Archive for June, 2005

I think I’m gonna be sick…

Friday, June 10th, 2005

Refuge is a residential program in Memphis, Tenn. designed to cure addictive behaviors like drinking, drugs, and homosexuality. It is run by Love In Action Intl, and John Smid, an ex-gay man who found Jesus and realized that he could help others cure themselves of this affliction. Well, I’ll let Refuge say it themselves:

Refuge is a ministry designed to be a safe place for young people and their families to find true freedom from addictions through the power of Jesus Christ. At this time Refuge is an outpatient program for young men and women ages 13-18. Refuge is designed to minister to adolescents struggling with broken and addictive behaviors such as

-Drugs and alcohol
-Sexual Promescuity

A young man named Zach recently was sent there after coming out to his parents, and has been discussing his experience on his blog. He also posted the rules of the place, an incredibly strict set of hygiene, appearance, and conduct guidelines designed to make happy little robots of these kids. Some excerpts follow, but it really is worth looking through the entire document, this stuff is incredible:

Men: Shirts are to be worn at all times, even while sleeping. T-shirts without sleeves are not permitted at any time, whether worn as an outer garment or an undergarment.

Men: Men must remove all facial hair seven days weekly, and sideburns must not fall below the top of the ear (the top of the ear is defined as where the ear meets the face below the temple). Clean business-like haircuts must be worn at all times. Hair must be long enough to be pinched between two fingers.
Women: Women must shave legs and underarms at least twice weekly.
All: Only natural hair color is allowed. Hair that is colored, highlighted or streaked, mut be dyed back to its original color, or the color must be cut out before entrance into the Refuge program.

No hugging or physical touch between clients. Brief handshakes or a brief affirmative hand on a shoulder is allowed (exception is when observed by therapeutic accountability).

Zach has been very open on his blog about coming out and his camp experience, and has been receiving emotional support from all over the Internet, and is quite enlightening on just how damaging “Christian” parents can be to their gay children:

Well today, my mother, father, and I had a very long “talk” in my room where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist christian program for gays. They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me, and they “raised me wrong.” I’m a big screw up to them, who isn’t on the path God wants me to be on. So I’m sitting here in tears, joing the rest of those kids who complain about their parents on blogs – and I can’t help it.

I guess there wasn’t a Commandment about honoring their children, so they’re in the clear, right?

I’m just so horrified by this news it’s beyond words. Not simply Zach’s case, but the very philosophy behind this institution, to treat homosexuality as comparable to alcoholism is abhorrent. And instead of “curing” them, the only results I can imagine this institution getting is isolating and teaching kids to hate themselves in some of the most formative, self-doubting and lonely years of their lives.

Fuck Republicans.

Friday, June 10th, 2005

And while I’m at it, fuck George W. Bush and rich people. Just because I don’t think it’s said often enough. You know, after September 11 I’ve been afraid to speak my mind to Republicans in public, in bars, at parties, yet they would be perfectly willing to say something like “fuck the Palestinians” or worse loud enough so the whole room could hear it.

The fact of the matter is I didn’t want to have the argument, because whoever was saying this would almost certainly scream in my face. They’d scream until they were red and I just don’t scream that loud. It happened once or twice, I nearly got in a fight on election night when someone overheard the word “communism” in a conversation with a friend.

I saw on the news today talk about the terrible things Howard Dean’s apparently been saying. Well I say good. But the people in his party seem to want to distance themselves from him now, including the boy-toy lawyer John Edwards. And whatever Howard Dean said, and apparently it’s stuff about Republicans having “never worked a day in their life,” and other such insults, that’s how those ass holes approach issues. What does Bill O’Reilly do? He screams in your face. Dick Cheney said “fuck off” on the floor of the senate, and Howard Dean’s saying some fucked up shit?

So fuck ’em, anybody who believes it should say it every day. They don’t play fair, and neither should we. And that thing about never working a day in their life? It’s true about Democrats too. So until they start saying something serious, fuck them too.

The One Thing That Could Save Social Security…

Thursday, June 9th, 2005

…but our government will never do. As this USA Today op-ed points out, social security is not taxed on incomes over $90,000. What this means is if you earn $120,000 a year, or $300,000 or even $6 million, you pay the same amount of social security as someone earning $90,000. The article also points out that eliminating this cap will completely solve the “crisis” apparently facing social security.

However, politicians, economists and even many journalists are reluctant to talk about this, presumably because they typically earn far more than $90,000. The USA Today article is not encouraging this approach as the writer believes it would create an unfair welfare system, where the rich pay far more than they will ever receive. They also believe that it would be impossible to shore up support for the approach, despite that “two-thirds of those in a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll this year supported eliminating the cap.”

Why couldn’t they find the support? Well, USA Today says the 10 million Americans whose earning exceeds $90,000 a year wouldn’t support the change. But 10 Million is but a fraction of the total wage earners in the country, leaving upwards of 200 million earning below $90,000 a year that would stand to benefit from eliminating the cap.

Apparently this just demonstrates the kind of power wielded in this country by what is, in fact, a small minority. If majority rules, this should be one of the biggest options on the table. Instead, we mostly hear about a plan that stands to benefit those 10 million and few others: privatization. A majority of those 10 million are almost certainly stockholders, who stand to benefit through large numbers of people suddenly feeling compelled to invest their social security in the stock market for fear of losing their retirement income. And no one seems to care if they do.

Shout Outs From the Middle East

Monday, June 6th, 2005

Various sources have reported the prevalence of hip-hop among soldiers in Iraq, where freestlying relieves the tension of military heirarchy, builds bonds among soldiers, and rap music psyches them up for battle. Soldier produced rap has been collected for an upcoming album: Live From Iraq.

Federalism Only Goes So Far

Monday, June 6th, 2005

I’ve been waiting for today’s Supreme Court decision for a while now, really ever since I drew this cartoon, and unfortunately I’m not at all surprised. Today the court upheld the ability of the federal government to enforce federal drug laws against offenders who are using and distributing medicinal marijuana legally according to state laws.

As the New York Times explains, this entirely contradicts the Supreme Court’s drive for federalism in recent years, a sentiment that several of the more conservative judges such as Chief Justice Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor agreed with in their dissenting opinions. It is yet another example of the espoused political philosophy of the court being abandoned when it comes up against a pet Republican issue like drug control. While I continually expect partisanship from the courts, too many people put faith in their ability to determine the justice of law fairly and objectively, and this is but the latest example.

Perhaps they were afraid of being called activist judges by their own party. Or perhaps they are guilty of the same sins: preaching a philosophy of federalism, except when it does not suit their interests. And while they have broken with their party on some of the more outrageous acts of injustice in recent years, most notably demanding the release of military prisoners that were held without being charged, they have as yet remained silent on the PATRIOT Act, on of the largest affronts to the Constitution since Nixon.

This ruling is about far more than sick people smoking pot. It is about a dated campaign against a plant, whose forbidden status has more to do with a stigma levied against it by generations of propaganda than any real threat to society. Whose use is so widespread at this point it rivals alcohol for share of the intoxication market and legalization would do little to change the quantity it is consumed.

It is about a country that is so backwards in its treatment of the elderly and ill that huge portions of the country go without health care, and now they will be denied a drug that could ease their pain because lawmakers aren’t ready to look beyond the hysteria they’ve created.

It is about a political system that will dismiss their own philosophical foundations when it seems to be giving way to more compassionate government.

Edit: Another oddity in the decision is it relies heavily on Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce, however marijuana grown for medicinal purposes is grown in the state where it is intended to be used. While patients could aquire it illegally that transaction would be illegal regardless of this decision. The state of California regulated the growth and distribution of medical marijuana until put down by federal law. The laws upheld today allow patients to be prosecuted for possesion, and growers with no intention of exporting their product to be tried as if they were.

Downing Street Memo

Friday, June 3rd, 2005

I should have been talking about this earlier, especially since media coverage has been abysmal through Deep Throat, Runaway Bride, etc. The Downing Street Memo, leaked minutes from a meeting of Tony Blair and his advisors as printed in the London Times, seems to corroborate the worst fears about Bush’s case for war.

In the July 2002 document a British intelligence operative describes a recent visit to Washington where Bush asked Britain to lend their support to an upcoming military campaign in Iraq. This was before Congress gave the President authority to invade, and before any case was made to the United Nations. In fact, the operative describes a plan to justify military action by forcing Hussein to readmit weapons inspectors. It also suggests that the incorrect intelligence regarding WMDs was not blundered, it was doctored to suit the case for war:

There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

There is some backlash in the form of a petition circulated by Rep. John Conyers, as well as opinions from some of the more liberal Congressmen and calls for impeachement from Ralph Nader and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark. But thus far the administration has refused to answer any questions about the document, although an anonymous “senior administration official” told Newsday the memo is an accurate discription of officer’s visit to Washington:

A former senior U.S. official called it “an absolutely accurate description of what transpired” during the senior British intelligence officer’s visit to Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

A White House official said the administration wouldn’t comment on leaked British documents.

Though it seems to me that nothing will be accomplished until the newsmedia takes this to the public, a la Woodward and Bernstein. This needs to be discussed, and the silence is inexcusable.