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Archive for October, 2013

October 22nd, 2013

Today In Connect The Dots…

This came across my Twitter stream just now…

@ThePlumLineGS: “WaPo poll shows that protected House Rs, while safe themselves, are doing huge damage to GOP’s nat’l appeal”

He links to this article of his on the Washington Post site…

The Morning Plum: Outside the conservative bubble, GOP sustains epic damage

Now…perhaps you’ve read those stories that started appearing right after the shutdown ended, about various Tea Party groups agitating for a repeal of the 17th Amendment.  That’s the one that overrules prior clauses of the Constitution by which senators were elected by the state legislatures.  Nowadays they’re all elected by statewide popular vote.  That’s a problem for the extreme fanatical right.  Here’s why:  Gerrymandering only gets you wins in local elections.  So in red states the hard right can dominate the legislatures and in congress they can get enough people in safely gerrymandered far right districts to make it difficult to do anything in that one branch.  Batshit crazy tea party representatives in the house as we have seen, can wreak havoc without a care because their seats are safe because they only have to answer to their batshit crazy voters in that one gerrymandered district.  But in statewide or nationwide elections you’re screwed.  And especially so if you’re pissing off everyone outside of your little gerrymandered districts.

But repealing the 17th amendment would allow those little gerrymandered districts to capture the Senate, by way of control of their state legislatures.  Or at least enough of the senate to insure control by filibuster indefinitely.

And take note, they’ve been making this move on the Electoral College too, with propositions in some states to give all that state’s electors to whoever wins the most Districts not to whoever wins the popular vote.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Today In Connect The Dots…

October 19th, 2013

Pending Coffee

This came across my Facebook stream just now.  Some days you read crap on Facebook that just makes you want to write off the human race.  Then there are things like this…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Pending Coffee


Mercedes Love

Still in it…

I change the oil in my cars twice as often as the factory recommends…a practice I’ve kept on doing with my Mercedes.  My first car, a 1973 Ford Pinto, got its oil changed every 2k and I am convinced that is how I managed to get over 136k miles out of one of those.  When I finally had to give it to the junk yard it was because everything but the engine was falling apart. When you popped off the valve cover it still looked factory new in there…a thing I was intensely proud of.

So I took Spirit in for an oil change this morning and while I waited one of the service clerks and I chatted about our mutual love of Mercedes-Benz cars and she told me something I hadn’t known.  The steel for every part of the body…the frame, the doors, hood, trunk, all of it…are all cut from the same single sheet of steel.  Where other car makers cut a bunch of doors, or hoods or things that are all destined for different individual cars out of a sheet…bang, bang, bang, one after the other after the other…Daimler cuts the parts for each individual car from the same individual sheet of steel, to insure that all the body parts have exactly identical metal chemistry, exactly identical properties of rigidity and strength.  And this little detail she said, contributes to the overall rigidity of the car.

This is why you pay the extra money for a Mercedes-Benz. It isn’t about the options or the luxury touches. Compared to other makes my ‘E’ class isn’t even all that sumptuous.  You get more dazzle out of a Lexus or a Cadillac.  But not that solid Mercedes-Benz feel.  That is why I bought the car.  I like having solid things in my life.  Solidly built things, that are made to last and that you know the hands that built them can feel proud about.  That solid feel was the thing I noticed right away when I first sat down in my uncle’s brand new 220D back in 1971, and even more so when he took mom and I for a drive in it. I’d never felt a car as solid before then. Back then you were use to American cars, even the upscale ones, being a little loose and rattle prone.  And even nowadays, my Mercedes is noticeably more solid than other cars.  Of course the basic design and engineering matters more, but this business about cutting all the body parts from one single sheet of steel is typical of the attention to engineering detail they put into these cars.  And that is why they cost more.  A little Economy Of Scale is sacrificed in favor of a little more structural rigidity.  It isn’t about spending money, just to be spending money.

Matthew Yglesias tweeted a question a few days back asking what if anything justified spending the extra bucks on one of the “fancy cars”.  I didn’t bother tweeting back as I figured that question probably got him a torrent of replies.  But it depends on the car and what you’re after.  If fancy is what you’re after then go for the options.  If it’s a status symbol you want then go for the brand you think does that.  Alas, that’s all some people see in a Mercedes-Benz, but that’s disrespectful.  I wanted the car they use to say of when I was a teenager, that the first hundred thousand miles you put on it were just for breaking it in.  Because there are so many roads, and so little time in a life to drive them all.

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Mercedes Love

October 16th, 2013

A Walker’s World

Days are getting shorter now.  A month ago an early walk into work still meant daylight, morning people walking their dogs and birds chattering.  Now it’s night skies and lights on over quiet city streets.  City night shift just getting home, day shift taking to the streets.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Walker’s World

October 15th, 2013

And In Other News, Tensions Increasing On The Border Between Germany And Czechoslovakia…

This came across my news stream this morning, from The Local

“A Bavarian town has shut its border with the Czech Republic following a spate of break-ins. The Bavarians suspect the Czechs are responsible for the crimes and they came up with the plan to resurrect the old barrier in a pub.”

Man…when Bavarians get to thinking up things to do to their neighbors in a pub it’s never good.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on And In Other News, Tensions Increasing On The Border Between Germany And Czechoslovakia…


Wrong Song

Robert Reich in my Facebook stream this morning…

House Republicans sang “Amazing Grace” at a closed-door meeting this morning after deciding they’ll stick to their plan to alter the Affordable Care Act and risk a government default, according to Darrell Issa, a Tea Partier from California. But if they were once lost and blind, they’re giving no hint of being found and seeing what a mess they’ve created.

I’d have thought Nearer My God To Thee more appropriate…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Wrong Song

October 14th, 2013

Once Upon A Time In Washington…

On this date in 1979 the first gay rights march on Washington took place, with about 100,000 demonstrators. I was one of them.

Here’s an ad placed in the Washington Blade after the march for the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and in it the photographer caught me when I was walking along with the Maryland contingent. This is a scan from the copy of the Blade I saved, so the quality isn’t the best, but it’s all I have.  The Stein Club made posters with this shot and I’ve regretted ever since that I didn’t snatch one up.

I’m there in the lower right hand corner with, oddly, my Argus C3 around my neck. It was a (very) poor man’s Leica and I was probably experimenting with it. The Canon F1 was probably in my backpack. I’d worked all summer long at a fast food joint in 1971 to be able to buy the F1, but apart from a couple lenses for it and a really nice German enlarging lens I wouldn’t be in any position to buy nice photographic equipment for decades to come.

I think I had color loaded in the F1 and Tri-X Pan in the Argus.  At some point I need to post a gallery of my shots here in the “Life and Times” section of that demonstration and other gay rights events I attended and photographed. I wasn’t working for anyone at the time, just documenting my life and times and the struggle I found myself a part of whether I wanted to be or not.

When I came out to myself in December of 1971 I wanted what most of us want when we’re young…the significant other, the soulmate, the happily ever after. What I got was not that. Yes, it’s so much better now than it was back then, but we had a lot of work getting from there to here and we still have a long way to go before every gay kid can dream the dream of love and joy and contentment without fear or shame or guilt.  The young guy you see in this ad would never have thought in his wildest dreams he would live to see the day he could get legally married anywhere, let alone in his home state of Maryland, to the man he loved.  But that day came.  If only I’d had a better world to grow into adulthood in, I might have found him.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)


What Won’t They Think Of Next?

Via Paul Constant over at SLOG

Ladies and Gentlemen…I give you the Sarah Palin Portable Teleprompter…


@rubycramer: “Sarah Palin’s note to herself yesterday
(captured by the @AP): “Leader not tweeter”

Constant adds that the photo “…tells so many stories, about authenticity, about hypocrisy, about idiocy.”  Yes, and so did the confederate battle flags flying in front of the White House, and the protestors mocking the race of the White House police.  You hear them say they want to take back their country. But this was never their country. That was settled at Appomattox in the parlor of a house owned by Mr. Wilmer McLean on the afternoon of April 9, 1865.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on What Won’t They Think Of Next?

October 12th, 2013

Deadbeats

This came across my Facebook stream just now…

Big tax cuts for the rich and big business, two wars on the card, and now they’re bellyaching about paying for it.  But no. They’re bellyaching that the democrats won’t let them make the poor, the sick, the elderly and the unemployed pay for it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Deadbeats

October 10th, 2013

From Our Department Of Unreasonable Expectations…

Sigh…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on From Our Department Of Unreasonable Expectations…

October 9th, 2013

My Privileged Life

Today…I was told to “check my privilege”. Okay…I’m checking it now…

I was raised by a divorced single working mother. My dad died trying to rob a bank. I grew up in a series of small apartments, wearing mostly second hand clothes and going to public school, where in the 1960s, because I was the product of a “broken home” I was treated like a problem child even though I was pretty well behaved. That didn’t change until high school. I was the first male in dad’s side of the family to finish grade school and get a diploma. I did three semesters of community college and then had to go to work to support mom and me. For most of my life I had no idea how I was going to earn a living and resigned myself to a low income life lived in rooms rented in other people’s houses. Before I started earning a good living as a software developer I had no car, and no prospects. Seen from within, the life I am living now seems an absolute miracle to me.

And yet, in some quarters, it seems I am a “privileged” Boomer, which strikes me as a real joke coming from younger people who got their college degree and found good work at a living wage at an age when I was still doing Manpower temp jobs and living with mom. But there it is…I need to “check my privilege” and shut up about my own experiences in life, and what I’ve seen happen politically in my country during my lifetime with my own two eyes, whilst Millennials discuss amongst themselves how privileged we Boomers are and how we fucked everything up for them. Because god forbid anyone should hear from someone who was actually there what he saw for himself while on the road to where we are now.

Whatever. I get that that Time Magazine article got your goat. You don’t seem to get that it was supposed to. But if playing Wall Street’s game of Blame The Other Guy We’re Screwing Too works for you fine. Enjoy the cheap thrills of the blame game while I watch people who wish to bury the past, keep on grimly repeating it.

I’m not afraid of terrorist bombs, I grew up during the cold war figuring the world would probably nuke itself to death anyway. My privileged life taught me how to duck and cover and never count on tomorrow being there. I’m not afraid of sudden poverty. My privileged life taught me how to live on a poverty line income. I’ve watched republicans tank the economy over and over and jackasses keep voting them into office anyway. Figure it will all just keep happening. C’est la vie! And…pay attention now…I don’t particularly care if people who don’t know me from Adam hate me for being something I can’t help being. I was fine with that even before I knew that I am gay. I learned how not to give a flying fuck about that even before my grade school teachers told me I was a problem child because my mother was divorced. I learned how not to care long before all that, while being hated, or at best patronized, by members of my own family for being my father’s son. And I will not wear your goddamned labels.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on My Privileged Life

October 8th, 2013

Break One-Five…These People Don’t Seem To Be Noticing Us

I grew up in the Washington D.C. suburbs. I was a very small kid when the Capital Beltway was being built. I remember when I-270, the spur that goes through Montgomery County where I grew up, was called I-70s and it was two lanes in each direction with a big grassy median. It’s 12 lanes now and even that is not enough. I watched the traffic nightmare that is the normal every day environment people live in down there reach epic proportions, even with the really nice subway system they built starting in the mid 1970s. It really is an amazingly good system, but it was overcapacity from the moment the first car doors opened.

Nothing has ever helped even slightly, even at some miniscule level, to stem the rising tide of automobiles competing every minute of every day for whatever asphalt space they can find that isn’t already occupied by another car (and sometimes even if it is), because there was never any political will to stop the land developers from building more things, which inevitably attracts more automobiles to the area, but people were always able to tie up regional highway infrastructure development in the courts. The joke is someone gets a flat tire in Tyson’s Corner and it backs up traffic in College Park…

And I am seeing these links in my Facebook stream now about a bunch of truckers who are going to “slow down beltway traffic” until some congressmen are arrested and I honestly can’t stop laughing. Oh you are, are you? Slow it down, did you say? I read one guy saying they weren’t going to allow anyone to drive over 55mph unless they had an anti-Obama bumper sticker. Well that’s a pretty all order men. I’d say you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Look…Seriously…you folks want to get noticed during rush hour in Washington D.C.? Have your people park their trucks and take the Metro into the city, and they all stand on the left side of the escalators and don’t move.

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

October 7th, 2013

Repost: Fifteen Years Ago…

I posted this five years ago. Seems appropriate now, since the kook pews are howling again, the haters who would have looked the other way had they come upon the murder taking place, and insist everyone else should too, to revisit it.

Nothing has changed…there is nothing mysterious or hidden about what happened that night…the ghosts still talk among themselves…if you are willing to take the same walk I did one night in Laramie, you can still hear them…

The wind never seems to stop here on the plains.  It is October in Wyoming, and the wind carries with it a chill now.  The first tentative breath of winter dances restlessly over rolling hills of sage.  The days have grown short, the nights cold.  And long.  Very long.  And quiet, save only for the sound of the wind. 

Take a walk tonight across the rolling hills of Wyoming sage.  Leave the town lights twinkling in the distance behind you.  Walk toward the mountains in the darkness ahead.  There is only you here tonight.  You, and the wind, and the stars in the sky, so far away.  So very far away.  Around you are only rolling hills of grass and sage, fading into the night.  There are remnants of what looks like a small wooden fence here, that was torn down some time ago. 

Listen to the wind.  Listen carefully.  There are ghosts here on the plains.  Hear them talk tonight among themselves…

 

No one knows why Matthew was determined to go to the Fireside that night, or why he left with Aaron and Russell. It was karaoke night, which would not ordinarily have interested him. There was some speculation that he was buying drugs from Aaron and Russell, but his friends find that implausible. A close friend thinks that depression may have weakened his judgment, and wonders if he had taken a heavy dose of Klonopin before he went to the bar. "When he was depressed," she says, "he would just grab a handful." Romaine Patterson remembers how in the coffee shop where she worked Matthew "would just talk to anyone-people no one else would talk to, like this weird old man…. He had no discrimination in his person."
-Vanity Fair

 

Shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, 20-year-old Shepard met McKinney and Henderson in a bar. McKinney and Henderson offered Shepard a ride in their car. Subsequently, Shepard was robbed, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence in a remote, rural area, and left to die. McKinney and Henderson also found out his address and intended to rob his home. Still tied to the fence, Shepard was discovered eighteen hours later by a cyclist, who at first thought that Shepard was a scarecrow. At the time of discovery, Shepard was still alive, but in a coma.
-Wikipedia

 

Aaron Kreifels first met Matthew Shepard in a dream last Thursday night, the night after he discovered his fellow University of Wyoming student badly beaten, barely alive and tied up to a fence outside of Laramie.

Although Shepard was in Fort Collins by then, kept alive by an array of life-support machines in Poudre Valley Hospital’s intensive-care unit, Kreifels said the gay student, who was beaten beyond recognition, allegedly by two young Laramie roofers, perhaps because he was gay, came to visit his rescuer in a dream that night. Kreifels doesn’t remember much of the dream, but he said Wednesday that he awoke the next morning comforted by the vague sensation of having met the person he found in such bad shape two days before.

Although early reports indicated that two mountain bikers had discovered Shepard on the crude fence on an old, double-rutted road, Kreifels was alone that evening, struggling on his mountain bike through deep sand and for some reason ignoring a desire to turn back and find another, easier way back to town. Before he knew it, he had fallen. He was on the ground, his front wheel broken beyond repair. He was unhurt, but what he saw as he got up struck him cold.

"I got up and noticed something out of the corner of my eye,” he said from his room in a freshman dorm at the University of Wyoming on Wednesday. "At first I thought it was a scarecrow, so I didn’t think much of it. Then I went around and noticed it was a real person. I checked to see if he was conscious or not, and when I found out he wasn’t, I ran and got help as fast as I could.”

As the former high school crosscountry runner traversed the quarter- to half-mile of scrub prairie between him and the nearest house in the nearby Sherman Hills subdivision, his thoughts froze before quickly accelerating.

"It was distressing. I was panicked for a couple minutes, because I wanted to make sure I could do all I could do to help save him,” he said.
-The Denver Post

 

Officer Reggie Fluty: When I got there, the first – at first the only thing I could see was partially somebody’s feet and I got out of my vehicle and raced over – I seen what appeared to be a young man, thirteen, fourteen years old, because he was so tiny, laying on his back and he was tied to the bottome of the end of a pole.

I did the best I could.  The gentleman that was laying on the ground, Matthew Shepard, he was covered in dry blood all over his head.  There was dry blood underneath him and he was barely breathing…he was doing the best he could.

I was going to breath for him and I couldn’t get his mouth open – his mouth wouldn’t open for me.

He was covered in, like I said, partially dry blood and blood all over his head – the only place that he did not have any blood on him, on his face, was what appeared to be where he had been crying down his face.
-The Laramie Project

 

Shepard suffered a fracture from the back of his head to the front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body’s ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs. There were also about a dozen small lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate.
-Wikipedia

 

At the Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, Matthew lay in bed down the hall from Aaron McKinney. Matthew was comatose; his brain stem which controls heartbeat, breathing, temperature, and other involuntary functions – was severely damaged. He also was suffering from hypothermia and had a red welt on his back, a red mark on his left arm, bruised knees, cuts on his head, neck, and face, and bruising in his groin. 
-Vanity Fair

 

Dr. Cantway:  I was working the emergency room the night Matthew Shepard was brought in.  I don’t think, that any of us, ah, can remember seeing a patient in that condition for a long time – those of us who’ve worked in big city hospitals have seen this.  Ah, but it’s not something you expect here.

Ah, you expect it, you expect this kind of injuries to come from a car going down a hill at eighty miles an hour.  You expect to see gross injuries from something like that – this horrendous, terrible thing.  Ah, but you don’t expect to see that from someone doing this to another person.

The ambulance report said it was a beating so we knew.
-The Laramie Project

 

Exactly a week after his tragic discovery, Kreifels, 18, an architectural engineering major from Grand Island, Neb., said he tries not to think about the condition in which he found the classmate he had never seen before. Authorities say Shepard’s assailants repeatedly beat him with the butt of a .357 Magnum, fracturing his skull. Kreifels doesn’t talk about it.

"I don’t really want to go into details about that,” he said.
-The Denver Post

 

Aaron Kreifels:  I keep seeing that picture in my head when I found him…and it’s not pleasant whatsoever. I don’t want it to be there. I wanna like get it out. That’s the biggest part for me is seeing that picture in my head. And it’s kind of unbelievable to me, you know, that – I happened to be the person who found him – because the big question with me, like with my religion, is like, Why did God want ME to find him?
-The Laramie Project

 

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Repost: Fifteen Years Ago…

October 6th, 2013

The Noble Work Of Public Service

This came across my Facebook stream this morning…a status post from a frustrated federal employee…

I’m really tired of being vilified as a federal worker. I WANT to WORK. I want to support myself. My colleagues do as well. We want to be productive and we don’t deserve to be accused of living off the backs of taxpayers or lazy and worse. I’m truly offended that members of my own family and some that I thought were friends have bought into this crap. I’ve tried to hold my tongue but I’m pissed off! If you truly feel that way, then unfriend me and don’t let the door hit you on the way out of my life!

I remember a time, in the afterglow of the FDR days I guess, when “public service” jobs were considered noble work done for the good of the nation. I have watched the right wing, over time, chip away at that notion, not because they genuinely thought that government workers were lazy but because they hated democratic government and all that liberty and justice for all stuff. It seemed in my lifetime to culminate in that famous Ronald Reagan campaign quote, “”The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

Think about what he’s saying there, the next time you call for a policeman or a fireman, or listen to the hurricane track forecast from the national weather service, or you throw away some food in your pantry because it was recalled due to salmonella and you’re glad you heard the warning before you ate any of it. Think about it the next time you drive on the Interstate Highway System, or fly somewhere. Private enterprise wants to help only its bottom line. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a different thing from work that benefits the nation as a whole, and we have seen clearly now since the phrase “trickle-down” became an economic policy how that simply does not work.  The libertarian pipe dream of a society that magically assumes a stable, productive shape solely by the force of the invisible hand of the marketplace is a fantasy held on to by people who want that free lunch of a nation they don’t have to be bothered with the work of maintaining.  When it’s not the carefully crafted propaganda of sociopaths.  A civilized society needs people to work for the government and be here to help us all.

Once upon a time the saying on Wall Street was what’s good for business is good for America, but that has it backwards, tragically, woefully backwards. It’s what’s good for America is good for business. What’s good for democracy is good for business. What’s good for the people is good for business, because without customers no business can prosper. But there are some who don’t give a good goddamn about America…or business. They care only for their own private wealth, their own power and glory. Reagan was half right about those words being the most terrifying words in the English language. To him and others of his kind, second only to the words “Liberty and justice for all.”

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

October 4th, 2013

Belief In Soulmates

@Sherman_Alexie: “#2 reason for divorce: Belief in “soulmates.” #1: shagging someone else’s “soulmate.””

I guess he hasn’t seen very many long lived couples.  I have.  Soulmates is a real thing.  But not everyone has that temperament for monogamy.  People who don’t should leave people who do alone, and vice-versa.  I would submit that a big cause of divorce is our culture places too much emphasis on monogamy and not enough on trustworthiness.  But before you can be honest with others you need to be honest with yourself.  You need to cultivate that habit of truth telling internally.  The culture that discourages that is cutting its own throat.  Not everyone is heterosexual. Not everyone is innately monogamous.

Some of us are.  And we who are and those who are not seem always to be staring at each other in disbelief and fussing with each other about all the wrong things.  Belief in soulmates isn’t a problem…soulmates are a real thing…belief that only monogamy is moral is a problem.  Cheating is immoral.  Lying just to get inside someone’s pants is immoral.  Sex for its own sake is not in and of itself immoral.  You live long enough and you will see lots of long lived happy couples and lots of thoroughly decent moral trustworthy people who’ve had lots and lots of lovers.  Monogamy is a temperament, not an ideal.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Belief In Soulmates

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