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Archives – October, 2010

The tragic suicide of Alan Turing

Cross-posted at Waking Up Now.

by Rob Tisinai

Alan Turing was a brilliant English mathematician who helped the Allies win World War II.

Working as a cryptographer at the now famous Bletchley Park complex he used his incredible focus and intelligence to crack the seemingly impossible codes of the German Enigma Machine. By locking himself in his room for days at a time he managed to reverse engineer the Enigma Machine — a stroke of pure genius that allowed the British and their allies to anticipate attacks and other vital information, changing the course of the war.

He’s also known as the father of computer science. Time named him one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century.

[E]veryone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine.

Alan Turing was gay. He killed himself on June 8, 1952, by eating a bite of an apple laced with cyanide. But why? We’ve seen a lot of theories from the right on why gay kids are killing themselves. Could any of them apply?

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association might say it’s because society was pushing too hard for people to be gay:

It must be pointed out that homosexual activists are not wholly innocent in these tragedies either. Homosexuals cannot reproduce so they must recruit. Part of the agenda of groups like GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) is to urge students at younger and younger ages to come out and declare a disordered sexual preference. Sexually confused youth are pressured into locking into a sexual identity far before they are mature enough to do so.

Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council might argue that society was too accepting of homosexuality:

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., said the rash September suicides by gays might be linked to the students believing they were born gay. “That creates hopelessness,” he said. “It is more loving and compassionate to say you don’t have to be gay for the rest of your lives.”

His colleague Tony Perkins might back him up:

Some homosexuals may recognize intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal–yet they have been told by the homosexual movement, and their allies in the media and the educational establishment, that they are “born gay” and can never change. This–and not society’s disapproval–may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.

Could Turing have killed himself because homosexuality was illegal in Britain?

Could he have done it because police discovered his sexual orientation while investigating a burglary of his home, and he was convicted of gross indecency?

Could it have been because in order to avoid a prison term he submitted to chemical castration by the government via female hormones?

No, of course not. As Tony Perkins makes clear, society’s disapproval does not cause suicide. Alan Turing must have killed himself because Britain was just too damn accepting.

52 Comments October 31, 2010

Courage Campaign website blocked by Dept. of Defense computers in Iraq

by Robert Cruickshank

We recently heard from a Californian deployed to Iraq that the Courage Campaign’s Progressive Voter Guide – and in fact, our entire website – is being blocked by Department of Defense computers in Iraq, whereas right-wing sites remained available. Today a reporter for The Hill confirmed the story:

Courage Campaign, a 700,000-member grassroots organization, has demanded in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates that access to its site be provided before the Nov. 2 Election Day….

In contrast, the group said a number of web sites that espouse conservative views can be accessed on Defense Department computers.

The Hill independently confirmed that the Tea Party Express site can be accessed on Defense Department computers while the Courage Campaign site cannot be accessed. Courage campaign said it has received information that web sites affiliated with the Traditional Values Coalition, California Election Forum and Christian Voter Guide through the Defense Department computers in Iraq.

Courage Campaign acted on a tip from a prospective Californian voter deployed to Iraq.

“It is an enormous problem because the election on California is extremely important,” Rick Jacobs, the founder of Courage Campaign, said in an interview.

Earlier this week Jacobs wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates demanding that access to our website be restored. Courage Campaign has not received a response. The letter was cc’d to President Obama, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and key members of the California Congressional delegation. Here’s the letter:

The Hill posits a possible explanation for the blockage:

However, there could be other possible explanations for the blocked site, such as an automatic filter that sifts through specific words. The Courage Campaign site uses multiple references to “sex” (as in same-sex marriages) and “gay” (as in anti-gay, or gay rights). The site also contains information and action items on the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members.

However, other sites that also use the words “sex” and “gay” – including the right-wing sites listed above – are not blocked. Hell, if you are going to merely block a site because it has multiple references to “gay” and “sex” you’d be blocking the New York Times, CNN, and Wikipedia, to name just a few.

We at Courage Campaign have been given no explanation for what is going on here. Needless to say, it is extremely troubling. Voters have a right to access our guide, and soldiers and other support personnel in Iraq (or anywhere else, for that matter) have a right to access our site and others like it. If this is a matter of political censorship, it has no place in our armed forces.

With Tuesday’s election looming and our troops filling out ballots in Iraq, we are going to stop at nothing to make the site – and our voter guide – accessible to American soldiers who want to vote.

67 Comments October 30, 2010

Police think noose hung on EQCA door nothing more than a string

All you have to remember is this

NOM supporter's sign

… to be even more shocked and appalled by this news out of California, cross-posted from Karen Ocamb’s LGBTPOV. — Eden

By Karen Ocamb

EQCA NooseMel Distel, a 25 year old volunteer with Equality California’s Orange County office in Santa Ana, was startled to find a noose hanging from the office doorknob Thursday night. Frightened, she called police. Here’s what she said happened next:

“The officer said “what it is, is a string on a door.” My vision got blurry, I was embarrased and felt stupid for making the call. I took a deep breath and said “Do you see any correlation between the fact that this is a gay office and there was a noose left on our door in the wake of all of these teen suicides?” The officer said, “Sometimes you just have to live with being a victim,” and proceeded to mention that his car had been broken into before. As if that’s the same. As if having your stereo stolen is anything like the message “You should kill yourself.” As if random theft is anything like an act meant to convey hate and stir up fear in the heart of a minority group.”

EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors is outraged and intends to file a complaint with the Santa Ana Police for how their officers handled this matter. Kors said in a press release:

“[T]he dismissive and deeply offensive conduct of the police officer who responded to this incident is nothing short of appalling and sends the message that LGBT community members cannot rely on the police for protection against the kind of hatred and prejudice that can lead to violence.

We urge all Orange County residents to join us in demanding that Santa Ana Chief of Police Paul Walters conduct a thorough investigation into what appears to be an atrocious hate crime, to investigate and discipline the officer in question and to ensure that all officers are properly trained on how to appropriately handle all bias-motivated crimes against LGBT community members moving forward.”

Here’s how Mel described what happened on EQCA’s Facebook page:Mel EQCA

What Happened Tonight: Hanging a Noose on Someone’s Door is Not a Crime

by Mel Distel on Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 10:36pm

I’m still shaking as I write this. I feel confused.

Click into the extended entry to read Mel’s full description of what happened:
(more…)

89 Comments October 30, 2010

NBC Texas TV station “apologizes” for airing “downfall of America” segment

by Andy Kelley
New Media Organizer, Courage Campaign

GLAAD has the details:

On Friday, October 29, KETK-56, the NBC affiliate in Tyler, Texas, issued an on-air apology in response to GLAAD’s request that the station take responsibility for an appalling eight-minute, anti-gay segment that appeared on Wednesday morning’s newscast. The segment originated on-the-air of radio partner KTBB 92.1 FM and was simulcast on KETK. On Thursday, October 28, KTBB President Paul Gleiser issued a written apology on behalf of the station.

From Dave Tillery, General Manager, KETK:

“This past Wednesday, our radio partner – KTBB – presented a Talkback question regarding homosexuality. That question was also simulcast during our morning news broadcast. Many of our viewers and their [KTBB’s] listeners found the wording of that question to be offensive. We understand and respect their comments. We have discussed these comments with KTBB and agree that the question was poorly worded. For that, they have apologized. And since the question also appeared on our air, we are sorry for any offense that was taken.”

“We are sorry for any offense that was taken.” In other words, “we’re sorry if YOU have a problem with what we said.”

That’s almost word-for-word what KTBB Talkback said yesterday in its apology. As many of you noted in the comments yesterday, Talkback’s “apology” not only lacked sincerity, it continued to expound the homophobic notions stirred up by their segment.

As Fiona wrote in the comments last night, it would have been far better for the apology to read: “We regret any offense that we caused.

KTBB’s apology also included a litany of right-wing scare tactics about gays in our society, exposing fear, and false conceptions, to further their own beliefs. They went on to say they realized some areas weren’t open for discussion, such as homosexuality in general, but that certain political issues could be discussed, such as “The proper role, IF ANY, for openly gay individuals in the military.” If any? If ANY?

But that’s not the end of the story. Late last night, KETK filed a copyright claim for the rights of the video of their segment posted to Youtube. It would be too much to hope this was a sign of remorse, as opposed to an attempt to further obfuscate their actions from public scrutiny. (Fortunately a flash version of the video can still be viewed here on our site.)

As for NBC Universal, KETK’s parent company, one has to wonder why they have yet to address the actions of their East Texas affiliate. I for one, think it’s past time for action.

38 Comments October 29, 2010

It’s over: Fear and loathing on the NOM “Judge Bus” Tour finally comes to an end

By Arisha Michelle Hatch

The fear and loathing on the NOM “Judge Bus” Tour has finally come to an end. Well, the tour ended, but not the fear and loathing, of course.

In Davenport, the Judge Bus pulled into Lafayette Park. Steve King and Tony Perkins addressed the audience of 24, several of whom waved checkered flags to signify the last leg of the tour. Twenty-seven equality supporters waved handmade signs, chanted and sang throughout the program before attending their own rally.

Iowa NOM Tour Tracker- Davenport #1

“There wasn’t many of us here, but God was here…and [we were] also in the innumerable company of angels who we cannot see physically,” said one NOM supporter from Illinois.

Next, the Judge Bus pulled into a parking lot just outside of the Port of Burlington Visitor Center and was greeted by it’s largest crowd of the tour, a group of 72 attendees listened to King and Perkins make their usual comments.

Iowa NOM Tour Tracker- Burlington #2

At the end of the rally, a local unidentified man was given the microphone and felt compelled to point out the NOM Tour Trackers to the crowd and warned attendees from speaking to us. He kept referring to us as “Wonk Room,” our friends at Think Progress, but we appreciated the gesture nonetheless.

I waved.

Their largest rally was followed by their smallest.

Chuck Hurley, Steve King, Bob Vander Plaats and Tony Perkins met 4 people (and a rather large dog) in a park in Ottumwa.

Iowa NOM Tour Tracker- Ottumwa #1

In Pella, at the next whistlestop, we spoke to a teenager who was one of 23 attendees agreed to go on camera to give us the youth perspective. She too was deeply concerned about activist judges, but was unable to name a single decision other than the same-sex marriage decision that she disagreed with.

Iowa NOM Tour Tracker- Pella #2

For the final stop of the tour, the Judge Bus returned to the city it started in Des Moines, hosting a rally in front of the Iowa Supreme Court.

Sixty-five NOM supporters joined Vander Plaats, Perkins and Tamara Scott from Concerned Women for America.

Perkins again focused on unimagined rights language from the decision.
“It’s fine to have Goofy and Dumbo at Disneyland, but not on the bench,” he said to applause.

Iowa NOM Tour Tracker- Des Moines (again) #3

Scott then offered one of my favorite moments from the tour. She was leading the crowd through a call and response exercise in which she’d ask a question to which the audience was supposed to respond “No.”

“Are you anti like the media makes you out to be?”

“No,” the audience screamed with zero sense of irony.

It was the only time I laughed out loud during the speeches. I don’t know, maybe you had to be there.

As a final cherry on top of this tour, check out this Judge Bus compilation of interviews, featuring the always entertaining Bob Vander Plaats at the beginning — and a shout-out to all of us at “Wonk Room,” er, Courage’s NOM Tour Tracker:

Thanks

33 Comments October 29, 2010

VIDEO: Iowans tell NOM to “go home!” and “leave us alone!”

Cross posted at NOM Exposed

By HRC

In Council Bluffs, we had the privilege of speaking with Reva and Ingrid Evans Olson–whom you might remember were plaintiffs in Iowa’s marriage lawsuit that paved the way for marriage equality in Iowa.

During our chat, Ingrid didn’t mince words when asked her views of the National Organization for Marriage. They should just “go home.”

A second couple Mike Howell and Hersh Rodasky–together for 29 years and married in Iowa–agreed. “These people from out of state need to leave us alone.”

26 Comments October 29, 2010

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