pageok
pageok
pageok
U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown Apologizes for Conviction of Alan Turing:

The statement:

2009 has been a year of deep reflection — a chance for Britain, as a nation, to commemorate the profound debts we owe to those who came before. A unique combination of anniversaries and events have stirred in us that sense of pride and gratitude which characterise the British experience. Earlier this year I stood with Presidents Sarkozy and Obama to honour the service and the sacrifice of the heroes who stormed the beaches of Normandy 65 years ago. And just last week, we marked the 70 years which have passed since the British government declared its willingness to take up arms against Fascism and declared the outbreak of World War Two. So I am both pleased and proud that, thanks to a coalition of computer scientists, historians and LGBT activists, we have this year a chance to mark and celebrate another contribution to Britain's fight against the darkness of dictatorship; that of code-breaker Alan Turing.

Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of 'gross indecency' — in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence — and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison — was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.

I am proud that those days are gone and that in the last 12 years this government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal for our LGBT community. This recognition of Alan's status as one of Britain's most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue.

But even more than that, Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united, democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once the theatre of mankind's darkest hour. It is difficult to believe that in living memory, people could become so consumed by hate — by anti-Semitism, by homophobia, by xenophobia and other murderous prejudices — that the gas chambers and crematoria became a piece of the European landscape as surely as the galleries and universities and concert halls which had marked out the European civilisation for hundreds of years. It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe's history and not Europe's present.

So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work I am very proud to say: we're sorry, you deserved so much better.

Geoffrey Pullum (Language Log) elaborates:

Turing did indeed deserve so much better. He created modern theoretical computer science; opened fundamental new areas of mathematical logic; made very important contributions to other areas of mathematics (e.g., the technique known as Good-Turing frequency estimation in statistics); and most importantly, he gave up his academic work during the Second World War to work at Bletchley Park on the extremely difficult task of decrypting German communications encrypted with the Enigma machine. The Bletchley Park team did succeed, and thus the Royal Navy became able to read the content of all the Nazis' messages to U-boats in the North Atlantic. It was a crucial turning point in the war. But a mere seven years later, a young man shared Turing's bed for the night in Manchester, and later helped someone burgle the house, and Turing naively reported the theft to the police. The police reaction was to arrest Turing, because they guessed what had been going on. "Gross indecency" was the charge (it is the British legal euphemism for cocksucking). Turing had a choice between serving prison time or agreeing to chemical castration, a medicalized "cure" for his presumed abnormality. He bore the latter for two years and then took cyanide. The way British mid-20th-century sex law drove him to suicide was genuinely something for the country to be ashamed of. It was good to see the official apology (which hundreds of eminent scientists had asked the Prime Minister to express).

Plus, as Pullum says, "That's how to say it ...: not a bunch of evasive mumbling about how unfortunate it all was, but a simple 'We're sorry.'"

Mark N. (www):
That's a pretty well done apology, I agree. I guess despite his general reputation as not well endowed in the rhetoric department (especially compared to his predecessor), Brown can put something together nonetheless.

I do wonder if we're drawing somewhat too narrow a lesson, though. It seems much of the narrative is something like: we used to think homosexuality was extremely immoral, and we did bad things to Turing as a result; but we now think differently, so apologize for persecuting him on a mistaken basis.

But isn't there something to regret about his treatment per se? That is, it's not just that he was persecuted on a mistaken basis, but that his treatment by the state should be troubling even if the basis had been justifiable.
9.11.2009 3:41pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
Simple and straightforward. Best for everyone.
9.11.2009 3:43pm
Unknown (mail) (www):
Turing indeed made great contributions to the world but he wasn't just tried for being gay, he was also a pedophile.
9.11.2009 4:02pm
Per Son:
Unknown:

He was convicted of sleeping with a 19-year-old. Since when does that make one a pedophile?
9.11.2009 4:06pm
Steve:
Turing was one of the great ones. What a tragedy.
9.11.2009 4:08pm
Anon21:
Unknown:
Turing indeed made great contributions to the world but he wasn't just tried for being gay, he was also a pedophile.

Care to cite your source? Or is this just Drive-By Unfounded Libel Friday?
9.11.2009 4:09pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
What about all the other British homosexuals who suffered similarly but aren't still famous 50 years later?

The subtext here seems to be not that what they did was wrong in and of itself, merely that they're sorry for not granting Turing a special exemption from the treatment that people like him would otherwise deserve.

They should apologize to everyone who was ever arrested for being homosexual.
9.11.2009 4:15pm
http://volokh.com/?exclude=davidb :

I guess despite his general reputation as not well endowed in the rhetoric department (especially compared to his predecessor), Brown can put something together nonetheless.

He is underrated, in my view. I thought his address to the Joint Meeting of Congress was outstanding.
9.11.2009 4:15pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

He was convicted of sleeping with a 19-year-old. Since when does that make one a pedophile?


Everybody knows all homosexuals are pedophiles.
9.11.2009 4:18pm
Borris (mail):

Everybody knows all homosexuals are pedophiles.

You can probably blame the Greeks for that.
9.11.2009 4:20pm
Anderson (mail):
Everybody knows all homosexuals are pedophiles.

Just like all heterosexuals are pedophiles, too.
9.11.2009 4:28pm
Mark N. (www):
Actually, reading it again, while the apology part is fine, the eulogy-of-a-sort part is odd. It focuses almost exclusively on Turing's role as cryptanalyst in World War II. But this is not: 1) what he is primarily famous for; 2) what led to agitation for an apology; or 3) the work of his that was actually cut short by his suicide. On all those counts, it's his work as a pioneer of computing that gave him a leading place in the history of technology, and which was cut short by his suicide. I suppose you can just chalk it up to Brown focusing on the patriotic war-hero angle, but it's kind of weird to not at least briefly mention his role as father of modern computer science.
9.11.2009 4:31pm
Anderson (mail):
But this is not: 1) what he is primarily famous for; 2) what led to agitation for an apology; or 3) the work of his that was actually cut short by his suicide.

Brown has to sell his apology to the British public, not all of whom are completely cozy with gay folks; making Turing out to be a war hero (which he was, in a 20th-century way) helps push the injustice angle.
9.11.2009 4:40pm
ShelbyC:
@Mark N, you're sure expecting in-depth knowelege from a politician.
9.11.2009 4:41pm
dfan:

What about all the other British homosexuals who suffered similarly but aren't still famous 50 years later?

The subtext here seems to be not that what they did was wrong in and of itself, merely that they're sorry for not granting Turing a special exemption from the treatment that people like him would otherwise deserve.

They should apologize to everyone who was ever arrested for being homosexual.


"Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction."
9.11.2009 4:44pm
SeaDrive:
We might ponder if there are any behaviors being punished today that will be acceptable fifty years hence.
9.11.2009 4:44pm
Non:
Everyone knows computer scientists are gay, Mark. That's not very special. ;)
9.11.2009 4:48pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
Talk is cheap.
9.11.2009 5:02pm
rick.felt:
This was very informative. I'm adding "passing the Turing Test" to my lexicon of euphemisms.
9.11.2009 5:10pm
Geoffrey Britain (mail):
"We might ponder if there are any behaviors being punished today that will be acceptable fifty years hence."

I'll offer two; plural marriage and incest between two consenting adults
9.11.2009 5:11pm
Reposte:
Language is powerful.
9.11.2009 5:11pm
Sarcastro (www):
CS people are not gay, they just reproduce by binary fission.
9.11.2009 5:12pm
gab:
I never really knew the Alan Turing story. It's a sad one but educational. Thanks for the post.
9.11.2009 5:19pm
Pro Natura (mail):
We'll never be entirely sure why Turing committed killed himserlf. (There's even a certain ambivalence in the method he chose -- eating an apple one-half of which he'd dipped in cyanide -- which was an allusion to one of his favorite stories, Snow White.)

However, the evidence is strongly suggestive that the removal of his security clearance was the proximate cause of his suicide rather than shame or despondency resulting from the public revelation of his homosexuality and the ensuing punishment/"treatment". The loss of his security clearance prevented him from doing cutting edge work in his preferred areas of research. It's my understanding that among friends Turing was pretty open about his sexual preferences.

I'm glad that Britain has apologized to this man who contributed so much to his fellow human beings.
9.11.2009 5:27pm
Harry Schell (mail):
Another side of homosexual behavior in Britain involves Philby/Macleangroup who spied for the Russians during the 1940-60's, defecting one by one. Homosexuality was a regular orientation in the group of intellectuals Philby and Maclean ran with at Oxford (?), if my memory serves.

I was unaware of Turing's story.

It does seem that the English are far more concerned about criminals than citizens when it comes to violent crime these days.

I spent two summers working there, many trips subsequently, met some wonderful people. Hope they get things straightened out sometime.
9.11.2009 5:33pm
klw (mail):
In the UK consent age was higher for a gay relationship than heterosexual relationships.
One of the Oxford four was blackmailed into espionage over his sexuality
Keynes had no problem but according to his diaries he was indeed a pedophile
9.11.2009 5:45pm
ArthurKirkland:
Turing was entitled to enjoy his natural span of years. Who knows the contributions he might have made to society had he not been persecuted.

The bigoted and ignorant abused an innocent man and shackled every man. They will always be among us, making formal and public acts such as this one important.
9.11.2009 5:49pm
JohnKT (mail):
Anybody interested in Turing should read Andrew Hodges "Alan Turing: The Enigma."

IIRC, in addition to his work solving the Enigma, he helped break the so-called "Tunny" class cipher, a real-time teletype cipher manufactured by Lorenz.

He also did trail blazing work in biology explaining patterns like the striping of certain animals. I don't understand enough to comment further.

Do read Hodges book.

It's nice to see the apology. Long overdue.
9.11.2009 5:50pm
John McEnerney (mail):
Theater buffs of a certain age will no doubt remember Derek Jacobi's fantastic performance as Alan Turing in the Broadway play "Breaking the Code":

Breaking the Code

I didn't know the story of Turing before seeing the play—although obviously I knew of the man since I was a CS major—but it was very moving. It was also nice to see Jenny Agutter, who hadn't been heard from on this side of the pond since "Logan's Run"

The apology was long overdue. Turing was a bona fide war hero, and a genius in his field the likes of which have not been seen since.
9.11.2009 5:59pm
Sara:
I did not realize he was so young. Sad.
9.11.2009 6:04pm
Off Kilter (mail):
Perhaps in 50 years an American President will apologize to all those filling our prisons for victimless crimes.
9.11.2009 6:17pm
seadrive:
No mention of Oscar Wilde?
9.11.2009 6:34pm
seadrive:

plural marriage and incest between two consenting adults


Seems unlikely to me. Scientific advances underlie the improved understanding of homosexuality. I don't think it's likely to work that way for incest, specifically.

I think smoking marijuana may be decriminalized, but I don't foresee any high-profile apologies.
9.11.2009 6:37pm
ShelbyC:

He was convicted of sleeping with a 19-year-old. Since when does that make one a pedophile?


Well, Michael Jackson liked twenty eight year olds.
9.11.2009 6:37pm
anotherpsychdoc (mail):
So the 19 yo possibly tried to blackmail Turing into not telling the police about the burglary? And the British courts preferred obstruction of justice?
9.11.2009 6:40pm
Unknown (mail) (www):

Anon21:

Care to cite your source? Or is this just Drive-By Unfounded Libel Friday?



Yeah, let me log in to my westlaw.uk and look it up for you.


Per Son:

He was convicted of sleeping with a 19-year-old. Since when does that make one a pedophile?



In reality he was convicted for sleeping with a "teenage" boy.
9.11.2009 8:25pm
DiversityHire (mail):
Could Brown, the queen, or whomever, not pardon him as well?
9.11.2009 8:50pm
Anonymous SIGINTER:
It's long overdue.

Mark N, although he may be more famous for some of his theoretical work in information theory and computer science, I believe that what made the UK government's actions against him so egregious was specifically because of his WWII contributions. The man was an indispensible war hero, plain and simple.

I might be biased because of I recognize him as one of the pioneering giants of my job field, but to me his work at Bletchley Park is what makes him such an amazing figure. I hope GCHQ has something to honor his memory as well.
9.11.2009 9:17pm
Connie:
Diversity Hire: Gordon Brown is gay?!
9.11.2009 9:22pm
Randy R. (mail):
Unknown:" In reality he was convicted for sleeping with a "teenage" boy"

Last time I checked, nineteen is well within the range of teenager.

But we do get your point: Turing had sex with some people you find inappropriate, so it's okay that he was treated the way he was.

Thankfully, our society has evolved a bit since then, as evidenced by Brown's apology, even if some people are still stuck in that mindset.
9.11.2009 10:06pm
concerned:
Another stop on the apology tour.
9.11.2009 10:11pm
Unknown (mail) (www):

Randy R. (mail):
Unknown:" In reality he was convicted for sleeping with a "teenage" boy"

Last time I checked, nineteen is well within the range of teenager.

But we do get your point: Turing had sex with some people you find inappropriate, so it's okay that he was treated the way he was.

Thankfully, our society has evolved a bit since then, as evidenced by Brown's apology, even if some people are still stuck in that mindset.


My point is that he had sex with minors, and I'd like to see ONE CREDIBLE source that says the boy was 19. The boy was underage when the affair started and he was not the only one either. These records are not on some internet forums or websites, but you may find them in libraries in Europe.

I have a lot of respect and admiration for his work and genius as a computer science person but I don't think it's right that the pedophilia aspect of his life is being swept under the rug by the media just because he is the father of computers.
9.11.2009 10:27pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):

Another stop on the apology tour.

Of course. This sort of cheap rhetoric is becoming a fixture of the Brown government. Watch Nigel Farrage, UKIP MEP, rip into Brown here in an epic speech when he came before the European Parliament groveling for stimulus money:

"Your government has apologized for the Amritsar Massacre; you've apologized for slavery; you've apologized for virtually everything! -- will you please apologize for what you did as British Chancellor, and then perhaps, we might just listen to you."
9.11.2009 10:37pm
Redlands (mail):
I worked as a general "gofer" for a conservative, mid-sized law firm right after I got out of the Navy. The managing partner graduated from law school just before WWII broke out. He went into the Army and was assigned to an Intelligence section that ran agents in France and Germany. After the war he had a role on the U.S. prosecution team at Nuremberg I later learned.
He told me once that for sheer, outrageous do-anything-asked courage no one surpassed homosexual men. He didn't presume to offer an explanation, just said it was so.
So far as I know they were never recognized. Hardly surprising, but very regrettable.
9.11.2009 10:45pm
SirBillsalot (mail):
I'm not sure how a 19 year old can be described as "underage" when in 1952 in the UK it was impossible to ever be "overage". Same sex relations were not decriminalized until AFAIR 1967. After that time the UK same sex age of consent was 21. However, I believe for heterosexuals I was (and is) 16 and not 19.
9.11.2009 10:53pm
Sara:
Where in those libraries in Europe? Which libraries? Surely you must know, if you're going to make these claims.
9.11.2009 10:54pm
SirBillsalot (mail):
Make that "it was" not "I was".

This site needs an edit function.
9.11.2009 10:55pm
DiversityHire (mail):
Gordon Brown is gay?!

…not that there's anything wrong with that.

He can't be, he's Scottish.
9.11.2009 11:33pm
Fub:
Unknown wrote at 9.11.2009 10:27pm:
My point is that he had sex with minors, and I'd like to see ONE CREDIBLE source that says the boy was 19. The boy was underage when the affair started and he was not the only one either. These records are not on some internet forums or websites, but you may find them in libraries in Europe.
According to Wikipedia:
In January 1952 Turing picked up 19-year-old Arnold Murray outside a cinema in Manchester. After a lunch date, Turing invited Murray to spend the weekend with him at his house, an invitation which Murray accepted although he did not show up. The pair met again in Manchester the following Monday, when Murray agreed to accompany Turing to the latter's house. A few weeks later Murray visited Turing's house again, and apparently spent the night there.[32]

After Murray helped an accomplice to break into his house, Turing reported the crime to the police. During the investigation Turing acknowledged a sexual relationship with Murray. Homosexual acts were illegal in the United Kingdom at that time,[6] and so both were charged with gross indecency under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, the same crime that Oscar Wilde had been convicted of more than fifty years earlier.[33]
...

[6] Hodges, Andrew (1983). Alan Turing: The Enigma. New York: Simon &Schuster. p. 5. ISBN 0-671-49207-1.
...
[32] Leavitt 2007, p. 266
[33] Leavitt 2007, p. 268

Leavitt, David (2007), The Man Who Knew Too Much; Alan Turing and the invention of the computer, Phoenix, ISBN 978-0-7538-2200-5
Is Leavitt a sufficiently credible source?
9.11.2009 11:56pm
Randy R. (mail):
Unknown: " I'd like to see ONE CREDIBLE source that says the boy was 19."

And of course, we'd like to see ONE CREDIBLE source that say the boy was not 19, but younger. And substantially so, enough to qualify as a boy and not a man.

I'm sorry that consensual sex between an older man and a younger man upsets you so, but that's your problem, not ours, and it certainly is not a concern of the authorities.

The fact remains that Turing was convicted not of having sex with a man too young, but the fact that he had sex with a male of ANY age. The is the absurdity that Brown is now apologizing for, not whether anyone thinks his relationship with Murray was appropriate.

I understand the point that we shouldn't overlook the flaws of great men in lauding them, but you haven't produced evidence that Turing was a flawed man in any sense at all, other than dark references to certain "libraries."
9.12.2009 12:23am
John Moore (www):
Turing was a great innovator, should not have been persecuted, and deserves recognition for his ground-breaking work.

That being said, I'm sick of cheap, no-cost historical apologies. There seems to be, on the left, a constant search for people to apologize to.

Why don't these folks apologize to the rest of us for apologizing too much, and claiming to do it on our behalf.
9.12.2009 12:30am
Ricardo (mail):
There's something quite ironic about complaining about "cheap rhetoric" through anonymous comments on a blog. Britain long ago decriminalized sodomy and now even allows, if I remember correctly, openly gay men to serve in its armed forces. I'd say it has already done the heavy lifting to make this belated apology credible. Or do you have any specific examples of anti-gay policies that Gordon Brown supports?
9.12.2009 1:38am
David Smallberg:
Turing was not publicly known to be a war hero in 1952, since the fact that Enigma had been broken was kept secret for several decades, since after the war, the UK was selling Enigma machines to smaller countries, knowing that it could read messages sent with them.

Even if someone in the government who knew the secret wanted to help Turing by getting the case dropped, they couldn't: Questions about the reason for the intervention in the matter would run the risk of leading to a revelation of the secret, causing the loss of the ability to read those smaller countries' communications.
9.12.2009 3:51am
Leo Marvin (mail):
Borris:

Everybody knows all homosexuals are pedophiles.

You can probably blame the Greeks for that.

I blame Obama. :)
9.12.2009 5:01am
Jonathan D.:
Are we sure it was Gordon Brown and not some machine being a wag, doing the Turing Test?
9.12.2009 6:42am
Doug Sundseth (mail):
I'd like to apologize to the whole world for the numerous excesses of Gordon Brown. It is unfortunate that I don't have the time to enumerate them at the length they deserve, but you can be assured that I'm really sincerely sorry.

Now, I'm not Gordon Brown, didn't vote for Gordon Brown, am not a British subject, and have, to the best of my knowledge, never even seen Gordon Brown on television. I don't see any problem with my apologizing for his actions, though.

No, really.

Brown's "apology" amounts to, "I'm sorry that some people who are long dead treated a prominent person badly when I was three years old." Will we next see a sincere apology for the way that Charles I was treated by Parliament? For that matter, I think that Harold Godwinson really deserves an apology for the way he was handled by William of Normandy at Hastings. William's claim to the throne was completely insupportable by any right-thinking person.

And let's not even start with the whole issue of Boudicca's rebellion. That's a can of worms* you definitely don't want to open.

ps. Lest there be any question, I think that Turing's treatment was appalling. But at this remove, that is an issue for condemnation, not apology, unless one of the principles in the matter wishes to come forward.

* Dead worms, to be sure. Even the worms that ate those worms are dead. But surely that's no bar to a sincere apology, is it?
9.12.2009 7:22am
Ken Arromdee:
Boudicea rebelled against the Romans. The current government of Britain doesn't claim continuity with the Roman government. I suppose you could ask for Italy to apologize, but the government of Italy doesn't really have that much continuity with the Romans either.
9.12.2009 9:17am
ShelbyC:
Don't matter how old the guy was. Even if the guy was under some legal age of consent or age of majority, that doesn't make Turing a pedophile. Otherwise most high school kids nowadays would be pedophiles. Hell, with "strict liability" one could be a pedophile and not know it.
9.12.2009 10:59am
ArthurKirkland:
The 19-year-old/pedophilia angles strike me as the awkward refuge of those who recognize the diminished audience for anti-homosexual bigotry but nonetheless are moved to express outrage concerning Mr. Turing's icky evildoing.

If the next C Street sex scandal were to involve a heterosexual relationship featuring a 19-year-old, I would not expect charges of pedophilia. Which should enable most of the anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-sex-education, pro-covenant marriage, Ten Commandment-loving members of Congress to breathe easier.
9.12.2009 11:59am
traveler496:
Turing was an excellent writer as well as a profound and visionary thinker. I know this because of his classic 1950 article "Computing machinery and intelligence" in the Journal Mind which, while considering the question "Can a machine think?", presents the first description of what became known as the Turing Test.

Turing's article, accessible to a general educated audience, is a masterpiece of clear exposition which holds up remarkably well given that it concerns a technological area that has literally exploded exponentially over the intervening 6 decades. You really should read it.

If you do read it, you will see that the test as he describes it is somewhat different in detail than commonly described. (As a side note, it's interesting that Turing in 1950 believed the statistical evidence for telepathy to be overwhelming. If anyone knows what evidence he was referring to, I'd be interested in a citation.)
9.12.2009 10:50pm
Randy R. (mail):
Arthur: "The 19-year-old/pedophilia angles strike me as the awkward refuge of those who recognize the diminished audience for anti-homosexual bigotry but nonetheless are moved to express outrage concerning Mr. Turing's icky evildoing. "

Aw, don't be so hard on Unknown. I'm sure that whenever anyone talks about the greatness of America, he's the party pooper who brings up our mistreatment of Native Americans for most of our history, and when people talk about how great Reagan was, he says, sure, but he supplied Saddam with arms, and when people talk about how Reagan was such a great conservative, he brings up his divorce and philandering during his acting days.
9.13.2009 12:13pm
Malvolio:
I don't usually like to get into definitional arguments, but pedophilia is "sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child" (DSM-IV) The average 19-year-old hasn't been prepubescent for six years. I couldn't find any place in what we like to call the civilized world where sex with a 19-year-old is per se unlawful.

As for whether Gordon Brown should have apologized to all people who suffered under the law: there is something of a difference between persecuting an innocent man and persecuting an innocent man who has just saved you, your nation, and your entire way of life from utter destruction, at least in my opinion; that soupçon of ingratitude really perfects the injustice.

Back to definitions, just for a second.
a technological area that has literally exploded exponentially over the intervening 6 decades
Literally? So I should literally call the bomb squad? "Hurry! Computer technology is exploding!"
9.13.2009 12:36pm
Milhouse (www):
Randy R.
when people talk about how great Reagan was, he says, sure, but he supplied Saddam with arms, and when people talk about how Reagan was such a great conservative, he brings up his divorce and philandering during his acting days.
Reagan did not supply Saddam with arms; not that there would have been anything wrong with doing so, any more than FDR was wrong to supply Stalin with arms, but to the best of my knowledge the USA was not at all a significant source of Iraqi arms, and certainly the US government wasn't. Financial aid, which enabled him to buy arms from Europe and the USSR, yes; but American arms, no. Next, what objection do you imagine conservatives would have to his divorce? Why would the mere fact that he was unfortunate enough to have had his first marriage fail make him less of a conservative? And what philandering? I've never heard of him doing any such thing.
9.13.2009 3:03pm
traveler496:
Malovlio:
Back to definitions, just for a second.
a technological area that has literally exploded exponentially over the intervening 6 decades
Literally? So I should literally call the bomb squad? "Hurry! Computer technology is exploding!"

[chuckle] thanks for catching my sloppiness. No, the explosion part wasn't literal. I should've said "...exploded, literally exponentially,..."
9.13.2009 3:18pm
Pauldom:
traveler496: Metaphorical uses of literally may not be as bad as some think.
9.13.2009 5:33pm
ArthurKirkland:

Aw, don't be so hard on Unknown. I'm sure that whenever anyone talks about the greatness of America, he's the party pooper who brings up our mistreatment of Native Americans for most of our history, and when people talk about how great Reagan was, he says, sure, but he supplied Saddam with arms, and when people talk about how Reagan was such a great conservative, he brings up his divorce and philandering during his acting days.

In my experience, the correlation among ranting against homosexuals, glorifying Reagan and refusing to acknowledge American support of brutal dictators is strong.
9.13.2009 7:52pm
traveler496:
Thanks for the very on-point link, Pauldom. I am surprised to learn that my inadvertent use of "literally" as an emphasizer would have been accepted by at least one language maven (also by how easy it is to find such usage by prominent authors). Apparently, "literally" is a legitimate Janus word.

Even though I may have license to do otherwise, I'm going to continue to try to use "literally" to mean "exactly as described; in a literal way." For some reason, I just feel the need to, er, cleave to the original meaning:-)
9.13.2009 10:43pm
Randy R. (mail):
MIlhouse: The arming of Saddam by Reagan has been debated here, and I might have been wrong about actual arms. But we certainly supported him considerably during the Reagan years, something that conservatives now try to sweep under the rugs, as Unknown seems to abhor.

As for Reagan's divorce and philandering (in the 50s he was known as dating quite a few women.), that goes contra the image that the religious right has of Reagan as the standard bearer of family values.
9.14.2009 1:19pm
John Moore (www):
Randy R, the Reagan bashing is a bit old, doncha think? He was a major historical figure and he was more closely aligned with conservative principles and more effective in promoting American aims abroad than anyone else.

Furthermore, as time goes on and we learn more about Reagan, he looks even better. Brilliant, well read, excellent speaker, deadly opponent, master geopolitical player, determined in spite of constant ridicule and opposition. Even so, he wasn't perfect. So what.
9.15.2009 1:48am
Mark Zamen (mail) (www):
What happened to Turing is a horrible example of what ignorance and intolerance can do. The government has apologized (too little, too late), but we have a very long way to go, both in the U.S. and abroad, until gay men and women (among other minorities) enjoy the rights and opportunities the majority of us take for granted. That is the salient point of my recently released biographical novel, Broken Saint. It is based on my forty-year friendship with a gay man, and chronicles his internal and external struggles as he battles for accepatnce (of himself and by others). More information on the book is available at www.eloquentbooks.com/BrokenSaint.html.

Mark Zamen, author
9.16.2009 2:03pm

Post as: [Register] [Log In]

Account:
Password:
Remember info?

If you have a comment about spelling, typos, or format errors, please e-mail the poster directly rather than posting a comment.

Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.