Bachmann Staffer Arrested For Terrorism

Denny Rehberg’s role model, Michele Bachmann, besides being an habitual liar, seems to be headed for a little Bachmanngate…. From The Atlantic:

The evangelical organizer who helped Michele Bachmann win the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa Saturday was previously charged with terrorism in Uganda after being arrested for possession of assault rifles and ammunition in February 2006, just days before Uganda’s first multi-party elections in 20 years.

Peter E. Waldron spent 37 days in the Luriza Prison outside Kampala, where he says he was tortured, after being arrested along with six Congolese and Ugandan nationals for the weapons, which were described variously in news reports as having been found in his bedroom or a closet in his home. The charges, which could have led to life in prison, were dropped in March 2006 after a pressure campaign by Waldron’s friends and colleagues and what Waldron says was the intervention of the Bush administration. He was released and deported from the east African nation, along with the Congolese. On Saturday, Waldron told The Atlantic in Ames that he was a staffer for Bachmann and responsible for her faith-based organizing both in Iowa and South Carolina. But he also declined repeatedly to give his name.

Oh, and it gets much more interesting. Full Story here.

But before you think you’ve got it all figured out- think again. Andrew Rice gives us even more:

Peter Waldron, an evangelical minister who told the publication that he is doing outreach on Bachmann’s behalf to the born-again community, spent more than a month in Kampala’s Luzira Prison in 2006, and possesses a resume more in keeping with a spy novel than a presidential campaign. Among other things, the Atlantic item reports, Waldron is now promoting an autobiographical movie on his website that asks, teasingly, “was he a businessman, a preacher, a spy?” Franke-Ruta adds that “one man who knew Waldron in 2004 told The St. Petersburg Times in 2006 that Waldron had told him he used to work for the CIA.”

I bring this up because I happen to be that man who knew Waldron.

Saying that I “knew” Waldron is putting it a little strongly: I met him in 2004 in the course of writing an article on the evangelical movement in Uganda, where we both lived at the time. The piece was published in The New Republic, and is now regrettably behind a paywall. (Update: Link here. Thanks to TNR and Ben Smith.)

To summarize, it was in part an examination of Muslim-Christian relations in the country and also a profile of Martin Ssempa, a popular, controversial and publicity-savvy Ugandan preacher who seemed emblematic of the a wave of fervent Christianity that has lately been sweeping Africa. Ssempa invited me to his church on the campus of Makerere University one Sunday, where he was joined by a curious guest: Waldron. The American’s role in the story was cut down a bit in the editing process, but since the question of how he presented himself at the time now seems important, I’ll reproduce below what I wrote about him in my first draft of the article, back when our interaction was fresh on my mind.

Looks like this guy represents something we’ve all come to see in Bachmann’s campaign- denial of the facts/reality in favor of extremist ideological fantasy. Rice sums it up perfectly:

When I look back now, my impression of him remains now what it was then, which is that he was a particularly flamboyant example of an archetypal character: the American who goes to Africa, a continent where a little money and a lot of talk can buy substantial power, in search of a position of influence.

It eluded him in Uganda, but maybe now he’s found it back home, with the Bachmann campaign.

I wonder how long Denny’s pal is going to be able to take this. And whether Rehberg will have the wits to distance himself from Bachmann… Anyway, his full article here.

 

 

Oslo: Something To Remember

I’ve been struggling to find a meaningful way to discuss the Oslo/Utoya tragedy- and I’m at the point of simply admitting the sheer frustration I have with my abilities as a writer, as a therapist, as a commentator- and as a human being. Maybe you’re there, too.

I want to know things that may be impossible to know: What created Anders Behring Breivik? Or, at least, what caused him to turn an automatic rifle towards children- strangers, innocents- and begin firing? What can prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future?

It’s not easy, but to glean anything from the news reports and the writings of Breivik himself is to come up with large fistfuls of chaff and a few measly chunks of nutritive information. The temptation to run with them is strong. The temptation to demonize right-wing extremists and to create parallels in the U.S.- where none may exist- is almost aching in its pull. The desire to condemn this violence as something entirely opposite from my particular political and social point of view is hard to ignore. And yet, for all these strong temptations, I can’t get past one thing.

What terrifies me most is that it happened in Norway.

“The country maintains a Nordic welfare model  with universal health care, subsidized higher education, and a comprehensive social security system. From 2001 to 2007,[13] and then again in 2009 and 2010, Norway had the highest human development index ranking in the world.”

This is not a country of people who are suffering from great numbers of the hungry, homeless, uneducated and uninsured. This is one of the most prosperous (human condition-wise) countries in the world. It has one of the strongest safety nets- if not the strongest- in the world for the protection of its citizens.

If such a tragedy could happen there- then what does that mean for the rest of the world?

I don’t know. And I’m not sure we’ll ever know.

I do know that all the laws in the world, all the tightening of regulations and of loopholes and sterner conviction and punishment policies won’t do one thing: they won’t mend the damage that has happened to people who now look at the stranger on the street with mistrust and fear.

What will?

Perhaps a reminder that this man became divorced from the human race in favor of an ideology. That he couldn’t see the suffering of fellow creatures as something relevant- because his beliefs and ideologies drowned them out- displacing compassion and even, I would argue, his humanity. It’s what we’ve seen before, it’s what we see now- subtle sometimes, but definitely present:

Ideology crowding out humanity.

We see it in political strategies and campaigns. It is visible in church policies, legal precedents, economics, social commentary- you name it, it’s probably there.

When ideology displaces humanity, our soul- our safety net- has departed.

I would suggest that the only way to get beyond this universal tragedy is to learn its lesson. And, it may be simpler than we think. To paraphrase Jesus of Nazareth, “People were not made for the law, but law is made for the good of the people.” All people. All human beings. Not just some. Not just one race, one gender, one sexuality, one religion, one political party, one country, etc.

The tragedy is in forgetting- forgetting that we’re all in this together. And arguably, every historical attempt to negate that simple statement has ended in tragedy. I will not bring in the dramatic historical examples you may be thinking of right now. That would be too easy. And this, for being such a simple concept, is obviously not so easy- or we wouldn’t be talking about it right now.

We only remember when horrifying tragedies like this make us stand up and take notice.

And that, I think, is the greatest tragedy of all.

When Was The Last Time A Christian’s House Was Burned Down?

I know. Provocative question.

But I can’t help asking it when I see stories of deliberate arson evicting LGBT’s from the safety of their homes. I also ask the question (appropriately modified) when I see ant-queer graffiti, read about harassment and beatings involving people who are too much like me to make me feel beyond it.

This house, owned by a gay couple in Clayton, North Carolina was destroyed early Friday morning. The story is here.

There was a history of anti-gay messages, graffiti, harassment and vandalism before the blaze. The couple is not identified for “fear of their safety”. The neighbor who talked to the reporter also did so only anonymously. We are afraid.

And the Christianists call us a threat- among other nasty things.

So for the purposes of argument I will ask the following questions to those who believe equality only applies to white, heterosexual, cis-gendered, procreating, (&etc) Christians:

  • When was the last time a group of LGBTIQ persons beat up a straight person?
  • When did Graffiti with the word “Breeders” adorn the house of a straight family?
  • When did a gay terrorist group burn down a Christian house just because they were Christian?
  • When did an LGBT Pastor make the news for slandering and approving of violence against straights?
  • Etc, etc.

But the reverse? Happens all the time. And we take it. Mostly, we do.

Fucked, ain’t it?

And I can’t help but feeling if we don’t get our act together and start acting like a community instead of picking little fights all over the place, squabbling over minutiae that, in the final analysis makes little difference (check the comments section of any LGBT blog), it’s going to continue to get worse.

I am not advocating that we become terrorists, or engage in any similar behavior, only that we be radically truthful. Self-defensive, if you will.

I know. Go ahead. That’s what the comments section is for.

McCarthyism In It’s Latest Manifestation: A Christian Minority Persecution Of Gay People

Guest Post
I am so angry. I am angry because I am tired of the relentless attacks by alleged Christians, who profess to belief and follow the precepts of their collective idealogical/theological standards as spelled out in the tenets of their “holy” book. They do not.
What I see, is yet another form of McCarthyism cloaked in pseudo religious form, being used to demonize, victimise, and ostracise the gay men, women, transgendered,bisexual, persons, who, according to their narrow interpretative beliefs and practise of Christianity are inherently evil.
Today, again, were two absolutely stunning examples displaying nothing but naked hatred for LGBTQ human beings. First from the Southern Poverty Law Centre’s listed hate group Family Research Council’s Peter Spriggs, an editorial in this morning’s Baltimore Sun newspaper railing against marriage equality in Maryland. This was followed by this afternoon’s vote by the Iowa House of Representatives on a proposed Iowan constitutional amendment to not only just ban same-sex marriage, but also nullify marriages that have already taken place in that state since equality rights were granted.
Here is an except from the editorial by FRC’s Spriggs:

“Opposite-sex relationships are the only type capable of producing children through natural intercourse and the only ones assured of providing children with both a mother and a father. Affirming only opposite-sex relationships as ‘marriage’ thus makes perfect sense. But affirming same-sex relationships as ‘marriages’ makes no sense. These relationships are incapable of producing children through their sexual union.

And while some homosexual couples do raise children (most of whom were conceived in previous heterosexual relationships), such arrangements by definition deprive a child of his or her birthright to be raised by both a biological mother and father. Maryland may choose to tolerate and even protect such unconventional childrearing by allowing adoption by homosexual partners or couples. But it has no obligation to actively affirm and celebrate (through ‘marriage’) the deliberate creation of permanently motherless or fatherless families.”

This bigot’s equating a civil marriage license to bearing children is fallacious. The divorce rate in the US is 54%. Every divorce in a marriage with children deprives a child of a full-time mother and father. The out-of-wedlock birthrate in the US is 40%. If Mr. Spriggs is so concerned about the children, why is he not working to make divorce more difficult, and removing children from single-parent households? The truth is, the divorce of 54% of American marriages does much more harm than the <3% of the population who are gay (and probably less than half of those want to get married and half of those that marry would want kids–so that’s less than 1% of the population.)
Marriage is about the uniting of two lives together. The state has no requirement and no expectations that a married couple will have children. A childless marriage is as valid in the eyes of the state as a marriage with 12 children. Couples who can’t have, or don’t want children don’t view their marriages as ‘fake’. People get married because they meet someone they want to spend the rest of their lives with. A person who divorces his/her spouse because the spouse is infertile would be seen as an arse.
Many people who grew up in abusive homes would attest that the simple fact of having a ‘natural’ mother and father present does not guarantee that a child will be loved and nurtured.

These are the same arguments that have been trotted out by the proponents of Proposition 8. It fails to account for centuries of family law that accord rights and responsibilities to siblings, grandparents, adopted parents, and many many many other people who have nothing to do with the actual procreation of the child, and, yes, even to same-sex parents of children. And if marriage were purely for procreation, why would childless couples allowed to married, or at least why a marriage certificate isn’t merely a “learner’s permit”, and no rights or responsibilities conferred until a child is produced?And also failing is to show how any mechanism barring same sex couples from marrying achieves this goal.

Is he really proposing that if homosexual couples were allowed to marry, that it heterosexuals would somehow fail to produce children? It’s akin to say that by allowing interracial couples to marry, that that would somehow hurt white couples? There is no mechanism which would cause either, and both are just grounded in irrational discrimination.

“The Constitution is meant to protect the freedoms and liberties of all Iowans,” she said after the bill passed. “It is inappropriate to use the political process to single out and deny a group of Iowans of their constitutional protections.” ~ Carolyn Jenison, Executive Director of the LGBT-rights group One Iowa.

Let’s leave the Maryland situation and Sprigg’s bull-feces for a moment and look at Iowa where a constitutional ban on gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships passed the Iowa House this afternoon in a 62-37 vote. Three democrats joined 59 Republicans in support of the measure. Thirty-seven Democrats voted “no,” and one Republican was absent.
The Iowa Independent reports:

After discussing his belief that marriage is about “responsible procreation,” state Rep. Rich Anderson (R-Clarinda) asked what could come next if the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage is allowed to stand. He concluded that it would lead to legalized polygamy and incest.

I could also cite the example of Dean Cannon, the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, who wants to return the ban on adoption by Gay & Lesbian couples.
Cannon discussed his views in an interview with the Florida Baptist Witness news outlet, where he said that the Republican-controlled legislature would be prepared to attempt to resurrect the adoption ban depending on how the issue plays out in more court districts or the administration of Governor Rick Scott.

“Until we know how the governor and DCF secretary are going to apply it, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the Legislature should step in,” said Cannon. “If we think we should, we’re certainly prepared and willing to do so.”

Plus, add in the battles in New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, California and apparently also the District of Columbia as now a GOP lawmaker on the House committee that oversees matters pertaining to Washington wants to revisit the city’s same-sex marriage law.
Then there is the bullying in schools all over the United States specifically aimed at kids who are either Gay or “perceived” to be Gay.
What we have now is McCarthyism in its latest manifestation and without a doubt, even more ugly. This is state sanctioned persecutions of human beings based on beliefs that ought to be held separate from governmental operations and practise but aren’t due to the overwhelming need by a very small minority that are in a state of absolute lust  to be set in power over the majority.

McCarthyism n. The practice of publicizing accusations of political disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence.

In this case, the political being augmented by alleged theological disloyalty because after-all, homosexuality is a sin right?
What part of the U. S. IS NOT a Christian nation do these morons not get? I was speaking to a friend and whose principle work is as an LGBTQ activist in Utah. Brave fellow that eh? Utah is ground zero and he said and I believe him, until we find a practical way to counter the Mormons and their money, looking at the National Organization for Marriage as an example, and find a unified voice, then this form of McCarthyism will continue to roll over all of the equality rights of the LGBTQ people, not just the marriage ones either.

Harvey Milk once said that Gay people need to come out. Why? Simply because this is how the perceptions of evil and sick and any other twisted definition the Reich-wing comes up with targeting gays, lesbians, bis, trans, persons can be stripped away and exposed for the outright bigotry and lies they are. When people can relate to one another as human beings and not some form of vague ideological vitriol, then the humanity shines not the bigotry.

We need to target Mom, Pop, Apple pie, and Chevrolet driving folk because they are the ones we need to accept us, as ourselves…fellow human beings.
But, until the LGBTQ community gets its act together, gets its message across to those who really need to hear it and not the Christianazis like Spriggs, or those GOP extremists, or NOM, then we all will continue to lose and this nasty McCarthyism will continue to reign unchecked.

Bully

I knew it when I saw it
-I always do.
Especially when it’s waved
in front of my face.
Flaunted and taunting.

I hit it. Like on TV.
I yelled inside “Ha!”
When it went down,
Shaking, trembling,
though I hit with words.

But next time I hit
It will be better.
I hear the words, firing me up
to go beyond them,
to hurt more than hearts.

I feel my body tense,
Muscles knowing more
How to put it in it’s place
Than words ever can.
I believe my story about it.

It goes down because it has to.
It has to because if it doesn’t,
It will be me, a person.
And that won’t happen
When I can steal power.

~D Gregory Smith