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August 9th, 2021

The End Game

Atrios this morning:

Lots of talk about white guy confidence and entitlement these days, but the amazing thing, to me, is the kind of entitlement that leads people to believe that when they throw out democracy and institute their preferred theocratic fascist dictatorship (Rod Dreher’s vision, which he will admit, Ross Douthat’s, which he won’t), that the illiberal forces they’ve unleashed won’t quickly bayonet them in the gut.

A reasonable thing for the billionaires to believe. Not their lickspittles who will have to keep pleasing their fickle insane masters.

Lots of talk about theocratic fascist dictatorships these days too which, yes, Dreher especially would dearly love to see happen here. But the genuine fascists among us are making the same mistake the fascists of the 1930s made about American white supremacists. Hitler’s people, so I’m told, tried to cultivated them, and were surprised at how rapidly they turned on the Nazis once the war actually broke out.

The American far right definitely approved of Hitler’s social policies naturally, but they had zero interest in living in a fascist dictatorship. Especially one obliged to a foreign dictator. What they wanted was a white democracy.

There are models for them in other countries, but the absolute dictatorships aren’t it. Viktor Orban’s Hungary, a democracy in name only, is closest. Which is what makes Tucker Carlson and Fox News sucking up to Orban so troubling. But remember how enthusiastically they used to love South African apartheid? It was a police state for everyone but elite and middle class white people. That’s the model they want here.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The End Game

January 11th, 2021

Unity…Did You Say…

This from Steve Schmidt, co founder of The Lincoln Project, was I think, posted somewhere, maybe as a Twitter thread but I’m not sure at the moment, before the mob assault on the Capitol and well after the election, when you could hear howls from the kook pews about how could Biden have won so many votes when we saw practically no Biden signs on lawns or bumper stickers. Wasn’t it obvious why? Yeah…they knew damn well why they weren’t seeing much of that in their neighborhoods. All that ranting and raving and chest thumping was meant to silence anyone who might even be thinking of voting for Biden. But once people got into the voting booth, they made their silent voices heard.

Anyway…this was posted the other day on the Facebook page of the Lawrence County (Indiana) Democratic Party. I couldn’t have said it better…

No amount of unity efforts can erase what we’ve learned about our fellow Americans the past four years.

No, Biden’s rallies weren’t bigger.

No, you didn’t see many Biden flags on houses or Biden bumper stickers on cars.

No, you don’t know a single person on your street or at your church who supports Biden.

But guess what?

We’re here.

Biden’s rallies were small, because people who live in reality don’t want to expose themselves to the virus you continue to downplay or deny.

We don’t fly Biden flags because we don’t want our houses burned down.

We don’t put Biden bumper stickers on our cars because we want to avoid becoming targets for road rage.

We don’t trust you.

We’ve decided to minimize our interactions with people who cannot be reasoned with. This is for our own safety. In private groups – where you’re not invited – we share our bewilderment of your descent into madness.

We all have stories about how we’ve cut ties with you, our family and former friends, because we don’t want your hatred poisoning our social media streams. We can’t stand to listen to you vomiting the lies of your cult, day after day. You used to be different. We liked you. But now that we know what was inside your heart all along, we’ve decided you don’t deserve to know about our lives. We’ll skip family reunions, even after we get the vaccine. We’ll make up some excuse just to be polite.

But in reality, we just don’t feel like sitting around eating potato salad and making small talk with people who have such monstrous beliefs. To all the brothers and aunts and cousins and dads and neighbors out there who just can’t wrap their heads around what this means going forward, know that these scars aren’t going away anytime soon. We won’t be reaching out, and we won’t be mending fences. It’s not up to us to apologize for the wounds you have gleefully inflicted upon us and our friends. You poured the gasoline, you lit the match. You burned this to the ground.

So if we seem different from now on, I guess we are, in a way. We’ve seen your truth laid bare, and we’re horrified. I hope Trump was worth it.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Unity…Did You Say…

September 27th, 2020

It’s A Small World After All…But Not That Small…

This came to my doorstep the other day…a happy time capsule from a better time. Or so I’d hoped…

This was my favorite of all the Micky Mouse Club serials back in the day. The Adventures of Spin and Marty was okay, but not nearly as engaging. This one had some real adventure, and a mystery for a young geek kid to solve along with Frank and Joe. Plus, if I was to admit it…which back at that age, at that time, I could not…the two leads were Very attractive. Looking back on it, even then I had a thing for good looking guys. But there was another reason I wanted this for my library. Years later, I would learn how Disney fired Tommy Kirk after he found out Tommy was gay, and I would keep a place for him and his work close to heart. If only we’d both lived in a better world back then. This serial was Tommy’s first appearance in a Disney production. I wanted to watch the episodes, imagining in the back of my mind both of us living in that better world as I watched. Perhaps I should not have watched that full episode of the Micky Mouse Club that had the introduction episode in it to the new Hardy Boys serial.

Mind you, when I was a kid watching the Micky Mouse Club back in the day, I was watching the series when it was in reruns. This was after school fare that I would take in along with one or the other of the local kid’s show hosts. Pick Temple. Captain Tugg. Ranger Hal…but he was in the mornings and I only watched his show when I was home from school. My memories of those times and the Mickey Mouse Club are kinda munged together now, and if anything they tell me at age 67 how good that Hardy Boys serial must have been, because watching those are the clearest memories I have of that TV show. And especially that opening title song. That, and how each day of the week had a different theme. I remember the other serials vaguely. Spin and Marty. Corky and White Shadow. I remember we got a Disney cartoon every episode, and the Mouseketeers would sing a song in front of the doors to a treasure vault to open it. One of the cast would run up to a drawer and take out a card presumably with the title of the cartoon we were about to see on it. But what would happen is that Mouseketeer would look at the camera and say “Today’s cartoon is…” and then the video would cut to a title card and a voice over.

Even at that age I knew what was going on was a canned sequence they just reused over and over again. But I was a kid and I let it slide, along with all the other canned sequences TV shows used back then, and the fact that the characters in them always wore the same clothes every second of every episode, so the same boilerplate footage, like Clark Kent going into that storage room down the hall from his office, would always work wherever they had to splice it in. TV in it’s early years was produced very cheaply. I’ve had this running fantasy of creating an All Car Chase cable TV channel that just runs a continuous stream of boilerplate Quinn Martin car chase sequences with those huge Ford whales squealing tires around street corners. People would tune in at random and start wondering which Quinn Martin show it was they were watching.

There was other stuff stitched into a typical Micky Mouse Club episode that I’d completely forgotten. Lots of boilerplate I only vaguely remembered. And as it turned out, a bunch of stuff I’d completely forgotten. Or more likely suppressed the memory of. And when I popped the first CD of this set into the player and started watching it all came back to me. And I cringed.

Oh…I remember this world…

See…I rediscovered my inner Mouseketeer back in 2008, when I went to Walt Disney World for the first time and it all came back to me. Yes, I’d gone mostly to see my first love again after thirty plus years of searching for him. But I’d forgotten what a little Mouseketeer I was. And almost from the moment I set foot in Epcot, and saw the monorail glide overhead, and heard the music, and it all embraced me like a long lost boy come back to the family, it all came back to me. And for a little while I could be that kid again, and believe in all the things I used to believe about the world, and what the future held. But that was the kid who grew up in an all white protestant suburb, who didn’t yet know he was gay.

The Walt Disney World of today would embrace that gay kid. Walking through those gates in 2008 I felt welcome even then, years before the Pulse nightclub massacre that changed everything in Orlando, and among the Disney crew. Yes, it was a kind of down low embracing. But you had to have grown up in the world I was seeing on that CD to appreciate how Wonderful even that on the down low acceptance felt. We had Gay Days now, but it was unofficial (it still is, but Disney World Paris had an official actual Gay Pride parade last June). And that It’s A Small World After All mindset was everywhere. People from all over the world came to Walt Disney World. You saw people of all nations, all races in the parks, just enjoying themselves. You could hear the languages of the world spoken. Spanish and English announcements alternated. And also, even closer to my heart, that There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow Shining At The End Of Every Day mindset. I felt I was back home, back in the world I belonged in.

Watching that full episode of The Micky Mouse Club I saw the old testament world. The world of the red baiting, gay witch hunts, ostentatious flag waving, and suffocating moralizing. But that world was also a world I remembered well. It’s a way too easily remembered world in fact, because so many people keep trying to bring it back.

The first thing you notice watching those old Micky Mouse Club episodes, is the unrelenting whiteness of it. There were no black Mouseketeers. And of course, in the 1950s, had Disney put Any black kids on the show as regulars, unless they were strictly for stereotypical comic relief only, ABC would have instantly lost all the southern TV station affiliates for that time slot. I remember watching the TV series I Spy get an Emmy Award back in the mid sixties, and the guy whoever it was receiving it said on the podium that Sheldon Leonard “has a lot of guts”, and I had no idea what he was talking about. Later it dawned on me…he’d cast a black man, Bill Cosby, as one of the leads, and they’d lost southern affiliates over it, and the network didn’t back down. I sat on my sofa watching this Micky Mouse Club episode and wondered how it felt to black kids back in the 1950s, to be invisible on a family oriented TV show that was supposedly for all kids everywhere. 

An other thing you notice was how supposedly all-American it was in just about every minute of it. The patriotic display was as thick as the moralism and it was all thoroughly suffocating. The head Mouseketeer in the series, adult Mouseketeer Jimmy Dodd, would often take to the camera to talk to the kids about making all the right moral choices and how lucky they were to be living in such a great country as ours. These were, so I’m told, called “Doddisms”, and there was one of them on this episode, that ended with Dodd pointing at the camera and saying “someday one of you will be President of the United States.” I’m pretty sure Walt Disney would be spitting nails to know the man who is President now is part of his Hall of the Presidents attraction. But his Micky Mouse Club was exactly the kind of all white constantly moralizing to the common folk world that man and his supporters favor to their own motives and ends. There is not an inch of distance between them. Only, I am convinced, that Walt Disney believed in it himself. I don’t think that man put his name on anything he didn’t actually believe in, just to make a buck.

But in that world, black kids need not apply for any of the lead roles. Not Jewish kids. Asian kids. Boys who don’t fit the Disney mold of what boys should be. Girls who don’t fit the Disney mold of proper ladies. I’m told Disney was shocked, shocked when Annette began appearing in beach movies wearing a bikini. And she remained a very conservative woman to her dying day. It’s a small gated community after all. The rest of us were at best, background scenery. Boilerplate stereotypes. And that only if we were allowed to exist at all:

“I consider my teenage years as being desperately unhappy. I knew I was gay, but I had no outlet for my feelings. It was very hard to meet people and, at that time, there was no place to go to socialize. It wasn’t until the early ’60s that I began to hear of places where gays congregated. The lifestyle was not recognized and I was very, very lonely. Oh, I had some brief, very passionate encounters and as a teenager I had some affairs, but they were always stolen, back alley kind of things. They were desperate and miserable. When I was about 17 or 18 years old, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to change. I didn’t know what the consequences would be, but I had the definite feeling that it was going to wreck my Disney career and maybe my whole acting career. It was all going to come to an end.”

Tommy Kirk.

There’s a well known story about the Disney animator Art Babbitt, who decided to study piano to better understand the relationship between music and animation, and when he told Walt Disney he was taking piano lessons Disney snapped back at him “What are you, some kind of fag or something?” I’ve often wondered if the context of that was finding out the child actor he’d groomed for bigger and better things after the Hardy Boys, and was a big hit with audiences in Old Yeller, Swiss Family Robinson, and The Shaggy Dog  turned out to be gay. But the time frames don’t seem to match up. Disney discarded Tommy over something he was and couldn’t help being and it destroyed him inside. His career plummeted into drugs and crappy movies and he finally had to get out of it and start over. He blames himself for it, but then lots of us do because we’re taught to believe deep down inside that we are damaged goods. We are taught to blame ourselves for the ignorant hatred of others.

So I’m sitting on my sofa watching that episode of the Mickey Mouse Club and that feeling of teenage suffocation came back to me with all the immediacy of that moment in 2008 when I walked into Epcot and remembered how it was to be a Disney Kid, before the suffocation set in. And that was why I stopped being a Disney kid in my late teens. Even before I came out to myself one day in 1971, I’d stopped feeling that I was a part of his world. Like the Baptist culture I was raised in I had to get out and breath. But it wasn’t just Disney, who was both a product of his times and a definer of them. It’s been well said that to understand the counter culture rebellion of the 1960s, you have to first understand the stifling conformity all us 60s kids grew up with in the 1950s. A good place to see it is that Mickey Mouse Club episode of Oct. 1, 1956.

I like to think if Walt Disney had, given Lots of pixie dust and magic, lived to today he might have grown out of his prejudices and stereotypes. He’d also be over 100 years old but…well okay. What people forget about him was while he was a conservative man, with one foot in Mainstreet U.S.A., he had the other foot in Tomorrowland. He was a man of science and he believed in progress. It wasn’t just cartoon mice and Mary Poppins with him. It was also this…

I like to think that the science regarding sexual orientation, and being exposed to the stories of our lives, told in our own words, would have eventually got through to him. And the stories of all the other kids. Black, yellow, red, brown. It is a small world after all. I like to think in other words, that he would have lived to become the Uncle Walt he presented himself as, and which I’m certain he thought of himself as being. And all the kids of this world would have had a friend and mentor in him. Gay kids too. And that would have been good, because there are much Much worse examples to set for gay kids, than the ones Walt Disney would have. But deeply held prejudices like those die hard. And also that cocoon so many white Americans lived in back then.

I don’t think he ever realized what it did to so many kids back then, that they were invisible in his world, except, sometimes, as stereotypes to dress the stage with. There is a sequence in that Mickey Mouse Club episode, where the Mouseketeers do a song and dance for a Fun With Music segment…a recurring song and dance part of the show…that is a spectacularly cringeworthy moment of white kids dressing up and performing the cultural stereotypes of the 1950s… 

But when it was aired nobody watching would have thought it anything but charming in that Disney way. I don’t recall seeing any Asian Mouseketeers either.

Walt Disney died in 1966. His heirs, the Disney kids who looked up to him, and believed in that great big beautiful tomorrow, set out to make it real in the parks, TV shows and movies that bear his name. Maybe he would be spitting nails to see it now, but he preached the sermon and we all believed and in Walt Disney’s parks, TV shows and movies some of us Disney kids are making it happen. We can all be Disney kids now. And that’s good. Because the more of us there are telling our stories in our own words, instead of sitting passively at the TV watching other people’s stereotypes about us, the closer we all get to that great big beautiful tomorrow Disney promised us.

You too Tommy. And all the kids like you who are watching.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on It’s A Small World After All…But Not That Small…

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

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