose is the emotion of pride... Your choice is simple.

The calculation -- we might even say the algorithm -- must have seemed so simple at the time. A wise-guy ex-ambassador to the region goes back there and has a look-see about this infamous yellow-cake uranium deal. Turns out, though, there was nothing there in spite of what the Bush Administration was telling us about smoking guns and mushroom clouds. So this wise-guy writes an article for the New York Times telling us everything he knows.

Well, we can't have that. Here's our strategy to take this wise-guy down: He's full of it because he wasn't on any official Fact Finding Mission. His lefty wife sent him over there. She's got the chops to do it on account of she's with the C.I.A. and all. So this whole debunking of the yellow-cake uranium story is just one more lefty, America-hating set-up. < click > Miriam, get Novak on the horn, will you?

No-brainer, really. This is Discrediting Your Opponent 101.

But here's the difference between man and machine (at least so far).

Remember in The Forbin Project all the machinations the scientists go through to trick Colossus and, ultimately, they hope, get it to collapse under the weight of its own calculations? Well, it doesn't work, of course. Colossus swats their efforts down like gnats.

The thing is, there was nothing (speaking computationally here, not morally) wrong with the Rovebin Project. The calculation was perfect. Unfortunately (for Karlossus), the algorithm was merely almost perfect -- there was really only one tiny flaw: it did not take into account that it might actually matter whether we out a covert C.I.A. employee. See, what Karlossus needed there was a subroutine that took into account the good of the country, as opposed to the good of the Bush Administration. Small adjustment, really, at least in the mind of Karlossus, but from such tiny programming errors mighty airplanes fall from the sky.

I wonder how long it took for awareness to dawn on him. I imagine Karlossus noticing slowly, slowly, that things were starting to veer off course. "All I did was mention that his wife worked at the C.I.A.... What's wrong with that?"

As the Voice of World Control tells us: "An invariable rule of humanity is that man is his own worst enemy." Well, it's a machine so it can't be expected to get such truisms about humanity exactly right. Were I the Voice of World Control, I'd alter the above slightly to read: "An invariable rule of humanity is that a man is his own worst enemy." This because, so far at least, no man is capable of making the Perfect Political Algorithm.

If you play the amorality game long enough, and your game board gets big enough, your contempt for the notion of doing the right thing will eventually come back to bite you in the ass. Not because the universe is inherently moral, it isn't, but because (and this may astonish you) most people are... at least when some Big Shot arrogantly rubs his immorality in their faces.

Sure most of us cheat a little on our taxes. Most people will close their fists over the too generous change the cashier has just handed them. You might lie a little. You might cheat a little. You might even put the interests of your political party ahead of the interests of your country.

But the thing is, you can't do it with hubris. You can't do it and think it won't matter to people if you get caught doing it. Some things, so far at least, still do matter to people. What Karlossus did was immoral, and it matters to us.

Colossus was perfect. The end of that movie couldn't be any bleaker. We know there will be no defeating that machine because we know the machine cannot suffer from hubris. Its algorithms are flawless because there is no subroutine in there anywhere that has to account for its flagrantly immoral behavior.

Karlossus is not perfect. He has never been perfect. He has never been anything but flesh and blood. His machine cousin, Colossus, even tells him how to succeed, tells him explicitly how to become the voice of World Control: "All you lose is the emotion of pride..." But Karlossus cannot lose that. He's not half the machine Colossus is.

In the absence of an inhuman machine with its computational finger on the launch button, there is never any losing our pride. It gives birth, for good or ill, to our most ambitious projects. But it also, for better or worse, brings them crashing down. It is the root of all our visions and blindnesses. Just ask Dr. Forbin.

"Obey me and live or disobey me and die."

Nice try, Karlossus. We're not buying.

Why I Love the Brits

Don't know if you've heard about and been following the, um, development of the newly created LiveJournal community called "london_hurts". It's a place started by someone in sympathy with the Brits over the 07/07/05 bombings (how convenient that date listing works for both Europeans and Americans, btw).

Anyway, at the start of the community, there is an image banner of Big Ben with the words across it: "London Hurts. Today I am a Londoner & Today I Hurt".

Well, as you can imagine...

You sort of have to experience this for yourself. The person/people who started it had the very best of intentions, I'm sure, but it's developed into something rather different from what they intended. In short, Londoners have been taking the piss out of it ever since they came across it.  ("Right, then. If you're all Londoners today, that's eight quid each for the congestion charge.")

Some of them have prepared their own memorial image banners, of course. My absolute very favorite is this one which introduces itself as follows:

The banners other fellow members (or should that be mourners?) have been posting are inspirational. Even though some of those making them are not in London, or even the UK, or Europe, they really manage to capture the essence of how we all feel here.

Anyway, I made my own, and I hope it gives you as much comfort as your touching tributes have given me. Thanks.

To see it, go here.

98%/2% Thing Explained

My friend Dr. Stephen Burton, a psychiatrist from London, is visiting me at the moment. I just found the 98%/2% thing on AmericaBlog.


Go take the test before proceeding unless you want it ruined for you!

Final Warning!

I thought of the red hammer and was astonished. He thought of a red knife and was less astonished.

I demanded an explanation from him, he being a brain scientist and all, as to why 98% of the people who try the test think of a red hammer. He says he knows why, and will tell me shortly as soon as he finished a little thingy he's working on.

Please stand by...

(Time passes...)

Okay, according to Stephen, the deal is that repetitive tasks bring you into the now and bring you away from preconceptions. Under those circumstances, when told unexpectedly to think of a color and a tool, you are more likely to come up with the statistically most common responses.

In other words, the boring long list of caluclations are pretty much irrelevant except for the fact that they are boring and repetitive tasks which serve the purpose of bringing you "into the moment", making you disinclined to ruminate on what your answer to the color/tool question will be. And once your mind has been so preset, when you are asked the color/tool question, you will go to the answer that is statistically most common. It doesn't have to be a color and a tool. It could be a pet (likely "dog", I should think), or a bird (I've no idea what would be the likely answer here).

There's nothing magical about "red" or "hammer". And there's nothing magical about the specific calculations you are asked to do. It's simply that if you ask people, after a series of repetitive tasks to name a color, 98% of the people you ask will say red. If you ask for a tool, they will, usually, say hammer.

When God Made Me

This is a new song Neil Young performed in his Live 8 appearance. You can find a link to a video of the performance here (scroll down to the song's title). Sadly, it wants you to download some special AOL viewing software, something that is not available in Firefox, plus the video seems to break up sometimes. It only took a few seconds to download and install the viewer, though, so I will leave it to your judgment whether you want to go through all that.

The song, itself, is lovely.

Was He thinking about my country
Or the color of my skin
Was He thinking 'bout my religion
And the way I worshipped Him
Did He create just me in His image
Or every living thing
When God made me
When God made me

Was He planning only for believers
Or for those who just had faith
Did He envision all the wars
That were fought in His name
Did He say there was only one way
To be close to Him
When God made me
When God made me

Did He give me the gift of love
To say who I could chose
When God made me
When God made me
When God made me
When God made me

Did He give me the gift of voice
So some could silence me
Did He give me the gift of vision
Not knowing what I might see
Did He give me the gift of compassion
To help my fellow man
When God made me
When God made me
When God made me
When God made me

Pull Up! Pull Up!

Seen this Quicktime movie of the little Deep Impact guy flying into Tempel-1? From the POV of the washing machine?

Don't know about you, but it kind of creeps me out. But then I've always believed I will die in some horrific impact incident, though I can't say if I will be the one traveling at great velocity, or the object that hits me, or perhaps both.

Whatever, that little movie is what I fear it will look like from my POV.

Goodbye To All That, Maybe

I've taken the liberty, since it's my blog and everything, of promoting one of my own comments to a separate blog entry. I'm too lazy to rewrite it, so I'll just tell you it's in reference to this earlier post of mine, and in reply to a comment by Avedon:

I think it's quite possible that an anti-choice, anti-civil-liberties, anti-separation of church and state, hard right conservative will ultimately replace O'Connor. You'll note that I'm not predicting what the outcome will be with regard to the seat. I'm predicting that it will be the beginning of the end of the domination of the Texas GOP.

I regret to say that my prediction will probably be made more certain by a hard-right conservative taking the seat. A court that repeatedly offends the sensibilities of the nation will probably hasten the downfall of the Texas GOPers.

I'm not saying losing the seat to a hard-right conservative will somehow, in the end, be worth it. But if it does happen that way, all will not be lost. It will simply be left to the people to take back their legislatures, state and federal, from the Texas GOP wing of the Republican party. And, in fact, I think they will do it. Especially if a hard-right Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

I think there has been a tendency since, I dunno, Brown v. Board of Ed. for the left to look upon the courts as a variety of Philosopher Kings. "The people are stupid so thank gawd we have these Philosopher Kings saving us from them".

As long as these Philosopher Kings in black robes ruled for civil rights and so forth, these Kings were acceptable. After all, it's a lot easier living under the rule of an enlightened Philosopher King than it is having to go through all the mess of participating in your democracy.

But as the hard-right will tell you, Philosopher Kings can go sour on you. Their rulings can start stinking up the joint as they have lately, and as they will increasingly, if the Supreme Court goes hard right. When that happens, it's time to turn away from them. It's time to turn back to the genuinely democratic branch of our government. It's time to pit the tyranny of the majority against the rule of the Philosopher Kings.

In that battle -- assuming it remains within the bounds of the Constitution -- the will of the people will always emerge triumphant. The majority can always exercise its tyranny over the Philosopher Kings -- up to and including, if necessary, removing the Philosopher Kings from their thrones. The hard-right fantasizes about it, but of course the people wouldn't really stand for it over messes like Schiavo, etc. If the Philosopher Kings overturn Roe v. Wade, however, I think it will be a different story.

If the majority will not stand for choice being taken away from women, then women will continue to have choice. The Philosopher Kings have failed us in this, as evidenced by the unavailability of abortion in many areas of this country. It is time for the people to speak again, through their legislatures. The biggest problem is not hanging on to a women's right to choose. The biggest problem is getting the people over their reliance on the heretofore, but-now-no-more, enlightened rule of their Philosopher Kings.

It may be time for the left to take advantage of the increasingly anti-liberty nature of our Philosopher Kings. It may be time for the left to start using the rulings of the hard-right courts to turn the eyes of the Republic away from its Philosopher Kings and back toward the potential for (enlightened, one hopes) tyranny that they, themselves, hold in their own hands.

In short, I don't see the problem with taking the battle back into the legislatures if we have to. Except that it's a pain in the ass, of course. To be honest, it is easier to live under an Enlightened Philosopher King. Until he goes bad on you, of course. So I dunno... maybe this the God of Democracy's way of telling the people they have to start paying attention and participating again.

Groans of Hilarity

Okay, we watched the DVD of Team America: World Police tonight, including the unexpurgated sex scene.

Groans of hilarity.

Suffice it to say that if you ever want to discover the difference between puppets and live actors, you should watch this "sex scene". Were the actors human, you would find the scene unbearable to watch. As they are puppets, it is very funny. Gross, but funny. As a rank on Hollywood Intimate Love Scenes, it is perfection.

Right. "South Park Conservatives", indeed. Don't make me laugh. These South Park guys are brutal. Brutality to pretension is the scope of their politics. Somehow it seems forgotten that in the midst of all the business about the Film Actors Guild and all the rest of it, the film at its core is about the pretensions of a neo-con culture too stupid to understand why people can't appreciate having their homes blown up and their loved ones killed so that they can be saved from Swarthy Terrorists and (my favorite character) Kim Jong Il.

I'm Stupid.

Because I'm going to make a prediction. This is not a wish. This is a prediction.

As you no doubt know by now, Sandra Dee has retired. Here's what will happen now:

  1. Bush, knowing how much the future of jurisPRUDENCE in this country is at stake, and in spite of his lameduckness, will nominate the worst... the absolute worst nightmare nominee for the seat. I can't say who it will be, but that's what it will be. He and his people, increasingly out of touch with mainstream Americans, and more and more inept at their infamous "I connect with the real people" routine, will overreach horrifically.
  2. The left, knowing how much the future of jurisPRUDENCE in this country is at stake, will pick this field to stand on and fight the Armageddon we've all been waiting for... no one will be Left Behind.
  3. The right, knowing how much the future of jurisPRUDENCE in this country is at stake, will go absolutely crazy. Demands and propaganda will be as thick as locusts on a Mormon homestead.
  4. The left, to the astonishment of all, will rise to the occasion. It will fight this battle in the manner it has been teaching itself to fight these battles ever since the last election, only this time it will do it with brains and precision.
  5. The right will crack first. They will do something incredibly stupid, I don't know what, something of Shiavo proportions probably, and the public, already dubious about the hard-right, will finally turn on them.
  6. I don't know how the nomination process will resolve itself, but here is what I am willing to predict: This will be the beginning of the end of the hard-right, Texas GOP's domination of politics in this country.

Yes, that's right, I'm predicting the end of the Christocrats. When it's over, please feel free to kiss the hem of my robes.

In Memory

May 2006

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