Politics: July 2010 Archives

George Tooker Landscape with Figures 1965-1966 egg tempera on pressed wood 25.5" x 29.5"

we are alone . . . but we are not alone

Their nightmare began only two years ago, and no one can undue the psychological damage done to Clay Green and Harold Scull or return to the surviving spouse the home and virtually all the property and personal possessions the two men had shared for 20 years, but their injuries have finally been acknowledged.

Last Friday, just two days before his suit would have been opened in court, California's Sonoma County, agreed to a settle Greene's complaint out of court, for the amount of $653,000. Greene will retain $275,000, his lawyers will take $300,000*, and Scull's estate will be given the remainder. It was announced in the San Francisco Chronicle that the nursing home will pay $53,000, but it was not made clear where it will end up.

Greene's suit against Sonoma had claimed that his sexual orientation was the reason social workers had separated him and his dying partner and why the county had summarily sold off their belongings, including shared personal mementos.

Under the terms of the agreement Sonoma County did not admit it had discriminated against the two elderly men, but the county's lawyer, Gregory Spaulding admitted that there had been “procedural errors” in the disposal of the property.

The Sonoma County Press Democrat** reports that Spaulding said that the error had led to policy improvements at the Public Guardian's office regarding property disposition and case management, but that he had also spoken on the subject of the Harold and Clay's own status before the law:

He said the dispute might have been avoided if the men had been able to be legally married or if they had registered as domestic partners. Because they weren't, their funds were viewed as separate, he said.

“Marital status played a role in what options were available to them,” Spaulding said.

In my April post I pointed out that, while Harold and Clay may not, and today could not, have been married, they had been a couple for 25 years and ". . . had taken the precaution of naming each other both beneficiaries of their respective estates and agents for medical decisions, and the authorities still proceeded as if they had no personal or legal relationship."

Barry and I know any number of heterosexual couples as friends, and we occasionally ask them whether they have ever had to prove they were married. They inevitably answer no, that they are never asked to furnish copies of their marriage certificates. Some of them in fact had never actually married, and yet they have been able to take advantage of all of the perquisites which are attached to a state which is supposedly carefully circumscribed by law.

People like Harold and Clay - and Barry and James, our friends Jill and Gabriella and others, and millions of other couples around the world - don't even get to be asked.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco had represented Greene, and Amy Todd-Gher was his lawyer, so I'm wondering about this compensation figure.

I and a number of other bloggers had complained months ago that like most of the commercial media, the Sonoma County, New York Times-owned paper, the Press Democrat, had long refused to cover this story altogether. The paper has finally acquitted itself with its coverage of the settlement, but this excerpt from the paper's July 22 post however is a bit disingenuous:

The case grabbed national media attention with its shocking claims of abuse at the hands of those meant to protect the frail and vulnerable. Gay rights groups pummeled county officials with strident e-mail and some threatened a boycott on county tourism and wines.

Although the suit was filed in August 2009, it didn't become widely known until a report about it ran in April on the website of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

[image from eric reber]

America's backyard

We still haven't heard one peep from the commercial media/entertainment news corporations (even the simple fact that something's happening), but Mark Vorpahl has written an articulate and persuasive description of what's really behind the U.S. flotilla en route to the southern Caribbean (Mare Nostrum, or our "Fourth Shore"), "The U. S. Military Moves Into Costa Rica".

I am entirely in agreement with his conclusions. Anyone who would prefer not to be completely surprised by another shooting war, or the next U.S.-backed coup attempt, should read what he has to say.

An excerpt:

Most of these measures [recent U.S. military operations in Central and northern South America] have been justified on the grounds of combating drug trafficking, including the military buildup in Costa Rica. However, they have not curtailed this problem at all. Such U.S. military buildups have generally been accompanied by an increase in drug trafficking, as has happened in both Columbia and Afghanistan. Based on this record it can only be concluded that the "War on Drugs" rationale is a red herring for public relations consumption, not the actual motivation.

This military build up in Costa Rica is the latest in a series of moves the U.S. has made in Latin America that seeks to use threats and arms to reverse the strength of popular anti-imperialist forces across the region. The U.S. is playing with the possibility of erupting a continental conflagration for the sake of corporate profits.

While it is doubtful that the U.S. wants to directly engage in a military conflict with, most likely, Venezuela right now, preparations for this possibility are being made. What is more likely in the short term is that the U.S. military will use its forces to engage in sabotage and intimidation in hopes of reversing support for the nations aligned with ALBA. It is also very possible that the U.S. military will help to support proxy armies, such as Colombia's, in military conflicts that align with U.S. interests. However, this is a dangerous game. Even in the short term, the U.S. ruling class may drag the nation into another direct conflict, in spite of their intentions, that could spread to involve numerous other nations.

[image from Map of the United States (the irony was not likely intended)]

Coca (Erythroxylum coca)


This extended discussion on Upside Down World, published July 15, includes a statement that the idea of the U.S. military presence did not originate in a request from Costa Rica; rather it was initiated by the U.S. in a diplomatic request from the US Embassy made on July 1.

Also, in its own post on the Costa Rican story [in Spanish, but easily translated], the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz describes the operation as "continuing the process of the militarization of Central America" and refers to it as a part of the continuing U.S. agenda for Latin America, which has recently seen the establishment of seven bases in Colombia, intensified militarization in Honduras and Haiti, the announcement of new bases in Panama.

On July 2nd the Congress of Costa Rica authorized the entry of 46 U.S. warships capable of carrying 200 helicopters and warplanes, plus 7,000 U.S. Marines "who may circulate the country in uniform without any restrictions", plus submarine killer ships, to the Costa Rican coast for "anti-narcotics operations and humanitarian missions".

Where's the outrage? Actually, where in fact is the news?

I have not found a single line on this story anywhere in the MSM.

I think the media silence is probably the first thing which should be questioned (have we all, including the world at large, become inured to yet another attestation to the expanding American imperial lust?).

But I am just as shocked by the news itself. Why is this happening?

Is it because we've done so well with both our former and continuing foreign wars and interventions? Is it because we've done so well with our internal war on drugs, or because our impact on the drug traffic in other countries has been so benevolent?

Or does it actually have nothing to do with interventions, or drugs? I'd like to hear from people who are familiar with Costa Rica and have followed the events about which we currently hear nothing.

So far Costa Rica is only asking for "help", but remember how "helpful" our innate imperialist impulse has been elsewhere for two centuries. I can't imagine why any Latin American country would actually welcome the arrival of the U.S. military, unless of course there were banana kings running things at the top, or at least a right-wing regime, and they/it were worried about losing control. Oh, wait, bananas are still a major Costa Rican export, and the government, while enlightened, is still composed of members of an entrenched oligarchy, and by most accounts its biggest concern lately has been "security".

The current president, Laura Chinchilla Miranda, who follows the modest centrist welfare policies of the National Liberation Party and promises to continue the free-trade policies of her predecessor, Óscar Arias, is a social conservative who opposes abortion and gay marriage. But, more significant to the story of her nation's call for U.S. Military help, she ran on a platform which promised to be tough on crime, and it included a larger and more professional law enforcement establishment. Sworn in two and a half months ago, one of her first acts was to create the nation's first anti-drug "czar", whose office is a part of the cabinet.

For half a century Costa Rica had enjoyed peace and political stability, and, overall an impressive growth in economic prosperity and social welfare systems, but beginning in the 90's the country began to witness the rise of its own version of American neo-liberalism, which threatens the moderate socialism built up in the previous decades. It all sounds very American to me. The only thing missing was a security panic of their own and an indigenous drug war, and they've just ordered both.

But not everyone in Costa Rica is happy.

For a good discussion of the issues (with some reservation about a mostly-irrelevant postscriptive remark about the brave and unselfish volunteers in uniform), go to Costa Rica Blogger.

[all thanks to artist Pedro Velez for the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz post alert]

[image from Wikipedia]

Bayard Rustin's 1953 mug shot*

The CEO of an Atlanta credit union, on a visit to New Jersey for his 30th high school reunion, has been shot and killed in a Newark park by an undercover policeman. The alleged sex-related incident ended in the senseless death of an unarmed man, DeFarra Gaymon, a successful businessman and a married father of four.

The official explanation, delivered by the acting Essex County prosecutor (that the officer, trying to arrest Gaymon for lewd behavior, had fired in self-defense), makes no sense, and even if the pieces could be fitted together they suggest a world I thought had disappeared decades ago: I remember what many urban parks looked like after dark half a century back, I know that the police played them for sport, and I know the combination could destroy lives, but it's now 2010. This Essex County park is located in a state which by most accounts ranks at the very top in the nation in laws extending equality and civil rights to both the gay and black communities (yes, the victim was black), and I thought we now had better uses for our constabulary - and that we could still afford real uniforms.

Actually, 57 years ago Bayard Rustin got off much easier than DeFarra Gaymon, whatever the unfortunate Atlanta businessman was doing in the park last Friday night.

According to the New York Times story, "The officer, whose name was not released because of his undercover work, had been on what is not usually a particularly dangerous assignment, scouring the park, in northern Newark, for men seeking sex." The Times also tells us: "The officer and his partner were patrolling the park in plain clothes, part of an operation that has been going on for years, said Mr. [Robert D.] Laurino, the prosecutor."

And that would be, . . . an assignment to arrest men who have no interest in frightening the horses. In the email he sent out before dawn this morning my friend, the activist Bill Dobbs, reminds us that "Those who seek hookups in such locales traditionally shield their activities from uninterested parties."

The Essex County sheriffs have been very interested for years. May we ask why?

The whole incident stinks, and the only hope for justice, and reform of current police tactics, is the power of the presumed outrage of both Gaymon's family and the community or communities targeted by a law enforcement agency.

In his letter, Dobbs asks:

What exactly was this undercover officer doing in a park known for cruising? Uniformed cops are safer and more effective for such situations – less danger when an arrest is made since cops identities are clear. Who approved this undercover operation? Was it a ‘sting’ operation, enticing men and then arresting them? Was the cop given this assignment considered attractive to other men? Were there backup officers involved? What does the NJ gay lobby think about this? The only person who seems to be quoted on NJ matters gay, Steven Goldstein, is so rabidly and single-mindedly pro-gay marriage - will he and the state-wide gay political group Garden State Equality speak about an alleged sex-related incident that ended in the death of an unarmed African American man? According to the Star Ledger newspaper several hundred arrests have been made in that park over a year and a half, where has Garden State Equality been? How much money has been wasted on this operation?

Additional links:

The (Newark-based) Star-Ledger

Atlanta Journal Constitution

The image at the top is of Bayard Rustin's mug shot. His Wikipedia entry reads, in part:

In 1953, Rustin was arrested in Pasadena, California for homosexual activity. Originally charged with vagrancy and lewd conduct, he pleaded guilty to a single, lesser charge of "sex perversion" (as consensual sodomy was officially referred to in California then) and served 60 days in jail.

[image from GBMNews]

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from July 2010.

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