Posts Tagged ‘Gay Rights’

Are we governed by the electorate or by CEOs?

April 4, 2015

Indiana’s quick modification of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act shows much clout corporate CEOs have when a state government does something that displeases them.

jm040315_COLOR_GOP_Business_Religious_FreedomMany of us liberals worry about the power of the so-called religious right.  But what happened in Indiana shows who holds the real power.

I’m glad the law was modified.  I think it went beyond the legitimate purpose of not forcing people to support or participate in religious rites they don’t believe in.  But I’m not happy about how easily CEOs of large corporations can force elected officials to cave in when they displease the CEOs.

Of course there’s no way of knowing whether the CEOs were bluffing or making symbolic gestures or threatening to do things they were planning to do anyway.  I doubt that institutional investors would tolerate a CEO doing something that would reduce profits just for reasons of personal conviction.

LINKS

A CEO champions gays (and CEOcracy): “The Party of CEOs” is emerging by Steve Sailer for the Unz Review.

The Hypocrisy of Mark Benioff and Co. by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

Should Mon and Pops That Forgo Gay Weddings Be Destroyed? by Conor Friedersdorf for The Atlantic.

Indiana and the Constitution by Andrew Napolitano for the Unz Review.  Why the law needed to be changed.

A good movie, but not the story of Alan Turing

January 5, 2015

I saw The Imitation Game on Saturday night.  It was a good movie.  I liked it a lot.

It was about a character called Alan Turing, a tormented and rejected genius who nevertheless, through sheer power of intellect, broke the German codes and hastened Allied victory during World War Two.

The most touching part of the movie was his relationship with a character called Joan Clarke, a brilliant woman whose gifts Turing recognized and fostered despite prejudices of the time against women, and who in turn helped bring the misfit Turing out of his social isolation and related to other people in a human way.

But as much as I enjoyed and admired the performances of Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly, I had a problem with the movie, and that is that the central character was named Alan Turing.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing

Because, as a little Internet research showed, the real Alan Turing bore no resemblance to the character in the movie.  He was a much more interesting person.

The movie showed Alan Turing as emotionally crippled by the need to conceal his homosexuality.  But he didn’t conceal it.  Like many members of the Oxford and Cambridge intelligentsia, the real Alan Turning was openly and flamboyantly gay.

His biographers say he was moody, eccentric and had little tolerance for fools, but he was extroverted, gregarious and had a great sense of humor.   What got him into trouble was not inability to express his emotions, but his lack of discretion.

He was one of the top mathematicians of his time, and worked with British intelligence on cryptography even before the outbreak of World War Two.   He was recruited for the Bletchley Park codebreaking effort as a matter of course.  He led a team consisting eventually of thousands of people.  One of his assignments was to encrypt the personal messages between Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt.

His breaking of the German code was not a once-and-for-all breakthrough as depicted in the movie, nor did he do it all by himself, even though his contribution, especially the use of machine intelligence for decoding, was essential.

Bletchley Park broke the German Luftwaffe code almost immediately, and the German Naval code later on.  The Germans then thwarted the codebreakers for a time by complexifying the Naval code, but that obstacle, too, was overcome.  Cryptography and codebreaking were and still are a continuing duel of wits.

Alan Turing never knew John Cairncross, the Soviet spy who infiltrated Bletchley Park, let alone agreed cover up his treason as shown in the movie.

After the war Turing continued to do work for a time for MI6 and its successor, GCHQ (General Communications Headquarters, the British counterpart to the U.S. National Security Agency.  This was cut short when, under pressure from the U.S. government, the British government declared gays to be security risks.

Turing’s arrest and conviction for homosexual activity was unfortunate, and his sentence to a year of chemical castration, by means of hormone injections, was a horrible and unjust ordeal.  But it didn’t inhibit his intellectual activity and his work on the theory of artificial intelligence during that period or for the year after.

Nobody knows why he committed suicide, and there are those who wonder if his death really was suicide.

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How political correctness shields oligarchy

May 21, 2014

 The survivalist blogger Dmitry Orlov thinks debating “political correctness” is a way to prevent discussion of real issues of American politics.

Discussions of social policy, especially with regard to such things as the rights of women and sexual and racial minorities, play a very special role in American politics.  … It has recently been shown that the US is not a democracy, in which public policy is influenced by public opinion, but an oligarchy, where public policy is driven by the wishes of moneyed interests.

Dmitry Orlov

Dmitry Orlov

On major issues, such as whether to provide public health care or whether to go to war, public opinion matters not a whit.  But it is vitally important to maintain the appearance of a vibrant democracy, and here social policy provides a good opportunity for encouraging social divisions: split the country up into red states and blue states, and keep them in balance by carefully measured infusions of money into politics, so as to maintain the illusion of electoral choice.

Throw a bit of money at a religious fundamentalist candidate, and plenty of feminists, gays and lesbians will vote for the opposing kleptocrat who will, once elected, help Wall Street confiscate the rest of their retirement savings, in return for a seat on the board; throw another bit of money at a rainbow-colored lesbian, and plenty of bible-thumping traditionalists will vote for the opposing kleptocrat who, once elected, will funnel tax money to his pet defense contractor in return for some juicy kickbacks.  This part of the American political system works extremely well.

On the other hand, if some matter comes before the politicians that requires helping the people rather than helping themselves and their wealthy masters, the result is a solid wall of partisan deadlock.  This part works very well too—for the politicians, and for the moneybags who prop them up, but not for the people.

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The giant vampire squid becomes gay-friendly

April 24, 2014

The Mafia, as has been said, is not an equal opportunity employer. But even if it was an equal opportunity employer, it would still be a criminal organization.

Likewise, while Goldman Sachs is cultivating a reputation for being gay-friendly, it is still the same financial predator that is always was, still what Matt Taibbi called the “giant vampire squid,” inserting its tentacles into every crevice of the American economy and sucking out the blood.

giant_squidHuman Rights Campaign, the gay rights organization, honored Goldman Sachs at its annual dinner last year, and named Lloyd Blankfein, its CEO, as its national corporate spokesman for gay marriage.   It’s nice that a few gay people will get a shot at high-paying jobs at Goldman, but that doesn’t entitle the firm to a plenary indulgence, or get-out-of-jail-free card, or whatever you want to call it from the harm it has done to ordinary Americans, including gay people, through its financial manipulations.

As Matt Taibbi has documented, former and future Goldman officials in government successfully lobbied for repeal of the regulations that held banks back from reckless speculation with their depositors’ money.    They then pursued a policy of pump and dump, bidding up the price of investments, such as subprime mortgages, that they knew were worthless, then bailing out at the key moment and leaving the suckers holding the bag.

Goldman and similar Wall Street manipulators did more harm than to just bankrupt a few unwise investors.  Their financial manipulations brought about the Wall Street crash of 2008 and the wave of layoffs and mortgage foreclosures that followed.  Gay people suffered as much as their straight neighbors.   As Kathleen Geier pointed out, gay people as a group as not especially affluent — contrary to the way they’re typically depicted on TV.

Some of us liberals like to point out how conservatives can be suckered into voting against their economic self-interest by cynical appeals to feelings about social and cultural issues[1].   However this may be, they aren’t the only ones.

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Political correctness and repressive tolerance 2

April 7, 2014

quote-i-disapprove-of-what-you-say-but-will-defend-to-the-death-your-right-to-say-it-voltaire-334856

I once wrote a post in defense of political correctness.  In it I argued that the phrase “political correctness” was used by people who wanted to immunize themselves from criticism for saying things that were insulting, vulgar and bigoted.   I am politically correct in that sense.  I believe in treating people with courtesy and respect, and part of that is avoiding language they consider insulting

I think there are certain opinions of which I have a moral obligation not to allow to go uncontradicted.

I think there is such a thing as “murder language” — epithets used by Cossacks conducting pogroms against Jews, by lynch mobs stringing up black people, by homophobes who beat gay people to death — and I don’t think such language is socially acceptable

But these considerations don’t apply in the resignation of Brendan Eich, the Mozilla CEO who was unmasked as having contributed to supporters of Proposition 8, the California referendum against gay marriage, and who refused to back down from his belief that marriage is only between men and women. 

I haven’t heard any allegation that he was unfair to gay employees of Mozilla.  In fact, nobody would have known about his opinions if somebody hadn’t taken the trouble to dig it out.

I am a paleo-liberal, who came of age during the Joe McCarthy period, and I see a parallel between what happened to Brenden Eich and the blacklisting of the great Hollywood scriptwriter Dalton Trumbo for his support of Communist causes.  

Of course Eich is in a better position to retire on his millions than Trumbo had of earning a living when he was banned from working in Hollywood.  On the other hand I think Trumbo’s illusions about the Soviet Union were a much more serious mistake (to put it mildly) than Eich’s failure to keep up with received opinion about gay rights.

One thing they have in common is that they are being punished not just for their past political record, but for refusing to back down from their convictions.   Both Eich and Trumbo could have saved their careers if they had recanted, even if nobody believed their recantation was sincere.

Proposition 8 was supported by a majority of Californians.  That is a lot of people to declare ineligible for executive positions in high tech companies in Silicon Valley. 

At the time Proposition 8 was on the ballot, Barack Obama declared his belief that marriage was only between a man and a woman.  I don’t recall anybody who thought this made him ineligible for public office.  (more…)

Political correctness and repressive tolerance

April 4, 2014

cakvin&hobbes

I’ve long thought that “political correctness” was a minor problem, mainly affecting English departments in liberal arts colleges rather than the general public.  Evidently not.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/if-brendan-eich-isnt-safe/

The inventor of JavaScript has resigned as CEO of his Silicon Valley company because of protests about him donating money to an anti-gay marriage group.

The interesting thing for me about the above article by the self-identified conservative Rod Dreher is that I can remember when his view would have represented the extreme civil libertarian position.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/04/mozillas-gay-marriage-litmus-test-violates-liberal-values/360156/

All this is a reminder that “liberal” and “left,” while they may overlap, don’t mean the same thing.

http://fredrikdeboer.com/2014/03/24/is-the-social-justice-left-really-abandoning-free-speech/

The liberal position is, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

http://www.thenation.com/blog/179160/cancelcolbert-and-return-anti-liberal-left#

Okay, there are worse things. 

http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2014/04/in-us-democracy-is-now-sham.html

But, as my mother frequently said to me when I was a child, two wrongs don’t make a right.

My evolving position on gay rights

May 15, 2012

When I was younger, I didn’t know any gay people, or, to put it more accurately, I wasn’t aware of knowing any gay people.  So in those days, I had no reality check to correct my prejudices.  I thought of gay people as unfortunates who had something wrong with them for which they shouldn’t be blamed, any more than you would blame somebody for being diabetic or colorblind.  I didn’t care for what I read about the flamboyant, promiscuous gay male culture, but I thought that people had a right to live the way they wish so long as they kept away from me.  In truth, I hardly ever thought about such things at all.

If I had thought about it, I probably would have said that although homosexuals should not be persecuted for something they couldn’t help, they should not be Scoutmasters, grade school teachers or anything else in which they would be role models for the young.

All of this could come under the heading of an honest mistake in thinking.  What I am deeply ashamed of to this day are the times I joined in making bigoted jokes and snide remarks about gay people.  This probably was partly because I have never been tough or macho and I subconsciously wanted to differential myself from a group of people that were outside the pale.  But it was worse than that.  I was generating a false sense of self-esteem by expressing contempt for a group of people outside my group–the same motive that leads people to tell racist jokes.  This was pure malice.

I think the worst thing you can do is to try to build yourself up by downgrading somebody else.  And I was guilty of it myself.

My thinking changed as a result of (1) being a Unitarian Universalist and (2) living in Rochester. N.Y.   The UUA and the Rochester community were not always liberal about such matters, or anything else.  They changed in the same way that American society as a whole is changing, but a little bit ahead of the curve.   The city of Rochester elected one of the first, maybe the first, openly gay city councilman.  He was Tim Mains, a high school guidance counselor.   I met him once and found he had the same values I did.   We had a nice conversation about how kids these days aren’t like we were when we were young.

Some time in the 1990s I reconnected with a former girl friend, then living in Santa Fe, N.M.   I went down to visit her, and she showed me the city.   At the end she told me that she had been reviewing her life, and decided that she was a lesbian.   A few years later I flew down to Santa Fe to attend her commitment ceremony with her partner.   I never saw two human beings look at each other with such love as these two middle-aged, outwardly ungainly women.

What reason other than prejudice could have caused me to question the value of a loving relationship between two adults?  Gay men are condemned for supposedly being more promiscuous on average than than men in relationships with women.   If that is true, then it would be a good thing, not a bad thing, for gay men to be recognized by society when they enter into committed relationships.

It still doesn’t sit well with me to use the same word “marriage,” the relationship between my mother and father, to the commitment of two men to live together.  But that is prejudice, not reason.  I do in fact know male couples and female couples who love each other as deeply as my mother and father did.   I know a couple of gay men with an adopted daughter who are as good parents as anybody could be.

There are a lot of people in the United States who think as I used to think.  If I could change, so can they–or their children.