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June 12th, 2020

We Must Turn Our Rage Into Action. . .

A Pulse survivor speaks…

I remember the thumping Latin music. The unbridled joy of a space safe for me to bring my whole self. A plastic cup teetering on the edge of a bathroom sink. Gunshots — endless gunshots. A panicked sprint for the exit. I remember waiting on a street corner for news, dialing my best friend Drew’s number countless times. I remember when I finally realized he would never pick up. By sunrise, 49 people, including Drew and his partner Juan, had been killed by a man filled to the brim with hatred and armed with weapons of war… – Pulse survivor: We must turn our rage into action, The Orlando Sentinel

Probably the most heartbreaking thing I read in the aftermath was from a homicide detective investigating the scene. He was new to the job and had always thought homicide scenes would be quiet as the detectives worked it. But this one had the cell phones of the victims constantly ringing, and he knew every ring was from a loved one desperately hoping for an answer that would never come.

Go read the whole thing. He links the shootings then to the police killings of unarmed black Americans now, and the bigotry and hate that fueled them both. We have work to do to honor their memories, and drag this nation inch by inch back to its promise of liberty and justice for all, and make it real.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on We Must Turn Our Rage Into Action. . .

June 9th, 2020

How To Experience Driving While Black In America Even If You’re Not

Get a standard poodle…

I have not told this story before. I worry how it will be received. I don’t know the right language to express it other than my own thoughts and feelings. This post is not for people of color because they already know it. This is for white people living in suburbs and small towns who think this is a big city problem and “It’s not my town.”

Before moving to New York City, I drove every where. I got pulled over 3 times in 15 years; two speeding tickets and an illegal left hand turn.

The first year I was back in Michigan, I got pulled over 5 times. Each time it was for impeding traffic and I did not get a ticket.

Read her story. She got pulled over five times in one year, for bullshit traffic offences. Sometimes the cop walked up to her car and unbuckled his holster. One cop kept his hand on his gun the entire time, even after he realized she didn’t have a black man in the car with her. It was her poodle, Merlin.

She notes in her blog post that John Steinbeck told of a similar experience of mistaken identity in his travelog, Travels With Charley. I first read Travels when I was a young boy, and it lit a fire in me for the open road. But it also told me a few things about my country that frightened me. Steinbeck drove through the south just as the black civil rights movement was gaining steam. The Warren Supreme Court had ordered schools to desegregate and the outrage in the south was already turning bloody. Occasionally people there would mistake Charley for a black man riding with him…

I went through Beaumont at night, or rather in the dark well after midnight. The blue fingered man who filled my gas tank looked in at Charley and said, “Hey, it’s a dog! I thought you had a nigger in there.” And he laughed delightedly. It was the first of many repetitions. At least twenty times I heard it – “Thought you had a nigger in there.” It was an unusual joke – always fresh – and never Negro or even Nigra, always Nigger or rather Niggah. That word seemed terribly important, a kind of safety word to cling to lest some structure collapse.

-John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley In Search Of America

Not all poodles are toy size. I had a neighbor once who had a Standard poodle and I saw him walking it every now and then down our streets. They have a noble, regal poise and walk. Some dogs just know they’re royalty. Like Charley, hers would have been sitting upright in the passenger seat, because to slouch is beneath some dogs. And she got pulled over five times in a year for bullshit traffic violations because the cop thought she was riding with a black man. And sometimes they unsnapped their gun holsters as they approached the car. And one even kept his hand on his gun the entire time, even after he realized her passenger was her dog. And that had never happened to her before.

Since Merlin died, I have not been pulled over once.

If you want to know what it’s like driving while black in the land of the free and the home of the brave, buy yourself a “Standard” poodle (yes, that is the type) and drive around with it in the car. Fair warning though…you might get shot.

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

April 20th, 2020

Disturbing Echos Of The Past

This came across my Facebook news stream this morning…

 

A friend posted this with a comment about how it reminded him of that iconic photograph of the solitary Chinese man standing in front of a line of tanks during the Tiananmen Square massacre. And if you think that’s hyperbole recall how in Charlottesville Virginia a neo fascist drove right into a crowd of people peacefully protesting the Unite The Right rally there killing one and injuring 28. These were more of Trump’s Very Fine People in those cars.

These healthcare workers were risking their lives here. Which, yes, they do anyway. But they shouldn’t have to do it like this.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Disturbing Echos Of The Past

February 9th, 2020

Memo, To The Lords Of Silicon Valley

What is your purpose? What is this brave new world that you are taking us to? Do you even know? Is it a place that merely exist in a set of principles? A belief system that will deliver us to a better world that you can’t precisely define, but you know will be better than the one you are taking us further and further away from? Do you even know where it is you are taking us?

Today I settled down to install the new version of the tax software I’ve been using for years. Alas, so I’m told under the shrink wrap, it does not work with the current version of one of the operating systems on one of my household computers. But I’m lucky in that I’m somewhat of a techno geek, plus I earn my living in IT. So I have several computers in my household network I can choose from. When I started the installer on the other machine I chose to install it on, I got a popup telling me that next year I’d better have updated my OS or I wouldn’t be able to use that one either. 

It’s not so simple though, because the latest and greatest versions of the operating systems, even Linux now, require the latest and greatest hardware. The least expensive solution then is to just take my taxes to a brick and mortar tax service, otherwise I’m paying over a thousand bucks just to use the next version of the tax software, which only costs me around fifty bucks. Oh I could get a cheaper computer I suppose, but then it’s only good for a few tasks and not the things I usually use my computers for, such as photo editing, artwork, and of course the software development tasks I perform for a living. I’d need to buy another one eventually to do everything else I normally do on a computer. A cheap computer then, is actually more expensive than a good one.

I have updated hardware in mind for sometime this year, but the budget isn’t there for it Right Now. And there is a reason I’ve dawdled over doing it. Several actually.

First, there’s the time consuming task of migrating everything over to the new computers. I mitigate that somewhat by storing my data on a network drive. But that applications and their configurations need to be migrated. Then I need to reconfigure the new computers for my network. That should be easy but with a variety of different operating systems it can be a little tricky. Then there are all the changes to the user interface I will need to learn. It takes time for it to stop being a constant struggle. Then, more critically, there are all the applications I depend on that the new versions of the operating systems will break. This is why I sweat blood over every security update.

The biggest culprit here is Adobe. Once they decided to force their users onto a software rental policy, where you must pay a monthly fee to keep the software activated, a lot of users, myself included, decided just to stand pat on the last perpetual licensed version. But that is not a sustainable practice, as evidenced by the notice on my tax software that it will shortly stop working on the older operating systems. Plus, Adobe is looking for ways to turn off software you’ve legitimately purchased, to force you into the population of renters. I had my Windows version of Photoshop bricked when Adobe decided, after letting me use it for two years, that it was a bulk license that had expired two years previously. So I’m actively looking for alternatives to all my Adobe artist’s tools. But that involves relearning an assortment of new user interfaces and again, that’s time I don’t have a lot of to spend at this stage of my life.

Which brings me to my main point. I’m close to my retirement years, and living on a fixed income therein. Going forward, I’m not going to have a lot of money to keep spending thousands of dollars every three or four years for the latest and greatest hardware, so the latest and greatest operating systems can run on it, so I can spend even more money on the latest and greatest versions of the software tools I use, so I can keep doing my artwork, or perhaps earning a bit more income as a software developer. And I’m in a good place compared to a lot of my fellow Americans, elderly and not. I appreciate that in the rarefied bistros and boutiques of Silicon Valley, income levels are a wee bit different from the rest of the country. But do you even take the occasional walk outside of your comfort zones? I mean, other than going to a tech conference somewhere?

I ask again, what is this brave new world you are taking the rest of us to? Let me take a step back: Why should anyone want to own a personal computer? What are they good for, that anyone would want to bring one into their household? Can you even make a case for why anyone should want to own one? There are good reasons to want food…and clothing…and a roof over our heads. There are good reasons to want health care, a decent education. There are essentials. Then there are nice to haves. Then there are luxuries. Where do you say the personal computer fit into this? 

I know what I can say. Let me say it with a story I’ve told here before. It takes place in the 1980s. Back in the early days of the personal computer. Back in the days of the Commodore C64, the Atari 400 and 800. Back when IBM produced the PC, and then the XT. Back in the days of MS-DOS. Back in the days of modems and the first dial up computer bulletin boards. Probably before some of you were born. 

I was a user on a small, single line dial-up BBS, whose sysop graciously added a gay echo board to the mix after I came out on a different board. It was the first time I had access to the wider gay community beyond my suburban neighborhood. Before that moment, the only access I had to any sort of gay community was a seedy local bar I wasn’t comfortable going into, and the yearly pride fests in downtown Washington DC around DuPont Circle.

It was a revelation. Here we all were, not just from all over America, but all over the world. There were linked BBS systems in Britain, in Japan, in Brazil and Ireland and the Netherlands. It was a chatty, gossipy, fun place. I got to know other gay people from all over the world, in a setting that wasn’t a dingy bar. And what I saw were people, all different kinds of people from all walks of life. We were human beings. The stereotypes fell away like tattered paper in the wind. 

One day, we got a post from a BBS in the Netherlands. It was short, and to the point. I can still vividly remember every word…

Hello. I’m 14 years old. I think I might be gay but I’m not sure. How did you know? What was it like for you?

That was it. That was all there was to it. And then something amazing and wonderful happened. From all over the world, or as much of it as we had connected at the time, this kid started getting coming out stories. Not the part where you come out to family and friends: the part where you come out to yourself.

The stories spanned the entire spectrum from awful to hopeful. Some got disowned, others accepted. There were tears and laughter, there was struggle and pride. You saw it all, day after day, post upon post. I posted mine, and read every one of the others. It went on for two weeks to silence from the original poster. Then finally they said something…

Thank you. You’ve all given me a lot to think about.

And that was it. We never heard another word from the kid. If a kid they were. Even then you had to know it could have been anyone. Perhaps someone trying to see if we were all a bunch of child molestors ready to pounce. Perhaps just a young teenager confused and worried. But I knew for certain watching that entire exchange, that for everyone posting their story, there were maybe dozens more watching raptly, hungry for those same answers.

And I saw it then. I saw what this technology had done for us, and that we would win this thing after all. When I came out to myself in December of 1971, everything I knew about homosexuality, and about what it was to be a homosexual, I had learned from the heterosexual majority. All the books, all the newspaper articles, all the pop culture representations on TV and the movies…everything I knew about homosexuality I had learned from heterosexuals. And now, thanks to this technology we could talk among ourselves. We no longer had to see ourselves through heterosexual eyes anymore.

That is what the personal computer did for me. For us. 

More specifically, that was what MS-DOS and an IBM PC I built from parts did for me. That is what modems and a dial up BBS systems running on 1980s hardware and software did for us. Yes, yes, the technology has improved greatly since then. You can do so very much more with a personal computer now, than you could back then. But…what for? To what end? What is the purpose being served, that could not have been served as well, if at all by those first personal computers and the software that ran on them, that we all have to spend a thousand dollars and more every three or four years or we’re kicked back out of the revolution due to lack of funds? What happens to anyone now, who could still benefit from the personal computer, but can’t keep spending this kind of money so frequently, and throwing away hardware that still works just fine, it just can’t run your latest and greatest software anymore. The hardware isn’t what’s dying, it’s your software that’s killing it. And that’s not all it’s killing. All those gay kids in the middle parts of the country…you know…where the main streets have been dying for decades…where the pulpits thunder at the homosexual menace, where the bullies prowl the school hallways and doors get slammed in gay faces because religious freedom…what happens to them now? What happens to the elderly, the shut ins, the low income workers struggling to make a better life for themselves? Can you even see the rest of us?

Tell me oh lords of silicon valley, what your latest and greatest hardware and software can do for me, for any of us, that can compare to what MS-DOS and it’s like did for many of us back in the 1980s. Yes I see a lot of shiny new bells and whistles. But what does it all amount to? Is the world any better for it? A thousand dollars plus every three or four years better for it? Really? What is your purpose? What brave new world are you taking us too?

Think about it…maybe…while you’re sitting on your billions in market value?

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Memo, To The Lords Of Silicon Valley


Never Blame The Server For The Kitchen

I’m at the Texas Roadhouse in Hunt Valley, waiting for my usual Texas Roadhouse dinner. For a chain they do a very good house margarita, and I like the chicken critters. You get a couple sides along with that, and I always get the mashed potatoes and gravy, plus either corn or green beans. My cardiologist might not approve entirely, but it’s not something I go out to eat every day. I always eat at the bar because this gives me, the solitary diner, people to talk to.

Tonight I’m waiting for a hour for my food. Thank goodness the margarita and the bread rolls came out right away. First the servers get very apologetic, then a manager comes over and apologises too. It seems they’re having some wee trouble in the kitchen. An order very much like mine comes out of the kitchen, but goes over to someone else at the bar who refuses it. He had an order like mine but not exactly…I’m guessing one of the sides was different. I watch it go back to the kitchen wistfully. They can’t just give it over to me since it’s been served to someone else. Health code I reckon.

I wait, and I wait. Servers and manager are apologetic. I’m a regular there, if not a daily one. They know me not only by name, but by the food I always order. But besides being a regular, I also have a reputation for friendliness. I was once in their shoes, many, many years ago. I did the teenage burger flipper thing back in the early 70s. I did service staff work behind the counter at various jobs. I faced the public. I make six figures now, but I was raised by a single divorced mother back in a time when women made maybe sixty cents for every dollar a man made doing the exact same work. I remember. I remember that I never felt disadvantaged, though by some measures I probably was. I remember the optimism of those times, despite the ongoing cold war, that trickled down to even people such as us, living on a single mother’s income, living in cheap apartments and utterly dependant on public transportation to get anywhere. The future was full of promise back then, even for the likes of us. Not anymore. That mom could raise a boy and that boy could get a decent public school education even then, while nowadays people working service jobs are struggling to make ends meet working two or three jobs and their kid’s education is going into the toilet because baby Jesus cries whenever evolution is taught makes me Angry. I give the service staff every break I can when I’m a customer. But there is even more to it at this particular moment.

Eventually my food comes, and it’s as expected. I have a bunch of these cuisine ruts where I just want the same old thing because the same old thing is actually pretty good, and tonight late as it was the food is pretty good and I am satisfied. While on a road trip or vacation I will avoid the big chains because why bother travelling and then just eat what you can always get back home. But at home I will reliably go for the familiar, though I try more often now to make that a local business rather than a chain. So I’m happy, and the staff is busy with the next problem, because tonight the kitchen is serving up a lot of problems. The manager has told me a lot of kitchen staff didn’t show up that night, and I think to myself but don’t say it outloud, that maybe they’d have fewer nights like this if they paid a decent wage. But that isn’t their call when you answer to a headquarters far away, which in turn answers to some hedge fund somewhere.

I ask for my check. I have a handy smartphone app that calculates tips. My innate math abilities are why I kept a slide rule handy at all times way back in the day, and a smartphone now. The manager has graciously given me a free meal tonight because I had to wait an hour for my food. The margarita is all that I’m paying for tonight, because Maryland won’t let them give alcohol away free. Carry Nation would object to their serving it at all so I’m fine with that. Thankfully, the check shows me what the food would have cost, had I been charged for it. I add it all up, consult my tip app, and figure what the tip would be had I been charged for the food too, add that to the bill, and hand some cash over to the server with an explanation that I’m tipping for the full amount.

My server is stunned…oh you don’t have to do that…  Yes I do. Because some years ago I reconnected with my high school crush. Because I found out he’s still making a living as a waiter earning tips. Because I’m a geek and I did a little research on the working lives of waiters. Because I was floored to learn that they’re exempt from the federal minimum wage. Because I happen to know that the people working behind the bar here at Texas Roadhouse, and waitering the tables, earn about three dollars an hour. Because at that wage the tips stop being a gratuity and become the difference between paying rent and putting food on your own table or having to choose between the two. Because I am old enough to remember a time when a single working mother could provide for herself and her boy on 65 cents on the dollar for every dollar a man made. It wasn’t a fabulous life but I never went to bed hungry, or out the door in dirty clothes. Because I am angry and I don’t want to be. Because enough of my fellow Americans keep voting to make this a reality for their neighbors and I am goddamned certain that many of them have had lives similar to mine. Where did you people bury your fucking conscience?

I explain some of this to my server. At least times have changed enough now that I can tell the story and not reflexively change the gender of my high school crush in the telling. My server thanks me profusely and assures me my high school crush would be happy too. Well I don’t know about that, we’re not speaking anymore. My love life is an empty pit. But at least I still want this to be a better world.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Never Blame The Server For The Kitchen

December 19th, 2019

Knowledge Or Certainty

There are those who believe that knowledge is something that is received, and others that it is something that is discovered. You can see which are which here…

 

 

The above graphic comes from a Brookings Institution essay I was reading back in 2016. I’m posting it here because it cannot be said too much that it pretty much sums up why democrats have exactly zero chance of winning over republican voters, even if they do throw minority rights under the bus like the concern trolls suggest. The information cocoon they’re in…and it’s not just a Fox News cocoon…simply won’t allow it. But there’s more here to understand.

What this is showing us is that the well educated elite, and by that I don’t mean, and neither do the republicans, Ivy Leaguers, but simply well enough educated that one’s curiosity is nurtured, allowed to function normally instead of suppressed, won’t cluster around single sources like moths to a streetlight. The reason is simple: Our minds, that inner spirit of curiosity and the adventure life is, just won’t let us stay put in one place for very long. Not when there’s another horizon to explore. Even if that horizon is only a book that looks interesting, or an article by someone we’ve never read before.

You find us in all walks of life. And getting us organized is like herding cats. We get an allergic reaction to too much organization. Which is why a state of freedom is such a fragile thing. Everyone benefits from it, but not everyone desires it, and the ones who need it most are the ones constitutionally least equipped to defend it from a well organized and determined aggressor. This despite the fact that we are often the very first to recognize the danger.
 
 
 
 
 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Knowledge Or Certainty

August 5th, 2019

Lowest Common Denominator Politics

This came across my Twitter feed today…

Yeah…that. As a gay man having lived through the times I have, I’ve often read these manifestos to try and understand the mindset. But it always comes back to how stunningly alike they all are. You read the manifestos, the pamphlets, the long drawn out posts on various online social forums (I joke that I’ve done my time on USENET…) and such…even on their damn cars and trucks you can sometimes see the brain dump…and the one thing you’re struck by is their disturbing similarity, regardless of the specific target of hate.

Some years ago I was watching a documentary on the history of San Francisco’s Chinatown, beginning with the railroad’s importing large numbers of Chinese men to work on building the first transcontinental line. There was an editorial in one of the city newspapers concerning the “Chinese Problem”, and it recited a litany of things Chinese people did (so it claimed), that degraded city life. Drugs, crime, sexual predation, they were ignorant and lazy, but also clever and sly and took the jobs of decent white folk. What struck me about the editorial was how you could have replaced every usage of “Chinese” with a letter “X” and it could have been about any hated minority, then or now.

It’s as if this sort of blind reflexive hate is what you’re left with when you peel away the higher brain functions and we’re back to being east African plains apes that see everything that isn’t the tribe as either something to kill, something to fuck or something to eat. Australopithecus waving a gun, or a bible, howling into microphones on the TV, or throwing ink like it’s shit on the editorial page.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Lowest Common Denominator Politics

March 2nd, 2019

This Didn’t Just Happen Overnight

GOP’s anti-Muslim display likening Rep. Omar to a terrorist rocks W. Virginia capitol

Angry arguments broke out in the West Virginia statehouse on Friday after the state Republican Party allegedly set up an anti-Muslim display in the rotunda linking the 9/11 terror attacks to a freshman congresswoman from Minnesota.

One staff member was physically injured during the morning’s confrontations, and another official resigned after being accused of making anti-Muslim comments.

The display featured a picture of the World Trade Center in New York City as a fireball exploded from the one of the Twin Towers, set above a picture of Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim.

“‘Never forget’ – you said. . .” read a caption on the first picture. “I am the proof – you have forgotten,” read the caption under the picture of Omar, who is wearing a hijab.

The article is about how some West Virginian republicans put up a poster in their statehouse with a picture of one of the Twin Towers being hit on 9/11 and below it a picture of Omar with the caption that she is proof we’ve forgotten 9/11. Something else at the end of the article caught my eye…

Another Republican delegate, Eric Porterfield, was hit with calls to resign last month after he called LGBTQ groups “the closest thing to political terrorism in America” and “a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.”

“Let me (be) very clear with my statement,” Porterfield told NBC News then. “The LGBTQ — not homosexuals — are the modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.”

Well I’m glad he cleared that up.

All this has been a long time coming. And don’t just be blaming talk radio and Fox/Sinclair and all the open sewers deep in the dark corners of the Internet. It is still fresh in my memory how Jimmy Carter called out the Reagan campaign’s racist dog whistles and our liberal news media nearly crucified him for being so rude. And even now they’re still hanging on to their he said/she said both sides boilerplate. The republican speaker of the West Virginia house said We have allowed national level politics to become a cancer on our state . . to invade our chamber in a way that makes me ashamed.” Cancer…maybe. Or a cesspool that nobody cared to shine a light on when it might have made a difference, because that would have been rude.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on This Didn’t Just Happen Overnight

February 14th, 2019

Who Is Normalizing Corruption? Not Trump.

This came across my Facebook news stream this morning…

Shameless Trump favor for donor threatens to normalize corruption

You can’t run that story about what Trump just did with the TVA and his donor and demanding that they use this donor’s coal plant -you can’t run that story as an expose of the president’s shocking behavior if the president is happy to commit things like this in public.

There is no way to embarrass somebody for doing something like this if they’re happy to be seen selling the government in exchange for cash.

If you can’t embarrass or shame anybody about it and you increasingly can’t shock anybody about it, then what do you do with it?

Something though to keep in mind every time you read about Trump, is that people voted for this man. Enough of them that he’s now sitting in the White House, occupying the highest executive office in our system of government. His voters, his base, are just as bad as he is. They feel no shame. They are who is normalizing corruption.

Trump is merely the instrument of the mob that has dogged this nation for decades. Their corruption is widespread. In their politics. In their churches. In their homes. In their souls. You can’t embarrass or shame them, they are in Wilde’s gutter mocking the stars, and have no vantage point from which to understand what shame and embarrassment even are.

But one thing the rest of us can do, whenever those voters, that political base, start babbling about righteousness and morality, is laugh in their faces.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Who Is Normalizing Corruption? Not Trump.

November 10th, 2018

Why The Blue Wave Still Evokes Sadness

We did it. Yes, not every election fell our way, but we did it. A Blue Wave happened. Were it not for republican gerrymandering and voter suppression it would have been a tidal wave. But it was enough. And the victories are still coming in as the early votes and mail in ballots are being counted.

But…do you still feel a bit…anxious? Disturbed? Maybe even a little terrified…still? Ed over at Crooks and Liars gets why

You’re also not sad because Beto lost, or Andrew Gillum lost, or any other single candidate who got people excited this year fell short. They’re gonna be fine. They will be back. You haven’t seen the last of any of them. Winning a Senate race in Texas was never more than a long shot. Gillum had a realistic chance, but once again: It’s Florida.

No, you’re sad for the same reason you were so sad Wednesday morning after the 2016 Election. You’re sad because the results confirm that half of the electorate – a group that includes family, neighbors, friends, random fellow citizens – looked at the last two years and declared this is pretty much what they want. You’re sad because any Republican getting more than 1 vote in this election, let alone a majority of votes, forces us to recognize that a lot of this country is A-OK with undisguised white supremacy. You’re sad because once again you have been slapped across the face with the reality that a lot of Americans are, at their core, a lost cause. Willfully ignorant. Unpersuadable. Terrible people. Assholes, even.

Yeah. That. The 2016 election shouldn’t even have been close, let alone a Trump victory. And where was that women’s vote that was supposed to help sweep democrats into power in those deeply red states? This, from The Guardian, might help you with that…

White women’s identity places them in a curious position at the intersection of two vectors of privilege and oppression: they are granted structural power by their race, but excluded from it by their sex. In a political system where racism and sexism are both so deeply ingrained, white women must choose to be loyal to either the more powerful aspect of their identity, their race, or to the less powerful, their sex.

There’s something that democrats, liberals and progressives reliably fail to get about this country: There’s a hell of a lot of racist, sexist, bigoted fascist scum here. And while some of it may simply be opportunistic and persuadable, a lot more of it is the simple rotten to the core being of the voters. They vote for racists because they are racists. Nationalists, in the sense de Gaulle spoke of…

Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism,
when hate for people other than your own comes first

And it takes all of us pushing back against them to keep the American Dream alive. All of us. They win, by suppressing our votes, by any and all means available to them. And a big part of that, is convincing us that we are helpless, that our votes don’t matter, that the democrats are just as bad so why bother.

And as Ed over at Crooks and Liars says, these people are not just one intelligent, reasoned, conversation away from changing their votes. The America of liberty and justice for all was never their country. Many of them grew to adulthood before the civil rights movement made it possible for their black neighbors to drink from their water fountains, before wives could have their own bank accounts, before the gays could live their lives outside the closet. That was the America they feel they were promised. When you hear them speak of wanting their country back, that is the country they mean. They hate us for taking that America away from them. They hate us for taking the Dream of liberty and justice for all to heart, as an obligation of citizenship, not a slogan to paper over white supremacy. They will always hate us. Always. And there are a Lot of them.

So the next time you hear some pundit yap, yap, yapping about bipartisanship and reaching out across the isle…

Remember this feeling. Remember it every time someone tells you that the key to moving forward is to reach across the aisle, show the fine art of decorum in practice, and chat with right-wingers to find out what makes them tick…

And if that’s not enough, remember the damage they’ve done to this country. All the lives lost to their bar stool ignorant prejudices and hate. Jewish worshipers gunned down by a man driven mad by Fox News/Talk Radio hate propaganda. Unarmed black men and teenage boys gunned down in the streets, reporters tear gassed, arrested, jailed, for covering the protests. Remember the children separated from their parents at the border, many of whom will never see their mothers and fathers again. Remember all the broken hearts. Remember how the Trump voters laugh…their chants of Lock Her Up. Look at the faces in the crowds at Trump’s rallies. Happy faces. Exalted faces. Tomorrow belongs to them…

Remember when they speak of reaching out to the other side, as they surely will come January when the new congress is seated. There are times when reaching out isn’t respectful, it is depraved…

 

There’s a scene in the TV mini series The Winds of War, where Pug is with FDR in the president’s private rail car, discussing Pug’s recent trip to Germany. The president tells him he hopes there will be no war, but that the Germans are difficult to understand. And Pug replies “The only thing we need to understand about the Germans is how to beat them.”

That. About our homegrown fascists.

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Why The Blue Wave Still Evokes Sadness

July 16th, 2018

Remember When The Berlin Wall Fell…And You Thought The Cold War Was Over…?

This, stunning editorial, in today’s New York Times, saying things about the president of  the United States I would never in my darkest nightmares would have expected to see. Not even when Nixon fired Archibald Cox have I been so afraid for my country as I am right now, right this moment…

Trump, Treasonous Traitor

The president fails to protect the country from an ongoing attack.

Words like this are not simply a matter of anger and hyperbole any longer, but acknowledgements of the reality we now face. Whether this man was in any way directly connected to the Russian attack on our elections is effectively moot. The evidence that such attacks did happen is clear, convincing, and overwhelming. Whether this man is now actively engaged in a cover up of that attack is also effectively moot. He is by any salient measure not defending the country from that attacker, he is instead befriending it. And he is the Commander in Chief.

This is an incredible, unprecedented moment. America is being betrayed by its own president. America is under attack and its president absolutely refuses to defend it.

And there is evidence coming to light that some in congress, a body with the the best most effective power to halt the course this man has set this nation upon, have also been compromised by this enemy.

We are in dangerous times. Very, very dangerous. One or two more steps into this darkness, and there will be no going back…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Remember When The Berlin Wall Fell…And You Thought The Cold War Was Over…?

June 27th, 2018

Just Never Let Yourself Forget Why It Matters

 

We’ve a long and dirty fight ahead of us. It’s okay to be angry. But don’t become anger. It’s okay to be afraid. But don’t become fear. Because then you will forget why it mattered that you were angry and afraid. It matters because love matters. It matters because without love and trust and hope, and dreams of what could be, civilization is not possible. Then there is only the jungle. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be afraid. But don’t let the jungle in. You will get lost. Remember you are not anger, you are not fear, you are human. Remember the possibility of love is why it matters.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Just Never Let Yourself Forget Why It Matters

May 10th, 2018

Flashback: April 22, 2017 – March For Science Nixonian

I’ve been a couple hours wandering around the March for Science rally zone near the Washington Monument with my camera. I’ve grown up in the Washington DC area and this is a familiar routine for me. So many marches and rallies I’ve attended and documented as a photographer, occasionally for a small local newspaper, but mostly to satisfy some inner need to turn my camera eye on current events. But today I begin to feel my age. My body wants rest now. And…food. Being a local, I know there is a hot dog kiosk run by the national park service near the old Smithsonian they call “The Castle”, and with some regret because I know it’s going to make me miss some good shots, I make for it. 

I walk further and further away from the crowd around the Monument, but not so far that I can’t hear the speeches. Once upon a time I felt lucky that I lived so close to such an important focal point of current events like the nation’s capital. Now I live in Baltimore and I can’t just hop on the subway and stroll down to the Mall with my camera bag. I have to pick my battles. As I did for the rally in front of the Supreme Court during the arguments on same sex marriage, I got a hotel near Union Station so I wouldn’t have to deal with traffic on I-95. I figured the subway was also sure to be mobbed with science marchers that day. I wanted to just walk out of my hotel room and spend the day in the middle of things, then go back and take a nap and maybe find a good place later for dinner.

Now I’m standing in line at the hot dog stand wondering if I can even make it through the rest of the event. I get my food, and a diet soda, and wander over to an empty table and chair. It’s been drizzling off and on here and most of the seats are wet, but I find one that’s close enough in to the kiosk that it didn’t get rained on.

Eventually a man and wife couple about my age come over and ask if they can have the empty chairs next to me. I tell them sure, but they’re probably wet. The man goes to get some paper napkins to wipe the chairs off and his wife sets their boxes down on the table and we begin to chat. She’s a science teacher in a deep southern state, and here to support her student’s education. I have a spiel I go into about how it was Khrushchev who gave me my good science education because he scared the hell out of us with the launching of Sputnik and suddenly teaching kids science was a good thing. As her husband joins us she tells me of her struggles teaching science where teaching anything that flatly contradicts fundamentalist dogmas can get you fired, if not shot. We chat amicably her husband joining in from time to time to say how much he supports his wife and admires her determination. 

The wife finishes up her sandwich and gets up to leave. She has a friend she has to meet up with. The husband is tired from all the walking and stays behind for a while. I know how he feels. We began to chat about making the trip here and how nice DC usually is this time of year. In the distance we can hear the speeches from the rally stage. Someone is comparing Trump to Nixon. I shake my head sadly. No, no…I was there… The husband says disgustedly “Now they’re getting political again.”

If I was a cat my ears would be pricking up now. “Well,” says I, “Nixon at least had some experience in government and politics, and he was smart. Trump is no Nixon.”

He shakes his head and says with more than a touch of bitterness, “Nixon was framed.”

In an instant I’m 21 again and I’m hearing that shifty voice on the TV again and all the memories of that time, and the anger and frustration and outrage come rushing back. But I’m not actually 21 anymore and I don’t jump up on my pulpit and start thumping away. I’m a 60-something and I’ve just had a head on collision between what was then and here I am now, and my voice fails me. Probably that’s for the best. It was such a nice conversation we were having. Maybe he sees the astonished look on my face, or hears it in my sudden silence. What the hell!? But we agree without saying so that our conversation is now over and because I’m four decades removed from the 21 year old I used to be I leave it at this. We part amicably. 

I toss my hot dog box in a nearby trashcan and walk a short distance away. I can still hear the speeches in the distance, but now I just want to go back to my hotel room and sleep. It seems now that any food makes me tired. But also my legs are starting to hurt. I think about the shots I’ve managed to get so far and decide to just skip the march. I remember Don Juan’s warning about the forth foe and allow myself to feel even more gloomy. The walk back to the hotel is going to be about as much as I can handle now. But I know there is more to it. I’m 63, and reckon I’m just beginning my walk into the country of old age. I still find it hard to really believe. A therapist I was seeing after mom died told me once that I “present young.” It was the only thing she said to me that managed to make me feel better. But it’s getting harder and harder to ignore my body’s insistence on it. And I’m coming to realize that the weight of everything I’ve seen in my life seems to somehow add to the fatigue. So many times I’ve let my guard down, only to have reality suddenly jump out at me and laugh in my face. I want to believe in the human status. But humans make that so damn hard.

You present young… There is no such thing as growing up. There is only growing. That, ultimately, is why we practice science. To learn. To discover. To grow. And if you’re not doing that you’re just waiting to die and life is so damn short. How can you just let it all slip away like that. A joke I heard once is that it isn’t that life is so short but that you’re dead for so long. There is so much, so painfully much that you will never know…how can you let everything you Can know get away from you? The earth is round. Evolution happens. Global warming is real and burning fossil fuel is causing it. Trickle down economics is grift. Nixon was a petulant resentful cheat and yes…a crook!  We are all on Newton’s beach, finding this or that pretty sea shell or pebble while the great ocean of truth around us is all undiscovered. But at least we can find those.

I turn toward the Capital dome and start walking…and thinking… 

The first foe is fear. You walk into the unknown and it scares you and you back off and then you’re finished before you have even started. Defeat the first foe, defeat fear, and you will learn and you will grow and a moment will come when everything becomes clear. And so you have encountered the second foe: clarity. Its weapon is certainty. You believe you know all there is to know and you stop searching further, and again you are defeated, because that clarity you think you have is just a small part of a greater whole you will never know. Defeat the second foe, realize that for all that you do know, it is only a small portion of what there is to know, and taken by itself it is almost always wrong. Then you will be wise and strong in your searching. Your knowledge will grow and you come to realize that knowledge is power and you begin to seek out even more knowledge and bask in the power it brings. And so you have encountered the third foe: power. Its weapon is hunger. Now your knowledge is a powerful weapon you can turn on your enemies, but it is never enough and you want more. And more. And even more, because as you become stronger so do the enemies you encounter, and so you will seek knowledge only for the power it brings, and so you have become a tool of power. Defeat the third foe, realize that power is never yours to have, but only to yours to hold in trust for a short while, that you are never its owner but merely its guardian, and do not hoard it, but pass on to others. Then you will continue to grow and learn and continue down the pathways of knowledge, though the weight of all the years you have now spent learning and growing begins to bear down on you. And so you will encounter the forth and final foe, the one you can never completely defeat but only push away for a time. The forth foe is old age, and its weapon is fatigue…

I go back to my hotel room and take a nap. I miss the march entirely. Later I wake up and it’s not nightfall yet, so I go back out with my camera, and wander the streets taking pictures of the discarded signs and march ephemera…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Flashback: April 22, 2017 – March For Science Nixonian

April 7th, 2018

The Snagglepuss Chronicles

Recently DC Comics began a Hanna-Barbera “crossover” series and they are the strangest, weirdest things you will ever see in this lifetime. Imagine your favorite old Hanna-Barbera cartoons re-imagined as real people, not simple animated cartoons…the Flintstones drawn as an actual anatomically correct people, experiencing life as real flesh and blood human beings do, but still living in that Bedrock setting, or the Scooby Doo gang as real kids investigating paranormal events in the middle of the Apocalypse…and you get the picture.

I’d been taking a pass…I actually hated what Hanna-Barbera did to animation all through the 60s, 70s and 80s, which didn’t get turned around until Who Framed Roger Rabbit appeared and reminded everyone what real hand drawn frame by frame animation looked like. Even Disney was starting to loose it. But then I saw Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, and had an abrupt change of mind.

It’s actually brilliant…Snagglepuss re-imagined as a kind of famous and closeted Tennessee Williams-esq playwright, coping with the homophobic prejudices of the 1950s and 60s. Yes…they’re actually going there. And it’s not that hard at all to re-visualize that character in those terms…that pink oh so theatrical mountain lion whose tagline was Exit, stage…(right or left as need be). Weird though it is to see these characters drawn as if they were alive in our real world, and interacting with humans and it’s all taken for granted that its normal. And it is very Very weird. And yet…it works. 

Snagglepuss is a famous playwright in the mold of Tennessee Williams, working on getting his latest Broadway play ready for its opening night. But the story is set firmly in the pre Stonewall struggle for gay survival in a world that hates us from every possible direction. I especially like how the writers weave the cold war, it’s blacklists and witch hunts, and the threat of nuclear annihilation into the story. Then there are scenes like this one…where we see that the play Snagglepuss is putting on stage is very much autobiographical…

This is the central theme of issue 4, and perhaps the entire series. Huckleberry Hound is we discover, also gay and in the previous issues came to New York and connected with Snagglepuss again, who introduces him to the Stonewall Inn, where he meets and begins to date one of New York’s finest, a certain constable McGraw. But the Stonewall is raided…not the raid that provokes the riot this time…maybe that one comes later on…and constable McGraw is ordered to be part of the raiding party and ends up gay bashing Huck after Huck says to him “Hello again officer…” in front of McGraw’s superiors. He later breaks down in front of the Stonewall, aghast at what he’s just done. Snagglepuss wasn’t there, he was introducing his own wife to his boyfriend, because he’d grown tired of seeing himself as a coward.

At the end of this issue, Snagglepuss is bailing Huck out of jail, and as the panels wander among the nuclear wreckage of yet another desert a-bomb test, Huck tells him… “You were right, you know a man cannot pretend forever. A man can no more hide his nature than outrun his shadow. The truth is they will always find us S.P., whatever we do, wherever we hide, they’ll find us. We’re fools if we think otherwise. Our only choice in this life is to change the world or be destroyed by it. And God help me S.P., I’m not sure which one I prefer.”

It’s brilliant. There’s more I haven’t touched on…the references to the Blacklist…the government agent angry that S.P. isn’t willing to cooperate with their witch hunt…the nuclear bomb engineer who when asked whether the American public should know the truth that building bomb shelters is pointless says “Oh no! It’s a democracy. The truth is the last thing you want people to have.” and… “…there is no such thing as Truth. Only usefulness”.

For this I can accept the absolute weirdness of seeing the old cartoon characters drawn as if they were real and lived among us and it was all taken as normal. There was a time after all, that we thought Mutually Assured Destruction, digging bomb shelters in our back yards and leading school children in duck and cover drills was normal.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Snagglepuss Chronicles

February 22nd, 2018

A Wee Proposal

Outrage over the shooting deaths in a Florida school, and discussion of mass shooter profiles, and how they almost always include incidents of domestic violence, led me to a thought. They’re saying, and I completely agree, that domestic violence should be right at the top of warning signs that someone should not be allowed to buy or possess firearms. I am coming to a place where I believe it needs to go further than that.

Spouse/lover abuse…child abuse…and I don’t mean only sexual abuse, but also beatings, starvation, the sorts of things you read horrible news stories about when kids are discovered locked or hidden away in homes of religious fanatics…kids beaten and murdered even because a parent or guardian thought they might be gay, or boys just to feminine, girls too assertive…parents who send their kids to those horrific camps where they’re starved, beaten and otherwise tortured because they were “defiant”…and the adults who run those camps and profit from them. These are all warning signs, telegraphing to the rest of us that this person cannot be trusted with power.

Never mind firearms. See how excruciatingly difficult it’s become now to enact sensible firearms regulation even when it has become staringly obvious that what we’re doing now simply isn’t working. It’s like the trickle-down trope among conservatives, how taking more and more of the tax burden off the rich and big business will result in an improved economy that works for everyone, and nearly the exact opposite is what happens, and yet they keep on pushing it. Same with firearms. Relaxing gun  restrictions isn’t making us more safe, it’s having the opposite effect. Yet they keep pushing it. But maybe at some level they’re right…guns don’t kill people, people kill people. And people, certain kinds of people, also kill democracies. Should anyone who ought not to be allowed to have a gun, be allowed to have power?

If I could magically wave a wand and put a new amendment into our constitution, it would be something to the effect that anyone with a criminal conviction for domestic violence or child abuse cannot ever hold public office whether local, state or federal, no matter how minor, nor could they work in law enforcement in any capacity.

I’m thinking of a country where we never have to wonder if we are being governed by sociopaths.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Wee Proposal

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