Atlantis Alumni

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Antics Are Non-Stop

I was disheartened to see our congress continue to treat the Gay Community as second class citizens (see Jim's article from today).

I put up this photo from the Church of Ireland because it represents the thinking that is consistent with today's politicians.

The gated door was added in the last 150 years. The arch was where the original door/entry way was. This particular arch has a sordid history in Ireland. As I recall, it was where people with Hansens Disease, better known as Leprosy were allowed to listen to sermons and church activities. Of course, they weren't allowed in the church; somehow they had sinned and brought all the hurt and pain and eventual death on themselves.

Sound familiar? Ignorance is timeless. While I am in no way equating Gay anything to Leprosy, the treatment is the same. Isn't it time we evolved from the 17th century?

By the way, I've been reading about why gay men and women aren't being treated equally. I'm finding that it is very 17th century. Of course, there's the usual bias and fear of the unknown. Or just plain fear. Let me put a different spin on an old bias; who really wins when one group is treated with prejudice?

Let me throw out one tidbit to consider. The almighty dollar. It was a revelation I had when I started looking at which Congressman didn't approve of Gay Marriage and the like. Shockingly, their constituency is comprised of not only John Q Public (most of whom could care less about what happens in someone else's home or bedroom) but of some very large insurance carriers and drug firms. You know, the one's that would have to insure partners in same sex marriages and pay for prescription medication and have to pay for hospitalization and have to pay for preventive care and on and on. Look who donates to the campaigns and the lobbyists working for the healthcare industry.

Jim is disappointed in Democrats; I'm not suprised. Maybe we should separate parties not by Liberal or Conservative, Republican or Democrat but by Bribe Taker or Public Servant. Judge our elected officials by Martin Luther King's measure: the content of their character.

The flow of money should not be the moral compass in our society.


Betrayed Once Again By Our "Friends"

Some gay and lesbian observers are bitterly complaining about the fact that 40 Democrats in the House just voted to include an anti-gay provision banning money for benefits for domestic partners in the Washington, DC appropriations bill. Not one Democrat rose to speak against the gay bashing, while both Democratic and Republican members spoke in favor of it. Where is the leadership of the new Democratically controlled congress, they ask? It just goes to show you how our community is taken for granted by the Democratic Party. I've never believed that the Democrats are our friends. I've been lied to by Democrats, betrayed, and been bitterly disappointed in them. So, this latest jab comes as no surprise to me. Some day gay community leaders will demand accountability from the Democratic party in exchange for our support and for our votes. Unfortunately, we're not there yet.

Photo: Another interesting house in The Pines


Thursday, June 28, 2007

To This We've Come

The current issue of The New Yorker (June 25, 2007) has an article penned by Seymour M. Hersh focusing on what happened to the general, Antonio M. Taguba, who was given the task in early 2004, of investigating what happened at Abu Ghraib prison.


In January, 2006, Taguba received a telephone call from General Richard
Cody, the Army's Vice-Chief of Staff. "This is your Vice," he told Taguba "I need you to retire by January, 2007."

"...the president had to be aware of this (torture at Abu Ghraib." (Taguba)

"I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but
the fact is we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the
tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated
the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I
, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable." (Taguba)

We sank, at Abu Ghraib, to the level of that which we are fighting, and the responsibility for the poisoning of the American soul goes straight to the top at the Pentagon and the White House. This is what George Bush has wrought. This will be his legacy.
Photo: There are many beautiful houses in the Fire Island Pines. This house we affectioately refer to as "The Blue Dot House." We've watched over the years as the owners changed the appearance of this beautiful house.


NGLTF Report: Presidential Candidates On Gay Issues

Click on the title of this blog entry above to view the full report. Here are a few interesting excerpts:

“Marriage has got historic, religious, and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been: between a man and a woman.” - Hillary Clinton

“If a couple of lesbians or gay men want to get married, and they love each other, they should have the right to do that and enjoy all the legalities in our society that go along with that. I have no problem with that at all.” “I think that people who create these problems of homophobia and the likes of that do us a disservice,” Gravel continues. “We are all human beings
and one of the things that should motivate us, most of all, is love.” - Senator Mike Gravel

“Rudy Giuliani believes marriage is between a man and a woman. He does not - and has never - supported gay marriage.”

“I support the right of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons to have the full protections and rights afforded under civil law including the right to marry the person of their choice.” - Dennis Kucinich

Photo: I'm interested in Ikebana, the art of Japanese floral arrangements. This is one of my recent creations


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Andrew Sullivan: No Problem WIth The Wealthy Getting Better Health Care

Gay conservative Andrew Sullivan, in discussing Michael Moore's movie "Sicko," writes on his blog:
I see no problem with the wealthy having access to better care than the
less wealthy...It seems to me that this is equivalent to saying: I see no
problem with living in a free society.

Now, let's see how many other items will fit nicely into this warped

1. I see no problem with child labor, it seems to me that this is equivalent
to saying: I see no problem with living in a free

2. I see no problem with workers having to earn their livelihood
toiling under unsafeworking conditions, it seems to me...,

3. I see no problem with workers not being able to organize or strike for better wages and working conditions, it seems to me...etc.

etc., etc., Again, Sullivan's warped conservative view that liberty always totally trumps equality is symptomatic of the skewed conservative philosophy that is preoccupied with liberty and unconcerned with justice. It is indicative of a case of arrested philosophical development, a fixation on Hobbsian/Lockeian self-interest as the sole driving force of human endeavor, without regard to the possibility of Humeian benevolence. For conservatives, the liberty/equality equation is zero sum, which is a reaction to the demise of the feudal state that gave rise to Hobbsian thought. The correct formulation is sum sum. We can have both liberty and a just society that addresses inequality, as formulated in the writings of John Rawls. I do see a problem with the wealthy having better access to health care than the less wealthy. It offends my sense of justice. Apparently, Sullivan has no sense of justice.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Island Rep's Latest Offering

Here is a photo of the handsome and talented cast of "Blowing Whistles," the current offering of the Island Repertory Theater Company based here in Cherry Grove. Left to right: Cem Uyanik, Tom Simonetti, and Ryan Skilton. These three actors are excellent in the Matthew Todd play, directed ably by Richard LaFrance, that explores the difficulties of a couple celebrating their tenth anniversary together. You can see the play at the Tides Playhouse in Cherry Grove in the upcoming weeks. Look for Dan's full review of the play in the next issue of the Fire Island Tide newspaper. Don't miss it!


Monday, June 25, 2007

An Easy Click To Help Restore American Freedoms!

From our friends at MoveOn.Org:

It hasn't hit the news wires yet, but retired Generals Robert Gard and John Johns just went public with something big. They're calling on Congress to ban the use of torture, restore the right to trial and shut down the disastrous prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. There's a growing chorus of judges, scholars, military experts, and regular folks who believe that President Bush's abuse of our Constitution is making us less secure. The Generals join it just in time: there are new reports that even some Bush administration insiders are pushing to shut down Guantanamo. This could be a tipping point in the fight to restore our liberties. I signed a petition to stand with these Generals and push Congress to stop torture, close Guantanamo, and bring back the right to trial. Can you join me by clicking the link below?



Three Interesting Items In The News

There are a few items in the news that I find interesting. First, on the potential Mike Bloomberg candidacy, pundits are saying that he'll run as an independent third party candidate for president IF the two candidates likely to be nominated by the two major parties both have "high negatives." Take one guess which candidate from the Democratic Party currently has the highest negatives. Hint: HC. The Republican candidate with the highest negatives is John McCain. Bloomberg will only run if he thinks he can win. His numbers crunchers have been busy figuring the odds and this is what they've come up with.

The second bit of news has to do with Mitt Romney, the I'll say anything to get elected Republican former governor of Massachusetts who has turned on the gay community big time. According to a panelist on Sunday's "Meet The Press" show, Romney, who favors a pardon for convicted liar Scooter Libby, had a "no pardons" policy as Governor, and denied a pardon to a soldier fighting in Iraq who, as a young person, was convicted of some minor charge. The soldier wanted the pardon so that he could apply to be a policeman when he gets home. That's really a nice story about the Mittster, now isn't it?

Finally, Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, says she disagrees with hubby and is fine with full gay marriage equality. Thank you Elizabeth, and get and stay well!


More Gay Pride Parade Pix!

Cherry Grove "Bishop" Harold Seeley
Ice Palace "Golden Boys"
Here are a few more photos from Cherry Grove's gay pride parade held on Saturday afternoon. It was a beautiful afternoon and the colorful floats really looked great. There was supposed to be a fireworks display over the Great South Bay after sunset, however, that didn't take place. I'm not sure why there were no fireworks. I heard two different explanations: that there was a money problem, and that no permit had been obtained. Whatever the reason, I missed the display because it's usually quite spectacular over the water.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Gay Pride Cherry Grove Style

Paul Jablonski leads the parade.
Yesterday we had our annual gay pride parade in downtown Cherry Grove. "Billy-Ann Miller" was the "Person of The Year" honoree. As always, it was a colorful and fun event. I'll post some additional photos this week.


"Billy-Ann Miller"

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Cherry Grove "Benefactor's Fund"

Happy Gay Pride Weekend!

We'll have our local gay pride parade here in Cherry Grove later this afternoon. The big annual pride parade and event in New York City has been in the news recently. Apparently, there are money concerns, and the Pridefest after the parade will not take place this year because the NYPD denied a permit for it to take place in Chelsea instead of in the Village. Some commentators wonder if these pride celebrations are relevant any more, or necessary given the state of the gay rights movement. I think that's the wrong question to ask. Yes, we have made progress toward equal rights, but not because of parades. The progress we've made has been due to other factors including the hard work of gay activists and gay rights organizations, and the very fact of our visibility, not on the streets of New York and other cities once a year, but the daily visibility of gays and lesbians leading their lives openly and honestly and out of the closet with family, friends, and on the job. So I'm ambivalent about the parades. I used to go many years regularly, but not any more. If young people find them affirming then why not? But they are essentially parties, and any benefit to the community's struggle for equality comes as a side effect. They can't take the place of the hard political work that still needs to be done.

I ran into my friend Charlie Isola yesterday downtown at the Cherry Grove Post Office. Charlie read my post a couple of days ago on the subject of the importance of focusing on preserving the Cherry Grove Community House. Charlie told me that's what the CGCAI's (Community Association) "Benefactor's Fund" is for. He also emphasized that it is the Property Owner's Association (CGPOA) that is working on the Top Of The Bay property issue, and not the Community Association (CGCAI), which are two separate organizations. Of course, the board of the Property Owner's Association is appointed by the board of the Community Association so they are connected. I remain highly skeptical of any plan to have residents pick up the tab for years of neglect of Top Of The Bay by commercial interests who made their money in the structure while allowing the property to gradually deteriorate to its current state. Let the bank that holds the property figure out what to do with it. Perhaps someone in the downtown business community will step forward with a solution. Let the market work. I've heard the argument that a benefit of having the community acquire it and demolish it would be an increase in our property values. I'm skeptical of that claim as well. First of all, property values have been doing pretty well on their own, having doubled or in some cases tripled in the last ten years. Second, I'm not convinced there is that much of a connection between the status of one downtown commercial property and residential property values. Third, who wants residential property values to go up even higher if that means our taxes will go up with them?


Friday, June 22, 2007

American Greatness?

The sun filters through the dense tree cover deep within the Sunken Forest on Fire Island. Dan took this photo just a few days ago.

Bush's approval ratings have fallen to 26 percent. He's now down in Nixon territory. Congress' ratings are even worse. The severe damage done to America by Bush both at home and abroad was facilitated by six years of a Republican controlled Congress, and recently a Democratic controlled Congress unable to reign in Bush and Cheney. How serious is the damage? Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan weighs in:

America has exchanged some if its basic freedoms for the patina of phony
security - and so easily. The Republican party, to its historic shame, has been
the main vehicle for the replacement of doubt, empiricism and calm judgment with
certainty, fundamentalism and raw force. We have terrible enemies abroad,
seeking to destroy our way of life. But this truth should never blind us to the
danger within as well. Al Qaeda can only give us death. It is up to us to
surrender the liberty they despise. In so many ways, we already have.

Yet merrily we roll along with our diversions and distractions and with a dozen or so would be presidents running to succeed Bush who represent more of the same with their outright support of the war in Iraq, etc. What hope is there for a return to American greatness?


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Films: Time For the Top Ten

At the Western boundary of Cherry Grove begins the path through the middle of the island that is such a delightful walk. You never know which animals you will see...deer, rabbits, turtles, etc. The foliage varies seasonally.
Now for something a little different: I watched the American Film Institute TV special last night on CBS. They have come up with their new top 100 movies of all time, an updated version of their original list from 1997. Here are the new top ten:


It's tough to argue with their #1 pick. Everybody agrees that it's a masterpiece. I would axe The Godfather from the #2 spot. It would probably not even make my top ten. Ditto with Raging Bull. Singin' In the Rain is also out. Gone With The Wind is a maybe. Lawrence is not in my top ten. Schindler's List: good, but again, not in my top ten. Vertigo is great, but I prefer North By Northwest as a Hitchcock entry. Of course, the Wizard is wonderful (I want to keep my gay card). So, here's my top ten at the moment:

1. Citizen Kane
2. Casablanca
3. North By Northwest
4. The Wizard Of Oz
5. A Christmas Carol (1951)
6. Forbidden Planet
7. Modern Times
8. Stagecoach
9. It's A Wonderful Life
10. Shane

I'm a sentimentalist, as you can see by some of my picks, which were probably not included in the AFI's top 100. Alastair Sim as Scrooge in the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol has got to be one of the most wonderful portrayals ever put on film. In addition, the Addinsel score and the dark, moody b&w photography combined with the marvelous British character actors who filled out the cast make this movie a solid top ten member for me. In the sci-fi realm, I can still remember the first time I saw Forbidden Planet, a re-telling of Shakespeare's The Tempest set in a distant galaxy in the future. A good cast, wonderful special effects, and Robbie The Robot have been among my film world lifelong favorites. Chaplin's great silent masterpiece Modern Times is just so inventive and so funny. I'm a John Ford fan, and so Stagecoach gets the nod from me, although there are many other great Ford films. It's A Wonderful Life is a national treasure, neglected as it was for many years before being revived on TV. Finally, Shane, the George Stevens masterpiece with Alan Ladd's understated, hyper-masculine heroic performance combined with Jack Palance's evilness and Victor Young's great score rounds out my top ten for this morning. Of course, it could change by this afternoon. What are your top ten?


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bloomberg: Will He or Won't He?

We take a lot of walks in the "Sunken Forest," a fantastic holly tree forest that is a part of the Fire Island National Seashore park. The forest is located about 20 minutes west of Cherry Grove by foot and features a wooden walkway that winds its way from bay to mid island. Dan took this photo of me and Bradley a few days ago.

Think of it: Michael Bloomberg could be the only candidate running for president besides Kucinich who supports gay marriage, if, that is, he decides to run. It sure does look as it he is seriously considering running. If he enters the race that will shake things up for certain. He has enough money to pay his own way, and he's a smart, successful businessman with a proven track record.

I would enjoy seeing a Bloomberg independent candidacy. I really hate the two party political monopoly, which for the most part renders mediocre candidates and no real choice for voters. I hope he decides to run. I could support an anti-war, pro-gay-marriage Bloomberg assuming he doesn't abandon his socially liberal positions. He would probably team up with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a fierce Bush and Iraq war critic. That worries me a little, because Hagel is a social conservative. Let's see how it plays out. Pundits are suggesting that Bloomberg would most likely make the call as to whether or not to run early next year. If he does run that might mean that voters would have three choices in November, 2008, but all of them from New York state!


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cherry Grove's "Ice Palace" Sold?

The entrance ramp to the "Ice Palace," Cherry Grove's large bar-disco-hotel complex. I understand that it has been sold to a local businessman.

In regard to the disposition of the "Top Of The Bay" property, a reader writes:

"tis my understanding that the tob has attracted several commercial interests............and is way beyond the reach of the cash strapped community."

That's good news. As I wrote yesterday, the community will have its hands full maintaining our own community house. Let's hope that a private party steps in to rescue the property before its condition deteriorates further.

I'm "going off" this morning, which is not the same as "getting off" for you non-islanders! I have to get a medical test done, a part of my yearly routine physical. You more mature types are all getting routine physicals, aren't you?


Monday, June 18, 2007

Interesting Ideas For Cherry Grove Organizations

Here's a shot of one of the beautiful beaches of Southern Brazil that I took back in February. Our cruise took us from Buenos Aires to Rio DeJaniero with stops along the coast on the way North. We have a beautiful beach here in Cherry Grove, one of the finest I've seen in the world, but the mountains that serve as the backdrop for the beaches of Brazil certainly add a spectacular backdrop for beach goers to enjoy.
In regard to the financial and membership woes of the Cherry Grove Community Association and The Arts Project Of Cherry Grove, a reader writes:

I think some of the problems with the groups are developing into a situation of genuine urgency, and if left unsolved, I see them leading to a collapse of the organizations primarily caused by the inability of the groups to sustain the cost of improving, and even merely maintaining, the Community House....I think that the best way for the organizations to survive will be for them to merge into the following entities: CGPOA as a 501c(4) politically engaged force in both Cherry Grove and Brookhaven and the CGCAI and APCG as a single 501c(3) charitable organization that pools its membership and labor pool as well as property and financial resources and has several different committees: arts, finance, funding and fundraising, civic association, environmental, etc...I also think that the costs of maintaining a self-described "band aid clinic" (the Doctor's House) are disproportionate to the meager benefits derived therefrom... Healthcare is delivered substantially differently today from the way it was in 1957 (and on the island, the EMS and Suffolk County Marine Police with EMT's and rapid boats to the South Shore make redundant the clinic and its often hard-to-find physician)... (the Doctor's House) would be better used as a revenue-producing rental property for the CGPOA/CGCAI.

I think the writer makes some good points. On the Doctor's House, the community has been struggling for years to staff it with physicians and to come up with the funds to maintain it. While it might be convenient to get first aid for minor medical woes here on the island, I agree with my reader that the cost of maintaining the facility is out of proportion to the benefits of having it.

I also like this reader's idea of "circling the wagons" by combining the two major community organizations. That is a suggestion that makes great sense in the face of a dwindling local pool of both people willing to volunteer and financial resources.

Maintenance and preservation of our Cherry Grove Community House (a separate structure from the Doctor's House) should be of paramount importance to our community organizations. I am concerned that the focus of some of our movers and shakers seems to be shifting to the fate of a commercial structure downtown, the Top Of The Bay structure, which is vacant. I have heard about a proposal to float a bond to purchase it, which would increase our taxes. I suspect that we will have our hands full just keeping the Community House afloat. I would prefer to focus on our own Community House and let the bank who owns Top Of The Bay or the Cherry Grove business community sort out the disposition of this private commercial property. If our taxes have to go up to support revitalization, let's insure that the residents reap the benefits.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Playing "Whack-A-Mole" In Iraq

It's been busy here in Cherry Grove this weekend, but I did get a chance to watch a couple of the political shows on TV this morning. There was lots of talk about a Pentagon report that says that the "Surge" has not lowered the overall level of violence in Iraq, it has only tamped it down in the area where the additional troops have been sent. This prompted Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet The Press" to ask the US ambassador to Iraq if we were in effect, playing "whack-a-mole" in Iraq, since when we hit one pocket of violence, another pocket springs up somewhere else. The ambassador, a smooth talker that Bush is lucky to have, admitted that this was happening, but went on to say that the situations is not all negative, or some such. All the analysts I listened to seemed to feel as though September is make or break for the "Surge" policy. We've heard this sort of thing before. Bush seems determined to prolong the war until he leaves office. I think that no matter what General Patreous says in September, Bush will stubbornly "stay the course." I hope I'm wrong, but how can the congress stop him short of cutting off funds for the war, which would be difficult to pass?

Photo: a perennial, like a Hibiscus, that is trying this year to come back in the garden. Last year it also tried but the bugs got it. I hope it makes it this year.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bloomberg And Hillary

Time magazine this week has a cover photo and feature article on New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The article is an interesting read. Could these two republicans, both social liberals, team up to make an independent run for the White House? Warren Buffet seems t0 think so. Buffet even went so far as to research whether or not the Constitution prevents the "Governator" from holding the office of Vice President. His conclusion: Arnold is not prevented from being Vice President, only President. I have mixed feelings about this particular dream team. Bloomberg opposes gay marriage and fought it when it was proposed for New York City. Arnold vetoed gay marriage after the California legislature enacted it, and promises to veto it again when it is passed again this term. It probably doesn't matter in the long run given the difficulty that third party candidates have under our system. As one pundit put it: "If Bloomberg runs all that will do is guarantee the election of Hillary."

On the subject of Hillary, a reader writes:

"You might try to be a little less derogatory about Hilary Clinton; we don't
make fun of Kucinich (though we could).You treat all the Republicans (except
maybe Bush) better than you do Hilary; It's offensive."

A couple of things: first, I have not attacked Hillary personally, and I don't make fun of her. I am critical of her positions, on issues of interest to the gay community and on her refusal to admit that her vote on the Iraq war was a mistake. Second, she is the front runner and the presumptive nominee, at least at this point. She will never improve on these positions unless we hold her feet to the fire. For example, when she and Obama waffled about General Pace's homophobic comment that gays are immoral, it was our outrage that quickly forced both of them to do and say the right thing. Third, Ms. Clinton is tough skinned, and her supporters are going to have to be able to take fire as the months pass toward the election. As I wrote to this reader, I come down harder on her than I do on the Republicans precisely because she should be more on
the side of justice for us than she is. I don't expect very much from the Republicans and so I'm not disappointed. I do expect more from Democrats, and too often I am disappointed. That has got to change if candidates like Hillary expect my support and vote. The brave governor of Massachusetts and the lawmakers who just voted to keep the gay marriage ban off the ballot in that state have shown the courage that we all must demand of Hillary and the other candidates. We will settle f0r nothing less.

Photo: our Burmese cat "Nikko" - at 15 still smart, playful, very vocal and extermely affectionate. Here he is on the bed. "Neek" loves to take naps with his humans.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Small Town Social Dynamics

I wonder if the social dynamics of all small towns are like those here in Cherry Grove. Here we have a number of long established social groupings organized around shared interests in things like entertainment, drag, and various community volunteer organizations, such as the volunteer fire department, the community association, etc. For the newcomer, while most of these groups are open to anyone, some of these groupings are harder to break into than others. A few are, for all intents and purposes, closed to new members. All of them share in common a group dynamic that requires conformity on the part of members and one that is to some degree or another, hostile to individuality. As a result, not everyone who calls Cherry Grove home is a member of one of these social groupings. Some people who have lived here for decades appear to not be connected to any of the established groups. Two of the long-established high profile groups in the Grove, the Arts Project Of Cherry Grove (est. 1948,) and the community association have in recent years been experiencing hard times in terms of membership numbers and finances. Both groups seem powerless to change course and reverse the downward trends in which they are entrapped. One dynamic that is affecting all of the groups in the Grove is the basic fact that there are simply less people here today. The town is no longer quite as popular as a resort destination as it once was. There are a number of reasons for this, but it is a reality that groups should take into account as they struggle to remain viable. With less of a base of people to draw from, it becomes even more important for these groups to be more open and welcoming, and to suppress the natural tendency of the group to demand conformity. They can no longer afford to be quite so choosy in terms of who to admit to the group. It will be interesting to see if these groups are successful in turning things around. It will require jettisoning some old attitudes.

Photo: a scan of an old post card showing Cherry Grove in the 1960s


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Outing Redux

The debate about "outing" is back in the news. A staff member for one of the most viciously anti-gay Republican presidential candidates was recently "outed" by a newspaper. This 18 year old male was known to have been present at demonstrations against a gay rights ordinance holding a sign that read something like "go back into the closet." Details can be found on many of the gay and lesbian blogs and web sites, so I won't go into that here.

I would like to say that "outing" someone who is actively working against the interests of the gay community is fair play in my book. After all, you can only be outed if you've already compromised your little secret somehow, by going to a gay bar, or visiting a gay chat room, etc. Those opposed to outing cite a person's "right to privacy." Richard Mohr, a professor and author, has noted that privacy has to do with things like a person's physical space, e.g., their home, and not some secret that they expect the rest of us to keep for them even though we never agreed in advance not to disclose it. In other words, someone who is closeted, i.e., operates to some degree in the gay world but is not open about it, has no right to expect others to go along with their charade, especially since in doing so those of us who are not closeted are thereby at least partially forced back into the closet ourselves. Why should those of us who are open about our sexuality be forced to cooperate with those who continue to want to have it both ways?

Photo: a quiet moment on the Cherry Grove dock.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Problems with the media

One of the most annoying characteristics of the current media is the way
TV news shows now continually incorporate feature stories that emphasize
celebrities and their lives. On a nationally indicated TV show such as "Today" the lead stories are often not real news, such as international and domestic politics, but rather the latest indiscretion of someone like Paris Hilton. Are such stories really important? Hardly, but the media panders to the lowest denominator of its audience. In a similar manner, a kidnapping, which might be local news, becomes a story that dominates the airwaves for many days. Thus, the dumbing down of the American public continues on a daily basis. One can only assume that TV executives believe that TV viewers have a very limited attention span.

One might ask: why does this matter? Well, if the TV viewing audience is more interested
in the latest celebrity scandal, then that same vast group cares less about the political realities that drown our country in stark realities: President Bush's inexcusable war in Iraq, the problems on the domestic front such as immigration and the take-over by government of formerly protected national wilderness, and such big-business controlled interests as the oil industry.

Ever notice how the lack of education in this country is seldom a concern of politicians on a local or national level? This, too, is because the media could care less. Keeping the general public fixated on celebrity news is one way to control national interests. Surely in this country people vote more by whom they perceive as savvy on TV, rather than on the issues. If not, then how did we reach the lamentable stage of having such an incompetent as George Bush as President?


image: one of my new paintings, this one of the Fire Island Pines

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

An Important Federal Court Rebuke Of Bush

The federal court ruling that throws out Junior Bush's assertion that he can simply declare someone an "enemy combatant" and then lock them up indefinitely is a welcome development. You would think we have no constitution and no rights, like in an old time communist country. Bush is so used to getting his way that he basically feels that he can do whatever he wants, the Constitution and the rule of law be damned. Bush plans to appeal the decision and it may go to the Supreme Court. Since he has packed the court with right wing cronies, they might rule in his favor. Let's hope not. Fighting terrorists does not require that we abandon a 200 plus year legacy of legal due process.

Bush thinks he is so powerful due in large part to the fact that he had up until the last election, a Republican controlled congress that rubber stamped everything he did. If but one house of congress had been under control of the opposition party, there would have been more of a check on Bush's claims of almost king-like executive power. We now have "divided" government, where the congress is partially or fully under the control of the opposition party. This doesn't mean that Bush loses all battles. For example, the senate failed to pass the Gonzales no confidence resolution. But it does mean that there are checks on his power and real oversight of his administration.

Photo: Buenos Aires - just up the hill this narrow street leads to the bustling downtown of this European-like South American gem of a city


Monday, June 11, 2007

Kucinich On State Killing

Here's a photo of one of the world's most beautiful settings for a large city. This is Rio, of course. The photo was taken from the deck of our cruise ship as we approached from the North in early March of this year. Rio is beautiful and fun, but it is also dangerous. There is a lot of crime and tourists are warned to take precautions.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich on the death penalty:

Morally, I simply do not believe that we as human beings have the right to "play
God" and take a human life -- especially since our human judgments are fallible
and often wrong...In Congress, I introduced the Federal Death Penalty Abolition
Act of 2003 to establish an end to capital punishment. At the same time,
however, I believe that criminals who take innocent life or commit other
horrific crimes should pay a severe penalty, and that we have a duty to protect
our society from danger. For that reason, I favor life imprisonment without the
possibility of parole as an acceptable moral alternative for the worst and most
violent offenders in our society
Once again, candidate Kucinich gets it right on an issue. I have always felt that the death penalty is barbaric. It lowers us as a society to the least common denominator...when we put people to death we become as bad as that which we abhor.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

No More Blood For Oil

I think Dennis Kucinich is on to something here.


Reform The Presidency: One Six-Year Term

In the city we have the city fire department, with paid firefighters and lots of stations and equipment paid for with our tax dollars. In the suburbs volunteer fire departments are the norm, and Cherry Grove is no exception. We have one particular problem here, though. We lack a road through the town. This means that we can't have a fire truck, a "pumper," and so we have these hybrid fire trucks that look sort of like golf carts on steroids. Unfortunately, the insurance companies feel that since we don't have a "pumper" truck, we really don't have a fire department at all, at least that's what I was told when I asked my insurance agent why my fire insurance rates were so high. Chalk it up to living out here on the barrier island.

The good news: pundits are declaring that Junior Bush has entered the official "lame duck" period of his presidency. The prime indicator of this was the collapse of the immigration bill, which he was pushing for. It seems as though he will be unable to get any additional parts of his agenda through before he leaves. Whew! Is that ever good news! Just think of what he tried to do to the country: he tried and failed to destroy social security and to pass a federal amendment banning gay marriage. It's bad enough what he has done to us with Iraq - turned us into a rogue nation that flaunts the Geneva Conventions, tortures detainees, attacks sovereign nations under the premise of "preemptive war," etc. His tax cuts for the rich have further exacerbated the gaps between the rich and the rest of us and have resulted in a massive deficit that will take a miracle to erase. Yes, it's great that Junior in now a lame duck. He was way lame-brained already, we just added the duck part recently.

The case of Junior Bush reminds me of one of the reforms I used to teach, one that could improve the presidency by de-politicizing it, and one that would lessen the lame duck effect. Namely, change the term of office of the president to one six-year term with a one term limit. If this were to be instituted, presidents would have a lot less incentive to be swayed by the political winds, and more incentive to do the right thing for the country, and thereby help their own legacy. And, if we were to elect another walking disaster like Junior Bush, we'd only have him for six years, instead of eight. It's an idea whose time has come.


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Nativist Senators Kill The Immigration Bill

I've seen a few interesting short videos on the net lately. Did you see the one of the UK rugby team acting up on a Saturday night out drinking spree? Take a look here.

I also enjoyed the video of hunky singer Enrique Iglesias serenading a gay fan at a gay pub in London last Saturday. You can view that one here.

38 Republicans joined 11 Democrats in scuttling the immigration bill that was hammered out by a bi-partisan group of senators over a period of months. The New York Times sums up the aftermath pretty well:

The anti-immigrant hard-core — no amnesty today, no amnesty tomorrow, no
amnesty ever — must not be allowed to hold the nation hostage. Like nativists of generations
past, they think the country is being Latinized, and they fear it. The country is changing,
but the way it always has, absorbing newcomers, shaping and being shaped by
them, inexorably turning them, their children and grandchildren into

Bad-boy Republican right wing fanatic senators were particularly noteworthy for their obstructionism. Jim De Mint, a name that we should recognize as one of the Senate's worst homophobic bigots, said plainly that he was in favor of anything that would kill the bill. He joined two other Republican homophobes, Jeff sessions and John Cornyn, in helping to kill the bill. It may not have been a perfect bill, but it seems like the right wing prefers to do nothing rather than enact anything with humane provisions recognizing that it's people that we're talking about, not "illegals."

Photo: a new addition to our garden this year, a variety of Peace rose.


Friday, June 8, 2007

One More Bigoted Bush Nominee

Another "star" of the garden at this time of the year is our Peony bush. It's remarkable how this plant dies back to soil level each winter and then returns fuller than ever in the Spring. The first year after I put this plant in it returned but without any blossoms. The second year it had one blossom. Then each year it returned with more and more blossoms. Now I have to stake the entire plant otherwise the heavy, beautifully scented blossoms droop or bend all the way over. It's a delight of Spring.

The blogs are buzzing about Junior Bush's latest fundamentalist Christian nut job nominee, one James Holsinger, who Bush wants to make Surgeon General. Dr. Holsinger, it seems, has a problem with the mechanics of gay male sex. He wrote a paper in 1991 in which he claimed that what we like to do in bed can lead to injury and disease. We're not built to handle insertions of large, pointed objects, or some such, opined Dr. Holsinger. Humm, now it seems I've been testing Dr. Holsinger's theory for about, well, 50 years now, with all sorts of probes. So far I haven't sprung a leak, managed to irretrievably lose anything up there, or come down with anything other than the usual common colds, etc. So you can say that I've done my "empirical research" and on the basis of my findings I'd say Dr. Holsinger resembles that with which he seems to be fixated, namely a rectum, and his theory is mere flatulence. I have a thought: perhaps I could invite the good doctor to my playroom for a little show and tell, and we could do some additional research to help him clarify his thoughts. In any event, I don't think he's ready for prime time as Surgeon General.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Cool Fire Island Morning

It's a beautiful but cool morning out here on Fire Island. The garden is a delight in June, and one of the highlights are the Bearded Iris. This year mostly the yellow variety is in bloom, although we have black, white, and blue varieties in our Iris patch. I'll have to dig up and divide the rhizomes in the Fall.

My morning routine includes a walk on the beach with Bradley. We usually walk as far as the beginning of the Pines, where an old landmark, the Carrington House, signals that it's time to turn around and head back.

Kucinich on the media:

I believe the people should be involved in the maintenance of their
airwaves, creating public media outlets controlled by community boards
similar to the model of Pacifica Radio. Funding for public broadcasting
channels on television and radio should be greatly expanded, assuring the
existence of media outlets free of the influence of advertisers.
Kucinich, the anti-Bush.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Mainstream Political Leadership

The Republican candidates for president had a debate last night in New Hampshire. At one point they were all asked to raise their hand if they thought that gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly in the military. No one raised their hand, including Rudy. Nice.

Dennis Kucinich on gay marriage:

Regrettably, the America of which I dream and to which I and the many who
stand with me have committed ourselves, is not the same America that the
Republican Administration or the Democratic Party are campaigning to realize.
The Republican Administration is promoting a Constitutional Amendment that would
deny Americans the rights that the state of Massachusetts has granted. The
leadership of the Democratic Party is content to advocate a state-by-state
approach to the issue of same-sex marriages, cloaking its lack of resolve with
the words "civil unions." On this issue, as on every other, the mainstream
political leadership of our nation finds political expediency and political
popularity preferable to political courage.

Yes, the mainstream political leadership sucks, Dennis.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

My Candidate For President

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: The only major party candidate who supports full gay marriage rights, a single-payer non-profit healthcare system, and our complete withdrawal from Iraq, including Bush/Cheney contractors and cronies like Halliburton.

Yeah, I know, he can never be elected. That's never stopped me before from supporting a candidate who stands for what's right. "You're throwing your vote away!", I'm told...or, by voting for someone who has no chance you help insure that the "lesser of two evils" loses and the worst candidate is elected. Still, I refuse to vote in this fashion, and if more people simply refused to support "junk" candidates because they feel that they have no other choice, we might actually move toward having a real democracy instead of what we have now...two branches of the same ideological persuasion and no real choice when we get inside the voting booth.

When I taught political science in college, I used to emphasize reforms that could actually democratize our political system, things like moving to proportional representation. There's no reason why we have to accept a system polluted by money and corruption, where you have to be a millionaire or better to have a chance at being elected to most congressional offices. The system is broken and the populace perpetuates the evils by being complicit in voting for the lesser of two evils rather than demanding a choice of candidates, some with principles similar to their own. For many of our citizens, the problem is in their lack of education, but I am constantly surprised at my more educated and savvy friends who argue with me about my refusal to vote for mediocrity. Why not feel really good about supporting and voting for someone for president for a change. It's a life-altering sensation!


A Summer Getaway

Congratulations to my life partner Dan Evans, who will have a short story published in a soon to be available anthology entitled "Queer Collection: Prose And Poetry 2007." You can pre-order the book now on Amazon here.

Here's a photo of our home in Cherry Grove. All the houses have names. Ours is named "Liberty Bell." We bought the house but inherited the name. The previous owner was also a Philadelphian, so it made sense to keep the name with a Philadelphia connection. The house is a typical wood frame beach cottage that was most likely floated over from Long Island in the days after WW II. From the top deck we have a panoramic southern view of the Atlantic Ocean. We have a nice back deck where we can entertain, and the garden is located in a protected area below the back deck. This is our eighth season in the house. We've had many good times here in this little house!


Monday, June 4, 2007

Ms. Clinton. Gay Marriage, DADT, And "Dr. Death"

In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Virginia law that prohibited interracial marriages. The Court said: "the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men." Twenty years later this axiom still holds true, and provides the strong logic underpinning the argument in favor of gay marriage. Unfortunately, NONE of the major Democratic candidates running for president are willing to embrace the Court's logic and take a stand in favor of gay marriage. Ms. Clinton is so backward on the issue that until just recently she actually SUPPORTED the hateful "Defense Of Marriage Act" signed into law by her philandering husband. Ever the cunning political operative, she now says that a PORTION of DOMA should be scrapped in that gay and lesbian couples should receive federal benefits, but only in those states with legal gay marriage or domestic partnerships. Talk about unfair! The rest of us can just go take a hike, I guess. Now this is really political needle threading taken to the ultimate degree. Anyone who thinks that this woman and her husband will not throw gays and lesbians under the bus the first time they get put on the spot about gays is severely deluded!

I read that they released "Doctor Death" Jack Kevorkian from prison. At age 79, he has been paroled after eight years in jail for assisting about 130 terminally ill people to end their lives with dignity. Kevorkian had to make a lot of promises to get out of jail, so he won't be able to help anyone else die, even if someone comes to him and pleads for his help. He considers the U.S. a "tyrannical" country and he's right, of course. We live in a country that is more and more under the control of Christian cult tyrants who will not be satisfied until they impose their beliefs upon the rest of us. To me Kevorkian is a hero who helped a lot of dying people when they needed his help the most. It's not him who should be in jail, but the nut cases on the far religious right who are trying to rob the rest of us of our basic human right to die with dignity. Each any every one of us ought to be free to make our own decision about our quality of life if we are stricken with a terminal illness. I will allow no religious fanatic to make that decision for me and I will oppose their efforts to pass laws that interfere with my right to make my own end-of-life-decisions.

Returning to one of my favorite targets, Ms. Clinton, in addition to refusing to admit that her vote to authorize the war in Iraq was a mistake, she also refuses to admit that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a a costly mistake. No, it's a good "transitional policy," says Ms. Clinton. Now let's see, we continue to dismiss openly gay linguists from the military who know Arabic even though there is a critical shortage of these experts in the fight against terrorism. But no, DADT is not a mistake, and if another terror attack occurs against us somewhere due in part due to to the lack of trained Arabic translators, well, we'll just chalk it up to our "transitional" policy and that'll explain it all and make everyone just feel so much better about the body bags. Ah, Hillary, silly me, I just don't understand about political pandering, er, I mean "transitional" policies, do I?

Photo: this interesting little perennial blossomed again this year. I'll have to look it up because I forget what it is!


Sunday, June 3, 2007

TB Man And The Narcissistic American

I'm getting a late start here this morning. We were out last night at one of the first shows of the season here in Cherry Grove, a benefit for the Pines Animal Welfare Society (PAWS.) PAWS helps with stray animals on Fire Island - capturing loose cats, adoptions, etc. Our friend Valerie organizes this benefit each year and the show features many of the local drag performers. The show is followed by a dessert buffet. The desserts are all donated by residents. It's one of Cherry Grove's signature events.

A friend in Philadelphia sent me an interesting article from the Philadelphia Inquirer. The author made the case that the man who flew back and fourth from Europe with tuberculosis is sort of a poster boy for the narcissistic American, the same selfish American who doesn't care about global warming, conserving energy, etc. I think the author is on to something. In the White House we have ensconced the ultimate figurehead for this sort of American, Junior Bush, who has thumbed his nose at our friends and foes alike. It's sort of like a resurgence of the notion of the Ugly American with Bush Junior as the poster boy for everything that's gone wrong with America.

Photo: the shade garden is looking particularly good these days


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Petraeus: The Fox Is Guarding The Hen House!

I read on AmericaBlog that ABC News is reporting that General Petraeus, the commander of our forces in Iraq, has already determined that "The Surge" is a success and that he is planning for hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for the long haul. This is a surprise? The general reports to Bush. What did we expect, for him to say that Bush's plan was not working? The Democratic led congress should have used the spending authorization bills to insist on an independent evaluation of whether or not "The Surge" is effective. Bush could then ignore that just like he ignored the Baker-Hamilton commission report, but at least it would be one more factor in favor of ending our involvement in Iraq. It's too late for that now, so in September we'll no doubt get the General's rubber stamp of approval on "The Surge."

On a happier note, I had a session with my cardiologist yesterday and the report is good. I have this valve issue, but it hasn't gotten significantly worse in the past three years, so he was happy and so am I!

Photo: The new arbor I installed this year. The Hydrangea (left) was a gift from friends in Philadelphia almost a decade ago. Right: Lilac in its third year.