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January 2nd, 2022

It’s Morning In America…Again…

Who is “Lead America” I ask myself.

I’m insomnia flipping through the Facebook posts and for the third or fourth time this ad comes up again, for what appears to be a new political action committee. They say they want to bring the country back together. They say they want to reinvigorate the American Dream. Sounds vaguely familiar…

LEAD is a new initiative born out of a time-tested idea: that America is good and that the pursuit of the American Dream is as essential today as it has been at each critical juncture in the development of our nation. Oh really? I take note of the carefully curated images of middle class black families. See how inclusive we are? A flag waves on the banner. I dig a little deeper…

“Why am I seeing this ad”? is a function you can get to by clicking on the dots next to a Facebook ad. Occasionally it’s useful. This time it tells me that the advertiser was looking for viewers who had expressed an interest in the CIA and the FBI. Huh? When did I do that? Somewhere deep in my posts over the years and Facebook’s algorithm I suppose. But that’s interesting. I dig a little deeper…

A Google search turns up only their website. That in itself is significant. My browser protectors tell me it’s safe, but with the caveat that there are tracking cookies and I should proceed with caution. Fine. I take a look. I have two questions. Who are these people, and where is their money coming from.

The CIA/FBI links quickly become clear. The leads on this group are Mike Rogers, republican, a former FBI Agent based in Chicago, then a congressman and chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. So there’s that. He’s the chairman of the board. His wife is president of the group. “Kristi Rogers finds those homegrown values driving her work. Family, faith, and freedom are her cornerstones, and they have driven her to spend her life in the service of others and of her country.” Family, faith, and freedom. Yes, the checkboxes are all being ticked.

So I browse the rest of the cast of characters. Board member Laurie Michel “…is retired from a career as a senior government relations professional and advocate. She most recently worked as Director of Federal Affairs for The Port Authority of NY & NJ…” The port authority link tweaks a memory somewhere but I can’t place it now. A Google search turns up thousands in political contributions to republicans in Virginia. So that’s another checkbox checked. The Virginia republican party went off the deep end years ago.

Also on board is Allan Filip, who once served as Roger’s chief of staff. This seems to be a Mike Rogers house party.

It’s the Secretary of the board who is the Most interesting. “Thomas DiNanno is currently an adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington…” Oooohhh The Hudson Institute! Hudson was founded by Herman Kahn and other Rand Corp disaffected when Kahn’s book “On Thermonuclear War” caused some…controversy. Controversy? Think Dr. Strangelove…

Hudson Institute was founded in 1961 by Herman Kahn, Max Singer, and Oscar M. Ruebhausen. In 1960, while employed at the RAND Corporation, Kahn had given a series of lectures at Princeton University on scenarios related to nuclear war. In 1960, Princeton University Press published On Thermonuclear War, a book-length expansion of Kahn’s lecture notes. Major controversies ensued, and in the end, Kahn and RAND had a parting of ways. (From Wikipedia)

Seriously…so I’m told, some of Kahn’s book on nuclear war made it into the dialogue of Dr. Strangelove.

Hudson is like a whos who of presentable establishment rightwing nutcases (as opposed to the MAGA variety). And they make big money contributions to the cause. So now both my questions are answered, at least enough that I can see what’s going on here.

The backlash against the overflowing human cesspool that is Trump and company is worrying the establishment right. It’s turning off all the wrong voters. The well educated middle class white suburbia voters they depend on to keep their gerrymandered districts safely republican. So this is the soft sell response. It’s Reagan’s “Morning In America” all over again. We are good people, who just want the best for our country…

I told Facebook I didn’t want to see any of their ads. But this is instructive. This is an election year and they really want their congress back, especially to keep hold of the Supreme Court while a democrat is in the White House. They can’t control the MAGA, they know those babbling kooks will be out there all year long waving hysterical paranoid fantasies at everyone in earshot. They know that too much of that and they’ll lose congress again. So the right wing establishment will drug us with Morning In America. In Virginia Glen Youngkin showed them it can still work. One of the posts on their website referenced that election. It is very slick…

In the Virginia gubernatorial race, for example, we saw traditional kitchen table issues trump the D.C. narrative, which is becoming increasingly more important to voters. Terry McAuliffe leaned heavily on national messaging, largely reminiscent of the negative contrasts employed during the 2020 presidential election. The campaign focused more on drawing on hate on the other party than it did on what real changes will happen upon their victory. Glenn Youngkin’s message, on the other hand, centered largely on middle-of-the-road issues, which both political parties have often attempted to own for themselves. His voters and supporters were in search of a full and balanced education for their kids, a strong and stable economy, safe communities, and protections for their individual freedoms and choices. Rather than pushing trending topics and federal issues, Youngkin discussed problems that every Virginian family was dealing with, reinforcing his platform and campaign as the solution.

And just never you mind all that stuff about Critical Race Theory. See how neatly Youngkin’s racist appeal to white fright is tucked under a soft blanket of “…a full and balanced education for their kids, a strong and stable economy, safe communities“? It’s not racist to just want a Balanced education for your kids and Safe communities. Voting for the republican doesn’t make you a bad person… 

This is how the game is played. Ask those of us who fought them on Proposition 8.

 

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

December 27th, 2021

Unvaccinated Men Walking Proudly Over That Rotten Covering

Let me start out by reminding my readers here once again, that I am an atheist. And also, that my atheism isn’t a knee jerk reaction to any specific religion. I realized that I’d drifted into atheism once I was ready to admit to myself that belief had stopped making sense to me quite some time ago. Your mileage may vary, and I’m fine with that, as long as it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

I say this all up front, because I have to tell you that sometimes I find myself wondering. Like when I read this, about the new COVID variant…

With omicron, it may be harder to tell if you have covid, the common cold or flu

Unlike earlier variants of concern, like delta, omicron has a higher affinity for the upper respiratory epithelium, said Landon: “It’s more likely to make people sniffle more, sneeze more or be congested.”

The mildness of omicron’s symptoms for vaccinated people in particular may give them a false sense of confidence that they have a cold rather than a highly-transmissible variant of covid-19.

Go read the whole article from the Washington Post. The takeaway I get is that in those of us who are vaccinated the new variant can present like a common cold. Adding to that is it looks like the variant has a preference for the upper respiratory zone. It is more likely to give you the sniffles and sneezes and nasal congestion. So you think it’s just a cold and it isn’t.

There’s also this Twitter thread from an ER doctor…who says…

Every patient I’ve seen with Covid that’s had a 3rd ‘booster’ dose has had mild symptoms. By mild I mean mostly sore throat. Lots of sore throat. Also some fatigue, maybe some muscle pain. No difficulty breathing. No shortness of breath. All a little uncomfortable, but fine.

Most patients I’ve seen that had 2 doses of Pfizer/Moderna still had ‘mild’ symptoms, but more than those who had received a third dose. More fatigued. More fever. More coughing. A little more miserable overall. But no shortness of breath. No difficulty breathing. Mostly fine.

Most patients I’ve seen that had one dose of J&J and had Covid were worse overall. Felt horrible. Fever for a few days (or more). Weak, tired. Some shortness of breath and cough. But not one needing hospitalization. Not one needing oxygen. Not great. But not life-threatening.

And almost every single patient that I’ve taken care of that needed to be admitted for Covid has been unvaccinated. Every one with profound shortness of breath. Every one whose oxygen dropped when they walked. Every one needing oxygen to breathe regularly.

So. Four years of Trump…a thief and a sexual predator celebrated by various American religious right figures including Franklin Graham almost as if he was the second coming…wildly popular with grassroots white culture war evangelicals…one of many such all over the world burning democracies wherever they can while waving their bibles…

…or whatever religious idols they venerate. Suddenly a plague of…well…Biblical proportions appears, almost out of nowhere. And for a couple years it strikes terror and hardship all over the globe. 

But the helpers, as Mr. Rogers called them, come forth, as they do, and taught us how to protect ourselves and our neighbors until a vaccine could be produced. And then a vaccine was produced. And we wore our masks, and we kept our distance, and got our shots because that is how decent people behave in a plague.

…and the despots pushed back against all of it, the rich and powerful and the cul-de-sac kook pew deplorables alike, because that is how the wicked traditionally behave all the time. And we are all still suffering this plague because they won’t take one simple little iota of responsibility for doing their part to fight this plague if it means they have to be inconvenienced, or worse, admit the helpers were helping where they themselves could not be bothered in the least.

I was raised in a Baptist household. I take pains these days to specify a Yankee Baptist household, and while most of us didn’t thump a racist pulpit (which is why there is a Southern Baptist Convention), lots of us still warned each other darkly about crossing an angry vengeful God. You really needed to experience the theater of a tent revival to know what genuine fire and brimstone pulpit thumping is. But mostly, in the pews I sat in when I was a kid, I heard about a God of Love. Yeah you could make him angry at you, but the God I was preached to about loved all the children of the world, red brown yellow black and white, and just wanted us to be good to each other, love our neighbors, and love Him back.

So never mind my atheism, everything in my wiring does not really want to see an angry vengeful God in the fact that after two years of plague, and about half the county and too much of the rest of the world is furiously fighting any steps to mitigate the spread of this virus, because they’d rather hundreds of thousands of their neighbors die then admit to any sort of social responsibility, let alone work toward the common good, suddenly there appears a variation on the horrible theme. And it spreads even more rapidly. Only this time it is gentle on those of us who did our part and got the shots, and still very Very deadly to those who did not. Almost as if it is passing us by.

So I take a deep breath. I do not believe in such a God. Or any God. And calling it karma feels too much like washing my hands of responsibility. So I keep wearing the mask where appropriate. And I’ve ordered some home rapid tests. I don’t need to believe an almighty God exists to know my neighbor exists. And you can’t judge a book by its cover. I want to look in my bathroom mirror and see a helper, not an angry god.

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

December 8th, 2021

“Fox News is a right-wing propaganda operation wrapped inside an entertainment channel.”

Via Digby this morning I catch this from Dan Froomkin…

Fox News is not news. Say it with me.

Fox “News” is a right-wing propaganda operation wrapped inside an entertainment channel. It does not adhere to the professional standards of journalism. And every moment is it allowed to operate under the guise of “news” gives it more credibility than it deserves as it chips away at our democracy.

You must Absolutely go read this! And especially Froomkin’s suggestions to reporters as to how to deal with the grave danger to our democracy it poses, because a lot of that are things we should All be doing.

Here are three items I think everyone can work on:

Demand that search and social media platforms not treat it as news. Legitimate news organizations should not have to compete against propaganda under the rubric of news. Demand that Facebook News stop linking to Fox. Urge Google News to downgrade or identify propaganda outlets.

Establish that people and businesses showing it in public places are making a political statement. Once you establish that Fox is not simply a news outlet with a different view but a dangerous disinformation vector, then its public display should be seen as an attack on news and truth.

Stop partnering with it in any way, including debates and distribution deals. Fox News sullies whatever it touches.

Fox News gets money from your cable provider whether or not you watch it, simply by being available there. So I hear, that money is a big part of what keeps it afloat. Tell your cable provider you want them to remove Fox News from your lineup and not make you pay for it, and if they make excuses drop them and switch to streaming a’la cart content instead. I have a Roku box, but there are many ways of ditching the cable. Make sure you tell them that it’s Fox News that drove you to it.

Read this. We are not helpless. We can fight back.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on “Fox News is a right-wing propaganda operation wrapped inside an entertainment channel.”


Crap News Fatigue…Let Me Tell You About It…

I was reading a news article yesterday about the guy who let the Crumbleys into his art loft and they started hiding out in it. It said he didn’t watch the news, so he had no idea they were on the run. The cops believe him. Reading that article, I believed him too. Reading the news these days is very stressful for me, and I’m a Nixon/Vietnam/Cold War/Duck And Cover/Kennedy and King assassinations era kid. But commercial mainstream news is way different now than it was then.

Case in Point: The current feckless mainstream media howling about the Vice President’s personal security tactics. I’ve seen nothing about it that strikes me as anything other than completely sensible for a person in her position now, and back when she was California AG. Politico did an entire thing the other day about the fact that Harris uses wired earbuds instead of Bluetooth.

Most commercial news these days is crap, designed to keep us agitated because apparently that keeps us addicted to it. I have a carefully curated Google news page and some select Twitter accounts I follow for links, but I am careful to look for sources that, like Joe Friday once said, are just the facts ma’am. And when I feel myself getting wired I break off and go do something else.

It’s a struggle to stay informed and sane at the same time these days. I don’t blame the poor guy who let in the Crumbleys for not paying attention to the news. On the other hand it nearly got him arrested as an accomplice. Ignorance is bliss like heroin is.

 

[UPDATE…] The comments to that twitter thread by Alex Thompson of Politico are withering. Tons of IT folks weighing in about wireless security and Bluetooth. But my favorite is the user who called Politico the Tiger Beat of the Potomac. Yeah…that. Exactly.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Crap News Fatigue…Let Me Tell You About It…

November 3rd, 2021

The One Thing A Thief Hates Being Called Is A Thief

This came across my Facebook stream today…

The text post enlightened me on details I hadn’t heard regarding the kook pew complaints over CRT, especially the black-supremacist angle. That was a new one to me and it tweaked my interest. This gay man endured decades of seeing our struggle for equality labeled as us wanting “special rights”…in other words, more rights than everyone else. But really the complaint was we wanted more rights than bigots thought we deserved.

It’s really stunning in its way, how equal rights, equal opportunity, equal justice, gets its most venomous pushback from exactly the direction you would, in retrospect, have expected. But there is always a learning curve.

There are those of us who grew up in the culture and simply didn’t question it because it all seemed to perfectly normal. We were born to it. It was our daily lives. But then we began to see the foundations of that normalcy and it shocked us, and it called to our moral sensibilities, the very things we were raised to, all those days in the church pews, all those hours listening to the morality plays of our youth, and we began to work for change, not because we felt guilty, but because we felt a moral obligation once we could see the problem, to fix it. It was simply how we were raised. It’s what you do.

But there were others who seemed to know intuitively that They Were The Problem, and you saw it in how outraged they became at even discussing the problem, and how furiously they denied there even was a problem.

If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, it’s not the mirror’s fault. And I am not so much woke, as still that little Baptist boy sitting in the pews who was told that as you sow, so shall you reap, and though I am an atheist now, I still see the truth of that.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The One Thing A Thief Hates Being Called Is A Thief

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

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