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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Its been a while since I was making any serious amount of money online. I used to have several dedicated web and database servers housed at various data centers across the country. At one time, I was planning to build a huge network that was geographically distributed across the world. I turned out the lights of my last few remaining websites last year, when I let my last server go – it was in Los Angles, hosted at OC3 Networks. If you know anything about porn, you know thats where most of the sites are hosted. Ilan Mishan hosted just about everyone who was anyone in that industry, and despite the fact that some folks did not like him, he always struck me as someone who was honest and easy to deal with and the service was top notch, except for some problems with the IPs being blacklisted by the spamming places alot.

Its been difficult to find webhosts that would tolerate me. Many years ago, I was sued by one of my webhosts after I said some unflattering things about their service. A non-disclosure agreement prohibits me from talking about that incident. A favorite tactic of corporate America these days is to threaten the webhost of anyone who says anything they don’t like with a lawsuit if they don’t silence their customers, and most webhosting companies out of fear, ignorance or laziness – or a combination of all three – cave in and shut off the customer’s account even though the customer is not doing anything illegal.

After some searching, I found this company NFSN, Inc. that was offering hosting services under the name Nearly Free Speech. My hardware and bandwidth requirements are nowhere near what they used to be as I don’t need an entire cluster of boxes to myself anymore. After looking into the pricing of this place, which offers a very reasonable pay as you go approach to all services, they also offer something more important: management that knows how to handle legal threats and respond to frivolous ones by… doing nothing.

Have to say that after using their services for a week now, they are a company fit to serve up my shit. I may start working on some of my more controversial projects and getting them online.

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I really wish I didn’t have to make this post, but unfortunately, I do. Unlike many folks I encounter, I have a code of ethics and morals and I believe in true equality. Many folks seem to have this hypocritical habit of supporting things like free speech and equality only when it suits them or their interests, or only when the topic in question is not too controversial or only so long as certain people they place upon pedestals don’t object. This is not the mark of a patriot, a freedom fighter, an independent or someone worthy of support. Its the mark of a coward, a hypocrite, an imbecile and folks who ought not to have the right to inhabit our country.

I don’t hate very many people or organizations, but The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is one fundamentalist Christian organization I do reserve a special spot in the deep, dark bottom of my cold, dead heart for. WBC is better described as a cult and its a disgusting little organization run by a deranged lunatic who appointed himself to be a preacher named Fred Phelps. The flock is comprised mostly of members of his family. I truly hate this organization, its membership, its leaders and what it stands for.

Being a gay homosexual myself, I am one of the groups of people they have targeted. So far, I have had a couple of run-ins with this organization, the most recent of which was when they came to Moore, Oklahoma and decided to picket Moore High School. Moore has alot of gay youth, as one friend of mine so politically incorrectly observed, “Moore is where all the bottoms come from.”. There is a video about the protest that I got involved in on my YouTube channel.

Now word comes that The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is going to hear an appeal regarding a lawsuit filed against him Phelps for WBC’s activities. One fine day in 2006, Phelps decided to picket the funeral of a dead US solider in Maine with their usual vile message of hate. The family sued WBC and Phelps and was awarded the family over $11 million in damages for emotional distress. The judge reduced the award to $5 million, then a federal appeals court threw out the award all together. The family now appeals to SCOTUS to reinstate the damages.

This is an important case because we are about set a key precedent. That family deserves the money, that I will tell you. But unfortunately, if they are awarded those funds, it will come at great expense to all of us. Because the case will not just decide if they get the money, it will decide if free speech extends to funerals. While most decent people know that a funeral is no place to make a political statement, this is not about decency – of which Phelps has none – this is about freedom of speech. As we should all be aware, the right to speech in this country includes the right to speak at times when it is not socially acceptable (at a funeral) and also the right to say unintelligent, disagreeable, stupid things (as WBC does early and often). As we should also be equally aware, rights are have often been lost by taking a well-meaning step towards silencing a highly offensive message in the name of cleaning up the public forum.

Fred Phelps is an old man, soon he will be in the ground dead and no longer voicing his hatred for all. WBC has not been very successful in recruiting new members, either. When his family dies off, so to will his church and its vile message of hate. While the message Phelps and WBC have for the world is annoying and undoubtedly painful for those who have to hear it, it is not worth gutting the first Amendment over to rid ourselves of it! If we start saying that objectionable or offensive speech is not allowed at funerals, we have just set a dangerous precedent that you can bet will be promptly extended to other areas – like churches and other religious gatherings. Will it be illegal for homosexuals to protest WBC while they are in session if SCOTUS decides in favor of the family? Thats a real possibility if SCOTUS finds in favor of this family.

Many people are going to argue that funerals are off-limits and that no one has the right to come into a funeral and make a statement. In other words, SCOTUS should find in this family’s favor because the ends (stopping people from being assholes through speech at funerals) justify the means (making it illegal to be an asshole through speech at places where such conduct is prohibited by law). In one way, they are correct. Funerals are closed events and there should be a legal right to exclude undesirables. Funerals, when held on private property as they usually are, are off-limits to anyone who does not have permission of the real property owner to come onto that private property. All that is needed is for the property owner to tell the Phelps that they are not welcome and ask them to leave. If they don’t, a phone call to the police will result in an arrest for trespassing.

But if they stand beyond the property line on public property or on the property of someone who allows them to be there, then that’s fair play. Legally, there is no sound argument to be made for silencing WBC so long as they stand beyond the property line. That wont keep them from sending their message, and the best thing to do would to be to use a very large piece of property, so that the property line is far enough away that the Phelps are out of sight and out of mind. If this case is about protecting the privacy and sanctuary of funerals, this will be an adequate fix to the problem. But I suspect alot of people want to see this family win to silence the Phelps and thats not an action that should be undertaken.

I must say that in this case, I support the right of WBC to speak because it’s a right granted to all citizens of this country – even at funerals and even when the message being spoken is morally repugnant and devoid of value. I hope that SCOTUS, with its conservative makeup, makes this connection. True conservatives tend to understand these types of arguments and will see them under the Castle doctrine, so there is hope that common sense will prevail.

We must resist the temptation to take feel-good actions in extreme cases that have far-reaching consequences. Part of not being a hypocritical coward is having the courage to defend people you truely hate when their ability to remain equal is threatened. In this case, the equality of WBC and Phelps is being threatened in a manner that threatens our collective right to free speech. This I cannot and will not be a part of supporting.

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Gonna be a short post tonight, kiddies. Yesterday, I finished downloading all four seasons of Dexter and I am still watching them, so I am gonna cut right to it:

So I was playing with my new iPhone and something came across the Tweeter (thats what I call Twitter) from News9 asking followers to vote on whether or not Ronald Reagan should be put on the $50 bill. Out loud, I uttered “What the fuck?” and clicked the link, which was broken. So I did a Google News search and – sure enough – one idiot in Congress (Patrick McHenry) is wanting to put Ronnie on the $50. I know he is a hero of the conservatives and all, but this is just ridiculous.

As the country is going bankrupt, you have these idiots out there arguing about whose face should be printed on the increasingly worthless paper. Imagine the irony! What a joke. Tell ya, folks: the tea party movement may be onto something. I think its time to show the bastards the door.

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I promise you what I am about to say is true: I don’t take the unpopular side of every issues just to be a douche.

I know that making a statement like that is an odd way to begin a blog post, but we are going to be talking about local politics and specifically Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Norman Mayor Cindy Rosenthal, so in light of these circumstances, I felt it might be appropriate. Plus, I am preparing to go on a tirade here of epic proportions and I wont be mincing words, so use of the word “douche” in the first sentence was the most thoughtful way I could think of to fire off the opening salvo.

I should also warn you that this is the scene in my hotel room right now. Well, more specifically: this is the scene as it applies to this post. Yep, thats 190 Proof (95% pure alcohol). Its a generic version of Everclear. In other words, I’m quickly on my way to becoming drunk. Don’t ask me why I am calling a hotel my residence until I find a new place that meets my very particular requirements in Norman. Lets just say the lease on my last place ended on February 28th and I elected not to renew and got lazy about finding a new place.

Anyway, first up is the election results in Norman. Mayor Cindy Rosenthal was re-elected, carrying 53.65% (6,798) of the vote and two spending measures passed as well. 64.72% (8,170) of the voters decided to spend $19 million on roads and infrastructure projects, while 62.07% (7,814)of the voters decided to spend $2.5 million on expanding the warning siren system. I voted against both spending measures and against Mayor Cindy.

I voted against the spending measure because the roads within the city limits of Norman are fine. There is nothing wrong with them. Oklahoma City roads are far worse. I voted against expanding the warning siren system to cover the entire city way out into the boonies of Lake Thunderbird because (and this is another reason I voted against the infrastructure bond, too) while it is something that should be looked at in the future, we are in a recession and money is tight for alot of people. City government should be tightening its belt with the rest of us, not continuing the frivolous spending spree that has gone unchecked in Norman for quite a while. The area that will be served is sparsely populated and because most tornadoes stay on the ground for less than a mile, the risk of a tornado hitting and doing serious damage to many homes (as opposed to one or two or a few homes) is very small. Those who are concerned should buy emergency weather radios (which receive the same signal that the sirens receive to activate and sound an alert locally), not force the cost of government-funded sirens on a struggling population.

I voted against re-electing Cindy Rosenthal because she is a liar. She campaigned on a platform of reducing government waste and making Norman city government efficient. Throughout her time in office, she has consistently reaffirmed this mission and used as her central theme at times. Being fiscally conservative, you might wonder why I have a problem with someone who takes this platform. The reason I opposed her is because she did not follow through. That is, she said one thing while doing another. Last year, she worked to get a $50 million spending measure passed to build a new city library. While I am in favor of education, I believe in delivering education in an educated manner and what Cindy did was just stupid. Less than three miles from The University of Oklahoma, which has one of the state’s largest and best libraries by any measure (size or depth of collections, number of items, computers, resources, hours of operation, staff, etc) she wants to spend $50 million bucks to build a new library to serve the exact same population. This is a massive waste of money. In a flyer supporting the most recent two spending measures, mailed at taxpayer expense (of course) city officials forced their agenda down our throats on these two issues. The fact that these things are even allowed to happen on her watch prove that she is incompetent as a mayor.

Now, we go to the Oklahoma City mayor’s race, where homophobe and parasite Mick Cornett was – according to The Daily Oklahoman – “comfortably re-elected, with 58.3% (14,073) of the vote favoring another term. This really pissed me off because this guy is a complete louse and I cannot understand for the life of me why every queer in the city limits is not out marching in the streets right now. Well, actually I do know why the queers are not doing anything about him, but thats another topic for another day.

For those who think our pal Mick is still an all right guy, lets look at what makes him who he is, shall we?  First off, there is the disturbing little incident which no one seemed to notice except Gossip Boy (its worth noting that this news outlet is really run by a nutcase, but on occasion, even nutcases say things that are relevant and spot on, this was one of those incidents) whereby Cornett tried to pack the library board with anti-gay religious nuts. Perhaps it was an isolated incident, but a look at his connections suggests that this was no mere coincidence.

Mick is tied to organizations that are unfriendly to homosexuals. Mick is not just the mayor, he is also the Executive Vice President of Ackerman McQueen (AM), a powerhouse of an ad agency. AM manages publicity for OPUBCO, which publishes The Oklahoman, also known as America’s worst daily newspaper according to The Columbia Journalism Review. AM also manages public relations for The Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. What a shock that The Oklahoman, The OKC Chamber of Commerce and Mick all just happened to come out in favor of MAPS 3. AM clients have helped further Mick’s agenda in the past before, for instance Taco Bell (which is owned by Yum Brands – whose public relations are, you guessed it, managed by AM) came out in support of Mick’s This City is Going on a Diet campaign to encourage weight loss. The diet campaign is not a bad thing for the most part, but this level of corporate involvement in politics is rarely a good thing.

MAPS3, well, now thats another matter entirely. Most people are well aware of the fact that I don’t believe in corporate welfare or the abuse of imminent domain. As such, I was mostly opposed to MAPS3, which Mick managed to pass by a narrow margin. I say “mostly opposed” because there was a small nugget of useful, responsible spending on public transportation. However, if I were an Oklahoma City voter, I would have voted against the proposal because spending a few million in a responsible manner in a spending bill that has a pricetag of $777 million and contains reprehensible amounts of pork and corporate welfare is complete and utter bullshit. Just because a  bill has one redeeming aspect does not mean it should be passed, and alot of people voted for this bill solely because of the inclusion of public transit which folks have been clamoring for over the course of many years.

Before Mick became mayor, he used to own a company called Mick Cornett Video Productions, which provided production services to the commercial and legal sectors. He has worked in the media as a reporter, anchorman and manager. He has worked in nearly every aspect of media and he knows how to spin an issue and manipulate people like a master. This is evidenced by the passage of MAPS3, which had lots of opposition, but not enough to stop it. All of these facts come down to this: Mayor Mick Cornett is as slick and as dangerous as they come. His political career needs to be terminated before he makes a run for the governor’s office and wins, bringing his special, seductive brand of homophobia and fiscal irresponsibility to the rest of the state from it’s highest office.

So is there a point to all of this, or am I just trashing Cornett? Yes, there is a point – and I am going to make now and do so directly to my fellow queers. With another four years of Cornett, as sure as the sun will rise in the morning, there will be another MAPS proposal. This time, we should be smart and make sure that we get something out of the deal. By we, I mean us queers. More than anything else, Oklahoma City needs a comprehensive queer community center that serves the needs of the queer community exclusively. That should include not only a center that provides comprehensive programing and services like Tulsa’s Oklahomans for Equality but it should also provide shelter services for homeless and struggling queer youth. You might be surprised to know how many queer youth in this city are homeless or abandoned by their family. Further, the center should provide educational services and job training.

We should must work together and send a message to Cornett that reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Cornett,

You have been re-elected. We’d rather you were not, but you are. We’re going to make the best of it, but we have a condition.

If you want to tax us further for one of your fancy little urban renewal projects, i.e. MAPS4, then you’re going to stop taking our money and spending all of it on amusements for straight rich people in Bricktown. You’re going to spend some of that money helping us, providing basic services that we need to enjoy a quality of life.

We’re tired of you taking our queer money and not providing us basic services. It amounts to taxation without representation. We’re not taking it anymore. Either play ball, or we will shoot down your next project.

Sincerely,

The Oklahoma City Queer Community

Will we rise to the occasion and come together for something that this city desperately needs? Or will we continue to be more interested in doing nothing particularly useful and playing the victim? Time will tell. Cornett’s re-election is bad for us, but we can and should turn it into something useful. Cornett is one of those people that could careless that queer youth live on our streets. As long as he gets his MAPS proposals passed, he is happy damn us all to hell. The only thing he will understand or heed is a direct promise to torpedo his proposals (and by extension, his political career) and then he will play ball.

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So this past Friday, I appeared on The American Heathen Radio Network’s talk show. We had a great time talking about the issues, and we also made an announcement. There is going to be a second lawsuit regarding vanity plates in Oklahoma in the near future. The host of the show, RJ Evans has previously been granted a tag reading “ATHEIST” by the OTC. However, the OTC has in the past denied the tag “GODLESS”. Evans is going to apply for the GODLESS tag later this week and when it is denied, bring suit against the OTC for the improper denial.

This is particularly disturbing (while at the same time being quite amusing) because it shows the highly subjective manner in which the OTC grants and denies tags. Simply put: the manner in which the OTC adjudicates applications is both arbitrary and capricious. Atheist means godless. The idea that the word atheist is not offensive but godless is offensive is pure poppycock. Whats more, it shows that the OTC is not even consistent in denying one side of a single issue the right to speak. While they have (as far as I know) kept all the gays from getting plates that could express their gayness, they clearly haven’t done the same for the atheists. No doubt, they’ll claim that this was another one of those plates that “slipped through”, but its been issued for over three years. As the Administrative Law Judge pointed out in the administrative hearings phase of the protest, each year a plate is renewed was an opportunity to deny such renewal and correct any plates that had “slipped through” and the OTC, in all of the examples that were considered at the hearing, elected not to do so.

So now we have the two biggest hot button issues in on this fight. We have religion and we have homosexuality. As RJ has astutely pointed out, this a separation of church and state issue as much as its a free speech and gay rights issue. We have a government agency which has claimed for itself the right to exclude certain people from the conversation that is taking place on about 56,000 vanity plates in the state based on criteria that is neither written nor specific. Who gets and plate and doesn’t get a plate is up to the personal prejudices of the individual encoder examining the application. When you let some people on one side of an issue talk and deny that right to others, its viewpoint-based discrimination. In Cimarron Alliance v. City of Oklahoma City, Ok, 290 F.Supp.2d 1252 (W.D. Okl., 2002), the federal Courts took a definitive stand against viewpoint-based discrimination.

While this started out being about me getting a license plate I wanted to express myself, it has quickly become about so much more. Its no longer just about me or my plate and its not even about gay rights. While all of these are components and motivating factors, This is about free speech and separation of church and state. Two of the most fundamental rights we as citizens of the United States hold to be of paramount importance. If the Oklahoma Tax Commission gets away with its conduct in this case, this signals a huge change in our rights. It will be the dawn of a new era in which the 1st amendment is void where prohibited, restricted or taxed by law or administrative rule. This case will set precedent and change the direction of free speech in this country.

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I have been crazy busy these last few days to my regret, have not really had time to keep up with local news.  Whats up with Jim Pope? Well, our Republican friends did a great job of summarizing his accomplishments. Tim Pope was an enemy of the people. He worked to undermine equality. As a human being who gives a shit about this kind of stuff, I am glad he is dead. I hope they dig the hole post haste and plant him deep so that he can begin making the world a better place post-death (something he failed to do while he was alive) by fertilizing a cemetery plot.

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Well, I expected that the local Oklahoma City-based media would pay attention to the lawsuit I filed against The Oklahoma Tax Commission. I figured some outlets from around Oklahoma would also pay attention. I even thought that I might get a few “Attaboy!”s from a few concerned homos across state lines. But I did not expect CNN to call me about Nancy Grace possibly being interested in the case nor did I expect celebrity gossip blog Dlisted to turn the case into a referendum on my fashion choices by naming me “Hot Slut of the Day”. But all of those things have happened today, and many others.

Something else has happened as well. I have received dozens of communications from folks telling me what kinds of plates they have seen around or had issued to them. Its become a discussion about license plates and the phenomenon. I am convinced now – more than at any other point in this whole fiasco – that the OTC has lost this case. They may as well tape all applications up on the wall and throw darts at them to decide who gets a plate and who doesn’t. Its all based on, well, who knows what its based on. I don’t even think they know.

Here are two observations from those communications:

  • A fellow Norman resident called to tell me they granted his tag “ATHEIST”. Odd, since they have denied “GODLESS” and others. So not only do they engage in viewpoint-based discrimination, they are not even consistent in their discrimination within a single topic.
  • From a comment on the News 9 Story: “I don’t see anything wrong with the tag. There is a guy in Norman that has a tag that reads NOFTCHX. Which means NO FAT CHICKS, he can have that but an outwardly gay man can’t have an IM GAY tag. Get real people whatever happened to freedom of speech???”

Oh, and last – but certainly not least – there is this:

Media coverage in the case has apparently reached a nationwide level already, as I have some lonely, single (presumably, gay) guy who thinks I am cute and wants to get to know me in a really hurry. He is 22 years old, works at Sams Club and is from some town I have never heard of in New York. He found my cell number somewhere (probably the damned press release) and started texting me telling me he wanted to be friends on Facebook. I approved the friend request he sent and he immediately started chatting me up.

I was on the phone with a reporter when all this happened, so I had to ask him to stop messaging me on my Facebook chat like a dozen times so I could concentrate on my call and not sound like a stuttering idiot to the reporter on the other end who was trying to get me to come on his radio show (which I will be appearing on this Friday from 7 to 10 PM, I am sitting on the entire show). He would stop for about a minute and then start back in and ask me if I am still there and such. He was half groveling and half worshiping me, while asking what I thought of him looks wise.

It was a bit over the top and I finally snapped and swore at him out of frustration (and immediately felt bad for doing it, how was he supposed to know I am not a patient person) and told him I was looking for the block button on Facebook. He asked why and I told him, point blank: he was annoying the hell out of me. He then freaked out and begged for forgiveness and for me not to block him. It was at this point that I realized a measure of humility was needed here.

Honestly, I felt sorry for the guy. Clearly, he was happy to have found a friend. He doesn’t have many on Facebook and I wonder if I am the only gay guy he knows or who will talk to him. The world is a cruel place for a homosexual when you are all alone. Even when you are around folks who understand and support you, its not much less cruel. Some of the things being said about me in the comments sections of various news sites are completely uncalled for. There are areas of New York that are every bit as conservative as Oklahoma, so I can understand and appreciate some of what he is facing. Hell, I was there not so long ago.

I don’t know his situation, but I’ll try to find out and help if I can. He’s offline now and the reporter is off the phone. I just hope he doesn’t kill himself or something. He did strike me as perhaps a little unbalanced and/or desperate for human contact and he said something about him having ADHD. The way society treats gay people, its a wonder that they manage to survive at all, much less some of them become truly awesome. Bigot Sally Kern once made light of how gay kids have high suicide rates. I wonder if it ever occurred to her that maybe thats the case because society – led by people like her – so often treat these people like utter trash to the point that they as human beings just shut down and lose all desire and reason for living.

Overall, I feel very good about where this case is headed. The media is covering this story fairly and accurately, which surprises me a little bit. I figured we’d have some outlet come out with a hatchet job of a story, spun around to fit some biased viewpoint. But they don’t seem to be doing that. The Oklahoman ran a factual story, followed closely by The Associated Press’s take on it. I take that in and of itself as a sign of progress. We’re going to open some doors in Oklahoma with this one. Now, some folks are not going to want them opened, but they will be opened none the less.

I say all this is all a good thing. We’re moving forward. Attitudes are changing here.

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