Saturday, February 07, 2004

A Reader Weighs in on Kuchinich:

I just received a massive epistle from a reader who supports Dennis Kuchinich. Now, Kuchinich supporters may well be the type of people who send letters too long for a newspaper to print. But I've taken a little time to edit this down, because this guy has some interesting stuff to say. Plus, the opening is terrific.


Luckily, neither of my arms reaches far enough to smack you. But I think you should consider voting for Dennis at least in the primary, and you should encourage all your libertarian and conservative buddies who believe in equal marriage rights to do likewise. Regardless of how the general election turns out, we uberleftists and rose-tea-colored liberals can't push the marriage-rights wagon alone.
(Editor's note: I wasn't aware that leftists were pushing this particular wagon at all.)

Regardless of how you vote in the general election, isn't it important for more people of different ideological complexions to at least try to send some signals to whomever the Dem front-runner turns out to be that triangulation vis-a-vis non-heterosexuals (or anyone else who believes in human rights) isn't going to be acceptable this time? I hate to sound corny, but every additional vote for Dennis really is a vote for honest-to-goodness marriage rights -- not just the "civil unions" dodge which you claim is just a second-class bag of croutons.

I know that GLBT conservatives and libertarians have, just like straight conservatives, very substantial differences with Representative Kucinich on most issues. Some are OK with the death penalty; Dennis is not. Some of you may have preferred that he had not moved from his original anti-abortion position. (I regret this shift, too, though I believe that Kucinich is still more pro-child than W. is.)

I could go on, but you've grasped the notion by now. So let's go to a Grendel-sized sticking point: Many of you (though certainly not all) have consistently and sincerely stood with the Bush Administration and Senator Lieberman in supporting Gulf War II. I, for one, have placed myself in the antiwar camp. Am I glad that Saddam is out of power? Yes. Do I know anyone among my antiwar leftist friends and acquaintances who actually likes Saddam or hates "America?" No. Anyone who thinks Dennis likes Saddam or any dictator has really, really failed to pay attention to Kucinich's campaign.

But even if you think Bush has a good plan in Iraq and that Kucinich doesn't, you should still support Kucinich and stand up to George W. Bush. Whatever the "war on terror" promises for boosting the stature of gays in our society, Gulf War II is not going to be the dream-lift for gay men and lesbians that [Andrew] Sullivan rhapsodized so ecstatically about many months ago. Not even Dick Cheney, whose daughter is Lesbian, will support genuine acceptance of non-heterosexuals in the military. So what's the point of taking one for Team Shrub on the war if it means shoving your own rights into a broken freezer?
(Editor's note: I find myself asking this question, too: Why defend our country from mullahs abroad if we simply hand it over to mullahs at home?)

Quick quiz: Who are the only major-party candidates to support full marriage rights for everyone? By marriage, I don't mean the civil-unions strategy of Dean and Kerry, or the hemming and hawing of John Edwards -- but real, honest-to-goodness marriage rights for consenting, non-incestuous, etc. adult couples regardless of the gender of the partners. The last men standing are Kucinich and Al Sharpton.

Unlike Sharpton, no one can reasonably accuse Dennis Kucinich of anti-Semitism, reverse bigotry or crass opportunism -- which means you can trust Dennis to follow through on this issue to the best of his ability. No gimmickry, no Bushian betrayals: just real support for this most intimate of civil and human rights. I'm not entirely unsympathetic to a sincere, non-racist states'-rights position (again, NOT our president's strong suit), but Sharpton made a good point in the debate just before New Hampshire: no civil right or human right is trivial enough to be left to states. Kucinich wholeheartedly endorses this very reasoning, and I think we can agree that he brings more workhorse government experience and consistency to back up this rhetoric than Sharpton.

So, the only conclusion that makes any sense is that anyone, regardless of sexual orientation and overall ideology, who cares about first-class citizenship for non-heterosexuals and transgendered people needs to get behind Kucinich. Can't stomach a vote for the "white Al Sharpton" in November? Fine, but at least vote for Dennis in your primary if you can.

This year's election could be very close. Kucinich may not be "butch" enough to win according to Richard Goldstein's political-strategic thinking, but unlike Kerry, he is the "real deal" on same-sex marriage. With enough support, he could at least nudge the Democratic party in the direction of equal rights for Gays and Lesbians.
(Editor's note: Unfortunately, this would also reduce the chances of Republicans' declaring jihad against Gay people, the way they did at their 1992 convention. At the moment, Democrats control the terms of debate on most domestic issues, and the further they push Dubya to the right, the better they will fare in November.) I think you'll have to admit that your fiscal and "cultural" differences with Kucinich pale in comparison with this colossal and vital commonality.

I know this is a long letter, but it's something to think about, gentle readers -- especially if, like me, you live in an open-primary state.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Cheap Shots: Questions for the Presidential candidates:

Bush: Four years ago, you stated that as President, you would pursue a policy of fiscal responsibility. What would fiscal irresponsibility look like?

Kerry: If we keep up the deficit spending and go into a depression, will you leave America and hook up with a richer country?

Edwards: As a first step toward reducing the cost of health care, will you consider returning the more than sixty million dollars you've made by suing obstetricians out of business?

Clark: You opposed the liberation of Iraq, yet supervised the Kosovo conflict. After nearly five years, Kosovo is not a stable democracy, while Iraq is already planning its first free elections in over three decades. So how, precisely, was military action in Kosovo more successful than in Iraq? (And while we're at it, what "imminent threat" did Slobodan Milosevij pose to the United States?)

Dean: What the hell happened?

Democrats: This is your candidate!

Do you know who John Kerry is?

Here's an article that answers the question as definitively as anyone could. Read it and weep, folks.

Update (11:00 p.m.): As it turned out, the real question wasn't whether you know who Kerry is, but whether I knew who Howie Carr was. Alas, I didn't. According to a regular reader, the man who wrote the above article is "sort of the Michael Savage of Boston." That raises serious credibility problems, of course -- just not for Kerry.

I should have sensed that this particular nugget was too juicy to be entirely credible (though I have no doubt the particulars are true). Ah well, back to Joe Klein ...

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Maybe I should move to Massachusetts

While Virginia's General Assembly prevents private firms from offering domestic-partner benefits, and endorses an amendment (that it seems most Americans don't want) to write anti-Gay discrimination into the US Constitution, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts quietly does the right thing.

Predictably, the Far Right is fuming over its latest, greatest defeat: By May of this year, same-sex marriages will be legally recognized within, though not throughout, the United States. Will our president ram an unpopular, ill-conceived Constitutional amendment through Congress to prevent it? Only a few weeks ago he promised as much, and now it's time for him to put up or shut up.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

CyberReview: Museum of Communism

It's interesting to think of some websites as "virtual museums," with individual rooms and displays, and photographs of artifacts. In effect, a website could allow cybertourists to visit a place without actually having to go there. No hours of operation, no closing times, no long drives to the middle of nowhere, no dicey inner-city neighborhoods, no galleries closed off for months because of maintenance or construction -- the advantages to virtual museum-going can't be ignored.

There's another side, too: In the real world, new exhibits cost money, and the cash outlay cannot be recouped through a museum's nominal admission fees. So museums frequently require a combination of taxpayer support and corporate sponsorship before they can open to the public. But in the virtual world, these exhibits can be mounted cheaply, can be modified literally moment to moment, and could theoretically be supported without admission fees or taxpayer grants. The only relevant expenses for this type of museum would involve buying a server and renting the necessary bandwidth -- tapping into a "virtual" real estate market which, unlike land or property, is unlimited and inexhaustible.

In this latter vein, Bryan Caplan has created the virtual Museum of Communism online. Although this project is far from finished, the concept is fascinating and the scholarship solid. It has real potential.

Unfortunately, at the moment this "Museum of Communism" feels more like a term paper than a museum. The site lacks primary materials and artifacts, and overcompensates with elementary historical essays. Caplan has yet to realize that objects, artifacts, archival materials and photographs are the meat and potatoes of any museum worthy of the name. Text is a relatively minor component in the experience.

I suppose it's too early for the Web to free itself from the tyranny of text, but "virtual museums" offer an interesting step in that direction. What the Museum of Communism needs now is an archival collector to acquire images that illustrate and emblematize the history it covers. Then it could employ a "virtual architect" to give the website a true sense of space, so that patrons will move from gallery to gallery instead of from page to page.

This would expand Caplan's home-grown endeavor many times over, I suspect, but would that be so terrible? After all, Communism claimed over a hundred million victims in the twentieth century. They deserve a fitting memorial -- even if it's only on the Web.

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