Bruce Garrett Cartoon
The Cartoon Gallery

A Coming Out Story
A Coming Out Story

My Photo Galleries
New and Improved!

Past Web Logs
The Story So Far archives

My Amazon.Com Wish List

My Myspace Profile

Bruce Garrett's Profile
Bruce Garrett's Facebook profile


Blogs I Read!
Alicublog

Wayne Besen

Box Turtle Bulletin

Daily Kos

Mike Daisy's Blog

The Disney Blog

Disney Gossip

Brad DeLong

Dispatches From The Culture Wars

Epcot Explorer's Encyclopedia

Envisioning The American Dream

Eschaton

Ex-Gay Watch

Hullabaloo

Joe. My. God

Made In Brazil

Peterson Toscano

Progress City USA

Slacktivist

Slacktiverse

SLOG

Fear the wrath of Sparky!

Truth Wins Out Blog

Wil Wheaton



Gone But Not Forgotten

The Rittenhouse Review

Steve Gilliard's News Blog

Steve Gilliard's Blogspot Site



Great Cartoon Sites!

Howard Cruse Central

Tripping Over You
Tripping Over You

XKCD

Scandinavia And The World

Dope Rider

The World Of Kirk Anderson

Ann Telnaes' Cartoon Site

Ted Rall

Bors Blog

John K

Penny Arcade

Friendly Hostility

Downstairs Apartment




Other News & Commentary

Amtrak In The Heartland

Corridor Capital

Maryland Weather Blog

Foot's Forecast

All Facts & Opinions

Baltimore Crime

Cursor

HinesSight

Page One Q
(GLBT News)


Michelangelo Signorile

The Smirking Chimp

Talking Points Memo

Truth Wins Out

The Raw Story

Slashdot




International News & Views

BBC

NIS News Bulletin (Dutch)

Mexico Daily

The Local (Sweden)




News & Views from Germany

Spiegel Online

The Local

Deutsche Welle

Young Germany




Fun Stuff

It's not news. It's FARK

Plan 59

Pleasant Family Shopping

Discount Stores of the 60s

Retrospace

Photos of the Forgotten

Boom-Pop!

Comics With Problems

HMK Mystery Streams




Mercedes Love!

Mercedes-Benz USA

Mercedes-Benz TV

Mercedes-Benz Owners Club of America

MBCA - Greater Washington Section

BenzInsider

Mercedes-Benz Blog

BenzWorld Forum

July 16th, 2018

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

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

Trump, Treasonous Traitor

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 27th, 2018

Just Never Let Yourself Forget Why It Matters

 

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

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

May 10th, 2018

Flashback: April 22, 2017 – March For Science Nixonian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

April 7th, 2018

The Snagglepuss Chronicles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Snagglepuss Chronicles

February 22nd, 2018

A Wee Proposal

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

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

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

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

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

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Wee Proposal

February 17th, 2018

Gunshots That Echo On And On And On…(continued)

More dead children. How did it come to this? I ask myself, as a sixty-four year old American male, and also as a gun owner who believes in a democratic right to own your own firearms. Firstly, there is a Scientific American article I would implore you to read…it’s a good one…science is our friend…let’s try using some…

4 Laws That Could Stem the Rising Threat of Mass Shootings

These are good…I enthusiastically support Every One of them, and especially the singling out of domestic violence as an indicator of future bloodshed. Seriously, if the one who loved you, who you took into your arms, is afraid of you, who the hell shouldn’t be? And if a child can’t trust you to at the very least keep them safe from harm then you are not a very well adult, and to whatever degree possible you need to be kept far away from any sort of weapon.

But here we are again. How did it come to this. Well you might say it’s the easy availability of guns, but I’m old enough to remember when they were even easier to get your hands on. Before the assassination of president Kennedy you could buy them in mail order catalogues and have them delivered to your doorstep. You could walk into most any hardware store and put your money down and walk out with one. Mass shootings, especially in our schools, were simply not as frequent then as they are now. Which is not to say they never happened either. There was the notorious sniper shooting spree at the University of Texas in 1966. To my knowledge they still don’t really know why he did it. Maybe I’m not remembering it right in my senior years, but that seemed to be a horrific exception. Now it’s happening almost monthly. What happened? How did it come to this? We are not helpless. And yet…we are…so long as we can’t talk to each other. And not just on this one issue either.

Fox News. Clear Channel and the Talk Radio screamers they promote. Right wing tabloids like the National Enquirer. Stealth propaganda outlets like Sinclair Broadcasting. What you need to understand about them, at long last, is they aren’t specifically trying to promote a policy point of view. They exist to sew discord and make the common working class citizens fear and hate one another. Because that is the only way the hard right can win elections, given how vastly unpopular its policies are. They’re good at it. And we are way too good at falling for it.

I feel sometimes like I have a foot in both these worlds. Most of my friends are liberal democrats like myself. Yet when another mass shooting happens I find I’m mostly just keeping my mouth shut while everyone around me is calling gun owners child killers, ammosexuals, Moloch worshipers, et al.  And even when temperatures cool down a tad I darent speak up when someone starts yapping about this or that devil gun de jour. It’s one of those issues where actually knowing what you’re talking about disqualifies you from talking about it. But if you want to make some actual progress on getting things back under control listening to one of us who isn’t an hysterical nothing else matters NRA single issue voter might be helpful. And since this is my blog let me just go right ahead and put something out here: maybe you’re the one obsessing on guns.

Listen to me. Now it’s the AR-15. Not all that long ago it was the AK-47. Who knows what it will be next time. There are lots of semi automatic rifles that are not functionally all that different in one regard, which is is why banning just that one rifle makes no sense and won’t get any traction: ban the AR-15 and you might just as well ban dozens of others. It’s not just that one gun. But yes, in another sense you’re absolutely right…there is something unique to these sorts of weapons that you can justifiably say puts them outside the boundary of reasonable personal, sport and self defense firearms. And no god damn it, it’s not the military style plastic grips and stock. No it isn’t the semi-automatic mechanism either. No. It isn’t. You Are Paying Too Much Attention To The Gun.

The kid who murdered 17 people last week came to the school, so I’m told, with a backpack full of 30 round magazines and he fired off something like 150 rounds in the space of just a few minutes. Look at that. No…really look at it. How was that possible? The problem isn’t the rifle.

Here’s the problem:

This is what makes the AR-15, and every other rifle and handgun that uses a magazine to reload vastly more dangerous. It takes maybe a second to drop an empty, slam another in the magazine well, drop the bolt, and away you go…thirty more rounds. Or more. Google “AR-15 magazine” sometime and get properly horrified. Then reconsider. It is not the gun. Forget the gun. It is the magazines.

California, my beloved land of my birth, for the past several decades has been trying to address this in various ways, each of which the NRA kook pews have found a too ingenious for their own damn good work-around to. But it’s a good path, and I propose going all in on it; and I say this as someone who owns firearms that take magazines. Go after the magazines. Here’s what I propose:

Firstly: any gun that takes a magazine needs to either have a magazine lock or be retrofitted for a permanent magazine, such that the gun now reloads with an en bloc clip like the M-1 Garand did. Limit capacity to only what a revolver would normally have, which would be five in the magazine and one in the chamber…six rounds total. Make higher capacity magazines illegal to own on the same scale as silencers (yes…I know…republicans…) and sawed off shotguns.

But with rifles like the AR-15, and certain handguns, you can go further. See how in the photo above, the cartridges are staggered, they don’t line straight up and down. That’s one way of stuffing more into the magazine. But it also makes them fatter. With a five round limit you don’t need that, so the magazines could be thinner. I’m showing my age here but I remember when we made the switch from leaded to unleaded gasoline and they made the fuel inlets smaller on cars that only took unleaded to prevent leaded from getting in and trashing the catalytic converter. We can do the same here. Make the magazines narrower and then require all new semi automatic weapons for civilian use to have magazine wells that will only allow the smaller capacity magazines to fit inside them, and require everything already out there to be retrofitted.

Secondly: (re: California and “bullet buttons”) require anyone who wants to manufacture new magazines to get a license from the Federal government and they have to make them to spec. Because sure as shit the NRA kooks will make them that are narrow at the top so they can fit in the smaller magazine wells and fatter below the magazine well. I know how they think…as I said, I walk among them.

This buys us three things. 1) It limits the firepower of semi automatic rifles in a meaningful and practical way. 2) Simplicity. Now we’re not playing whack-a-mole trying to define what is, and what is not an “assault weapon”. It’s moot. If it takes a magazine, it Must be limited as per above, end of story. Plastic faux military do-dads or not, it makes no difference. Every firearm that uses a magazine to reload must comply. Simple. 3) Political. We are not going after your guns, we are going after firepower civilians do not need and it matters not what sort of gun it is. You have a right to own a gun. But your privately owned gun is for pleasure/sport shooting or self defense, not criminal activity, armed rebellion or terrorism. And when they start babbling about how we need our guns to protect us from tyranny, push back, Hard, with, no…the ballot box is our defense against tyranny, and then pivot to a discussion about voter suppression and gerrymandering. Because as long as every American adult can cast an anonymous ballot in a free and open election, and all votes are equal, no government can become too oppressive.

I appreciate this is not going nearly far enough for some, and way too far for others. So I have a final proposal: Show The Carnage.  

Seriously. Show the public…everyone…both sides, all sides, all the grim horrifying pictures of the aftermath. Show Everyone what a bullet does to a child’s body. Show us the dead where they lay, trying to escape. Put the images out in the public view. I appreciate that family and loved ones will not want that because it would reopen terrible wounds all over again and again. Fine. Work with them. Listen to them. Respect their wishes. But surely some will agree this needs to be seen, to be adequately understood.

Then, maybe, hopefully, enough people will stop reflexively digging in their heels and we can work with each other to fix the problem. Please? Because we are not going anywhere, except into the trashcan of history, if we can’t work together, if we can’t talk to each other.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Gunshots That Echo On And On And On…(continued)

January 29th, 2018

It Isn’t Spam Just Because Your Nazi Users Say It Is.

Apparently the neo nazi swamp thinks it can stifle discussion on Facebook by mass tagging posts it doesn’t like as spam, at which point some mindless algorithm takes over and removes the post. This is an endemic problem with both Facebook and Twitter that neither platform seems interested in fixing. 

Recently a friend on Facebook found his link to this People For The American Way article tagged as spam and removed. 

Separating Immigrant Families is Fundamentally Un-American

While we work hard to keep permanent protection for Dreamers at the top of Congress’s to-do list, immigration advocates are also keeping a watchful eye on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). On December 21, The New York Times reported that DHS is considering separating immigrant families who face deportation. Right now families in custody are held together, but children and their parents would be sent to different detention facilities under the potential new policy.

 

God forbid Americans know what their government is doing in their name. Go read the whole thing at the People For The American Way website blog.

Blog. That space people once made for themselves on the Internet. Like this one for example. Where you could speak your mind about any damn thing at all and put it out there for the world to see, and no letters page editor, let alone a mindless social media algorithm could decide whether it got published or not. This is why blogs…real actual personal blogs created and maintained by real actual personal persons are important. The friend who posted this isn’t the only one in my friends list who has had a recent posts containing a poem, a book review and a notice about an upcoming writer’s workshop marked as spam. And those posts simply vanished into the Orwellian mist. Once upon a time having your own blog was a thing. And there were “blogrolls” people shared among their visitors, and blog reader software that aggregated all your favorite blogs. Funny how that all just seemed to…disappear….

[Update…] Now Facebook is saying my friend’s post possibly violates “community standards”. I’m guessing that’s their fascist community they’re referring to.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on It Isn’t Spam Just Because Your Nazi Users Say It Is.

November 29th, 2017

The Least of It

That’s the least of what I miss. But yes…that. Also.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Least of It

July 9th, 2017

Notes On Train Travel

Last week I went to Walt Disney World on a wee vacation. I needed to renew my annual pass, and the July Fourth week seemed a good time to go. Florida is getting hot this time of year, but that just means the water parks will be inviting. But the road trip down I-95 and back isn’t fun anymore. There are more and bigger traffic knots these days. And where before I could just stop anywhere for the night and get a motel room wherever I happened to be just then, now it’s a race between me and all the other drivers to get the last remaining rooms. Last three trips down I’ve had to use the motel apps on my iPhone to make sure I could get a room at the town ahead of me. So between traffic stress and motel stress the road trip down wasn’t the fun and relaxing start and end to my vacation it used to be. Worse, last January coming home I hit a major snowstorm between North Carolina and Virginia that cost me an extra day travel and…almost…a car wreak.

So this time I took the train. And it was perfect, even allowing for the fact that we were nearly nine hours late getting back to Baltimore because of a derailment in Virginia. I haven’t traveled by train in decades. The last time was a trip down to Florida to visit a friend after he’d graduated from college and found a job in West Palm Beach. But before that, before Amtrak, mom and I traveled by rail down to Florida several times, to Lauderdale By The Sea. So when I stepped onto my train at Penn Station here in Baltimore it all came back to me. Well…most of it. And the fact is I haven’t enjoyed a Disney World vacation like this in too long of a time. So I’ve pretty much settled on this mode of transportation to and from Florida for the foreseeable future. Let me explain why.

  • Flying was pretty much out.  I have traveled by air many times on business, and where I used to enjoy the view from above very much, the airlines have made traveling such a miserable experience now I just don’t want to deal with it. I am not a very big guy and I feel cramped in those seats. I can’t imagine how big or tall folks manage it. And I keep hearing way too many airline horror stories. It seems as if not a week goes by but that some fresh new hell is being visited on passengers. The last time the Institute sent me somewhere (Boulder Colorado) I negotiated a road trip out of it instead of flying. Someday I would like to travel the world. I am seriously considering doing that by boat.
  • Time is not critical when it’s your vacation. Or at any rate it shouldn’t be. Your vacation ought to be a time when you can forget about the clock and just let time pass and the days be whatever they will be.  One of the most common complaints about passenger rail travel is here in the United States the trains are frequently late. More about that below, but for now just hold this thought: time isn’t always critical. For my vacations I just want to forget about the clock and let my day be whatever it is going to be. And by the way, this is why I maintain an annual pass for Walt Disney World. It gets me a whole year to be wherever I want to be in the parks, whenever I feel like being there. It takes the pressure off needing to get the most for your money out of your tickets. This trip, I booked a seat on the train and didn’t particularly care when it got me to Orlando, just so it was sometime during my check-in date. For the trip home I scheduled a train to get me back to Baltimore a day early, as I have always done on my road trips, because I like having that extra day to unpack and relax at home before heading back to work.
  • You can get a room of your own on a train. This was a big deal for me. It’s what makes train travel utterly unlike any other mode of overland transportation, unless you are very rich. Even doing the RV thing isn’t the same, because you’re driving that thing down the highway and you can’t just park it anywhere you want when you need to rest or sleep. Amtrak offers these little spaces called Roomettes, which are basically just barely big enough to two people. But you get privacy and the ability to take a snooze whenever you feel like it and you’re not in a cattle car full of other noisy people and the lights don’t go out until the conductor says they do. If you can afford it, there are full sized sleeper rooms with their own private bathrooms and showers. On the east coast routes the Viewliner roomettes also have their own sinks and toilets. On the long distance western routes the double decker Superliner roomettes don’t have sinks and toilets, but those cars have three bathrooms on the first level and one on the second. All the sleeper cars have showers the roomette passengers can use. 
  • Long distance trains have dining and lounge cars. If you get a room on the train, meals are included. You make your reservation for a seat in the dining car and when you’re seated you get asked your room number and they give you a ticket to sign and that’s it. But remember to leave a tip all the same! The food on my train to Florida and back was excellent. If you have a room you can ask your car attendant to bring you your meal (tip your car attendant at the end of your trip!). But a big advantage trains have over everything else but ocean liners is you can get up and walk around, stretch your legs and move about. And the roomettes are pretty tiny, so it’s nice to be able to get out and take a stroll from time to time.

    The Amtrak lounge cars these days are your basic snack bar and some seats for reading, fiddling with a laptop or smartphone, or just watching the scenery go by. I was hoping for a bar that served mixed drinks too…this was standard for lounges back in the golden age of passenger rail service, but not so much now. I judged from the menu that all they had were a few assorted miniatures and no cordials, so I skipped it. If you have a room you can pack your own liquor and snacks, which I did. But watching the scenery go by was so entrancing I never bothered opening my bottle of Grand Marnier. (That bottle’s been to Florida and back twice now and not been opened, poor thing…)

  • The train was not that much more expensive. Make your reservation early enough and the prices are very reasonable. I worked the numbers…a roomette only cost me a couple hundred more than driving it would have accounting for fuel, food, wear and tear on the car, and motels along the way. And now I’m being driven, I can just kick back and enjoy the scenery the whole way. And having the room of my own basically eliminated the worry about getting a room at the end of my day’s travels. My room was traveling along with me.

    If you think you can handle coach the tickets are very cheap and you still get most of the advantages of having that train you can stroll around on, and the dining and lounge cars. The dining car isn’t exclusive to the people with rooms, coach can use it too, but it’s pricy if you don’t have that room ticket. So alternatively you can get your basic snacks, hot dogs, chips and soft drinks in the lounge.

So that’s my rationale for taking the train to Florida now, and for the foreseeable future. I will probably still do the road trip thing for my western travels. Next month I’m driving to Kansas to visit a friend and see the solar eclipse. But for now…I’m loving the train.  Here’s some more notes on that…

  • It’s not for everybody. I was introduced to long distance train travel when I was a young boy, so a lot of memories all came back when I boarded that train and for me there were no unpleasant surprises. But I can see where it might not be so much for others. The big thing is the motion of the train would take some getting use to. Doubly so if you’re doing an overnight, whether in coach or in a sleeper. You would think gliding along over two shiny steel rails would be the smoothest ride on earth, but actually it isn’t. The rails have switches, intersecting sets of tracks, and various other joints and dings that make themselves felt as you ride. And sometimes the track beds aren’t in the best of shape. That’s because of a fact of life regarding rail travel I’ll go into more below. But my point now is riding by train can seem a lot like sea travel. The train rocks and rolls. It moves side to side, and when you’re walking from one car to another and the train hits a curve you need to be ready to steady yourself. You develope your train legs, much like a sailor gets their sea legs. And much like a set of sea legs, your train legs will persist for a while after you have deboarded.

    I’d forgotten that last as I arrived at Walt Disney World. I had a rental car waiting for me at the station, and I drove it to my hotel which was just across the street from Disney Springs. After I settled into my room I took a walk over to Disney Springs to get my annual pass renewed, when I suddenly began to get wobbly feet. It felt for an instant as if the sidewalk was moving, or I was loosing my balance. Then I remembered. Oh…yes…the train is still moving… 

    It all came back to me as a pleasant, lovely even, re-experiencing of a childhood joy. But I can see it surprising and maybe even disturbing others. And especially so if you’re doing an overnight. If the sensation of being in motion would keep you from getting a night’s sleep, then maybe long distance train travel isn’t for you. The train rocked me to sleep and I loved every minute of being on my trains there and back. Your mileage may vary, but let me say this: if you can manage it, there is nothing else quite like long distance train travel and you owe it to yourself to experience it at least once. You might come back for more.

  • There’s a reason why our country has substandard passenger train service compared to other developed nations, and even some third world countries. The rail companies came first, before the automobile, before the airplane, back in a time when travel was by foot or by car or by boat if there was an available waterway. The railroads were the miracle of the industrial age and they bridged the continent, made it possible to move people and goods from one coast to the other in mere weeks that once took wagon trains months, if they made it at all, and ships having to round Cape Horn but only if the weather and the sea looked kindly on your ship. The rail companies were the wonder technology of the age. And they were, and have always been, privately owned for profit corporations whose rails were private property. During the western expansion the rail companies (like a lot of companies back then) were predatory as all hell, and much of what came to be government intervention in the economy came about as a reaction to that predatory capitalism of the times. But the rail companies goosed the economy with their ability to move people and goods at fantastic speed and the nation grew and its economic infrastructure grew along with it, but in that same capitalistic mode where everything in the economic infrastructure was privately owned.

    Then came the Great Depression and the second world war and for the rail companies two significant things changed. First, there was Dwight D. Eisenhower, who before he became president, before he became leader of the allied forces, was a soldier on a convoy traveling along US Route 30, or as it was called, The Lincoln Highway.

    From a military perspective that convoy was a disaster. Bridges could not accommodate the equipment, long sections of the road were unpaved and equipment kept getting stuck, the convoy traveled at a snail’s pace. Good thing they weren’t rushing to reinforce a battle line somewhere. Years later Eisenhower, a soldier in that convoy, now the supreme commander of the allied forces in Europe, led his armies into Germany to defeat the fascists. And there he beheld the Autobahn. It must have seemed to him like he was seeing a new world. And he knew right away why Hitler had it built and it wasn’t to give German drivers a faster more scenic way to get from here to there.

    Years later as president, he pushed for something like it to be built here in the U.S.A. and so the Interstate Highway System came to be. And also why the island of Hawaii has an interstate highway. Yes, it’s a state surrounded by the Pacific ocean. You can’t throw a bridge across it to the mainland. But no, the Interstate is not pork barrel. Look at H-1 on the map. It’s on the island of O’ahu, and it connects the military bases, airports and naval port. It is a fundamental part of the specification of the Interstate highway system, that its roads, bridges, and tunnels can support and accommodate tanks and other military equipment.

    But why goodness gracious that also means it can support passenger cars. And…heavy trucks. And now the rail companies have competition over freight traffic from the trucking industry and passenger traffic has an alternative to long distance coast to coast rail travel. Motels began to spring up along the Interstates. And restaurants and truck stops. And it was built with taxpayer money, for public use, to be owned by the people of the United States. And since the great depression, that public ownership for a public good wasn’t considered unusual or immoral anymore. Except by a certain subsection of the American pews that never got over or forgave FDR and his communist New Deal. But there was another blow to come and it came from the sky, once again by way of the Germans.

    The jet airplane. And once again the military beheld a new world, and once again they made it happen, and once again new businesses followed. And the airports and the air traffic infrastructure that serviced the new jet set were built with public money, to serve a public good because now the public good wasn’t a dirty thought anymore. Except among the usual suspects. And now the rail companies, which once counted their passenger lines as status symbols, allowing travelers to cross the country in mere days in comfort and luxury, began losing money to an industry that could fly passengers coast to coast in just a few hours. It took another decade, but it was the end of the grand passenger trains. Bulk freight was the one area they were still profitable because no other mode could compete there but the freighter ships and they had to take a detour through the Panama Canal to go from coast to coast. So the rail companies, instead of competing with the new modes of passenger transportation, bailed. And you could have seen it coming because their business model from the beginning was about preventing competition, not meeting it head-on and winning customers. Where the Super Chief ran, no other railroad could because the railroad owned that property. Same for the California Zephyr. Yes they both ran from Chicago to California, but by different routes servicing different points along the way. Competition such as it was during the western expansion was for territory because if you had territory you controlled the traffic there. Rail companies gobbled up huge tracts of land, largely to keep other rail companies out so they could charge the local farmers and ranchers whatever they damned well pleased that the market would bear. So when actual competition hit them they walked away from the market altogether.

    I think they could have done it. They had enticements the others simply could not match if they wanted to exploit them. But actual competition was not in the cultural DNA. 

    Which is why we have Amtrak now. Otherwise there would be no long distance passenger rail service at all. But it’s also why Amtrak is at a disadvantage compared to passenger rail service in other nations, and why the airlines and the auto industry and all the ancillary service industries for the road traveler are doing a good business, while passenger rail is hanging on by a thread. Elsewhere, that public money for public good thing isn’t considered immoral. Here it’s a deeply held religious belief that government should not interfere with business. Well…for the public benefit. For private profits it’s just nature’s way because what else are congressmen For? It’s no random happenchance that the man remembered most for saying “The public be damned” was a railroad tycoon (he was complaining about having to run a city passenger line for less than costs because his competition wanted those passengers too). For decades since Amtrak was established the republicans have been trying to kill it like they’ve been trying to erase everything about FDR’s New Deal because socialism. Sure air and highway travel are way more massively subsidized than Amtrak ever was. But the trucking industry, the auto industry, the airline and aircraft industries, the hospitality industry, all have money they can throw at congress. And so can the rail companies which hate Amtrak because it’s using their rails and that’s not only socialism it’s big government stealing from private property owners. Amtrak only has its passengers to speak for it. But so far that’s been enough to keep it running. 

    But not enough to build it into a world class passenger rail service. What we have now is good…much Much better than it was when it was first established and all it had was the cast off equipment the rail companies didn’t want anymore. The new engines and cars are wonderful. But it all runs on a set of privately owned rails and the rail companies don’t give a shit about passenger traffic.

    The rest of us need to. In all the talk about fixing, repairing and maintaining the national infrastructure, we need to pay more attention to the rail infrastructure too. But that’s a problem because of the nature of how it all came to be. The rails were and always have been private property. The rest of the transportation infrastructure is publicly financed and publicly owned. Difficult as it is in this era of Donald Trump republicanism, it’s still lots easier to have a discussion about what to do about the highways than it is about the railroads because the railroads were never a public resource and they still have that public be damned thing in their DNA.

    Milton Friedman, the darling of Randians everywhere, famously said that the only responsibility a corporation has is to increase shareholder profits and that everything else is socialism. We as a nation need to get over that mindset. Big business in this country is subsidized by the public in nearly everything it does and if that isn’t socialism too then nothing is and socialism is just a scarecrow they wave around when they want the public benefit without the public obligation. It’s time private industry acknowledged that no corporation is an island, and gave some equal concern to nurturing the democracy and the social infrastructure that made their business and their profits possible. There is after all, no free lunch.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Notes On Train Travel

February 1st, 2017

No…The American Dream Will Not Go Silently Into The Night Mr. Bannon…

…it is bigger, richer, more urgently felt than you could ever know…

 

One thing I love about this ad is the open acknowledgement of how immigrants were treated even back then. It’s so refreshingly honest about our history compared to the rainbows and unicorns version I got back in early grade school. We were so proud of our little melting pot back then…back when we were competing with the Soviet Union for the hearts and minds of the rest of the world. Not so much anymore.

If a certain German someone and I were still on emailing terms I would have loved to share this with him. But now I’m not even sure he’d appreciate the sentiment in it. It’s one thing to be determined to follow your dreams. It’s another to be determined not to have any. But some of us still believe in our dreams…rough hewn and broken though they may be… Here’s to you Herr Busch. Here’s to you Herr Anheuser. Prost!

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on No…The American Dream Will Not Go Silently Into The Night Mr. Bannon…

January 30th, 2017

Trust Us, This Doesn’t End Well

There was a joke I saw making the rounds just after the election…In the U.S. you call it the Alt-Right, in Germany we call it why grandpa lives in Argentina.

It’s stunning to me how, every German I know, and every born American of German descent with family living in Germany, all of them are so emphatically warning everyone about what is happening now…

Do we have to learn the hard way too? I guess we’ll see…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Trust Us, This Doesn’t End Well

January 20th, 2017

Oh Say, Can You See…?

A friend on Facebook who shared this said it felt like the funeral procession for our country. It’s the slower tempo they’re singing it at that gives it a more somber tone. But a more beautiful rendition of the national anthem I have never heard and I refuse to hear it as the closing number on the American experiment in democracy.

No. I hear it in the way I used to listen to the old Baptist hymns in the pews when I was a kid. This is the national anthem as a spiritual, and the faithful are not beaten down or cowed by the ruthlessness of predators. The heart is stronger than the fist. America isn’t a place on a map, it’s a dream of liberty and justice for all, and we Americans are the people of the dream, wherever we happen to live.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Oh Say, Can You See…?

January 16th, 2017

They Still Hate Him

…even some of us white Americans. This came up in my news feed this morning from the New York Times…

Which Martin Luther King Are We Celebrating Today?

“Every year on the third Monday of January, Americans of all races, backgrounds and ideologies celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is rightly lionized and sanctified by whites as well as blacks, by Republicans as well as Democrats.

“It is easy to forget that, until fairly recently, many white Americans loathed Dr. King…”

Until fairly recently??  On what planet?  But never mind…  I lived through that period. I was an eighth grader when he was murdered. They hated him more than all the others back then. Malcolm X…Stokely Carmichael…Huey Newton… they hated King with a passion totally absent from their fear and loathing of the others. Because King claimed the moral high ground, and spoke from the roots of his religious faith in a completely authentic way that the segregationists could not.

Most of all they hated him for that.

Read this Times opinion piece for its clarity of the history of conservative appropriation and inverting of King’s activism…turning it against the very struggle for civil rights and equal justice that he championed, and eventually gave his life for. In the software trade we have a phrase to describe what the republicans did: Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.  

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on They Still Hate Him

December 11th, 2016

No More Excuses

If you vote for the racist because you think he’s better for your wallet, how is that not racism? If you vote for the sexual predator because you think he’s better for your wallet, how is that not enabling sexual predators? If you vote for the hate monger because you think he’s better for your wallet, how is that not enabling hate?

This is what pushes my button whenever I see otherwise decent people trying to excuse the election of Donald Trump on the basis of voter economic insecurity. For one thing, he didn’t win the popular vote, and that by a non-trivial margin. For another, he won the electoral vote by, so I’m told, a majority you could have fit inside Chicago Stadium. So it isn’t like an army of the economically disenfranchised suddenly decided to vote republican. Time and again we’ve read polls showing that Trump’s support was largely a middle and upward economic base. It wasn’t economics.

But even if it was, there’s still the man. There is unambiguously still the man. If you vote for the racist because you think he’s better for your wallet, how is that not racism? Bambi eyes and I’m not a racist because I never personally lynched a black man doesn’t get you out of that gutter, if you’re willing to enable the racism that gets black men killed, as long as it doesn’t get you killed too. But how certain are you that it won’t? The predator does not play favorites. We are all prey.

My frustration…let me tell you about it. Back in 1980 Jimmy Carter was running for reelection against Ronald Reagan…another vacant tool…who liked talking about welfare queens. Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign with a speech about states rights just a few miles from where three civil rights workers were murdered by klansmen for helping black people register to vote. Carter called him out on the racist dog whistle and our feckless news media had kittens, slamming Carter as though he’d committed some below the belt personal foul against Reagan, and never mind that a halfwit could have seen what Reagan was doing there. But the myth of the liberal news media dies hard. By then in the elevated testosterone atmosphere of the newsrooms they’d taking a loathing to Carter as a weak kneed wuss, and admired Reagan’s manly pose and they eviscerated Carter, and Reagan, not initially seen as beating Carter, won in a landslide.

If they’d called Reagan out on his racist dog whistling maybe we’d have a different America now. But the pattern held. Whenever a democrat called out republican racist dog whistling for the next eight shining city on a hill years they were summarily slammed by the establishment news media. But in 1981 Lee Atwater, who was working in Reagan’s White House at the time, admitted they were doing just what Carter and the democrats said they were

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’’”that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.’¦ ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’”

My frustration: dig it…in 1981 Atwater laid it all on the table…yes, we’re actually doing all that…And For The Next Several Decades our feckless rotting zombie corpse establishment news media kept treating the calling out of republican racist dog whistling as some sort of dirty politics, not the dog whistling itself.

And now we have a dangerous hate monger just days away from having his finger on the national security infrastructure, let alone the nuclear button And they’re still insisting everyone look the other way at republican hate mongering. Trump won because he spoke to the forgotten workers of America. Kindly ignore the firehose of raw bigoted hate he sprayed everywhere he campaigned.

For decades…arguably in fact ever since the Civil War…this country has not been able to have an honest conversation about race hatred, let alone the rest of it bubbling and churning down in the American gutter. We still can’t. Oh yes, we the hated Other talk about it. We try to get the attention of the popular culture to look at it. Every now and then we succeed…for a time. Matthew Shepard. Proposition 8. Pulse. But then the spotlight wanders off, and hate resumes its attacks on our lives out of sight, out of mind.

Now we are on the threshold of seeing that willful blindness end the American Experiment. And I have no patience at all…none…for people who want us to keep making excuses for the elephant in the room. The time for fucking around is fucking over. It was fucking over when Ronald Reagan walked into the White House on the graves of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner.

I repeat, If you vote for the racist because you think he’s better for your wallet, how is that not racism? Trump played a bigoted game. He spoke directly, unambiguously, to the hate that’s never been far from the surface of American politics. And that is how he won. Barely. We will never save the American dream, if that’s even possible now, by trying to find some way not to have to deal with that fact.

At long last, can we, finally, deal with the fact of hate in America? Or do we just shrug our shoulders, reassure ourselves that haters will just keep hating, that we have to work around it…somehow…and dream of what might have been, while the fire next time burns it all down.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on No More Excuses

November 20th, 2016

Ruling Out Decency

This is rich…follow along for fun and games…

First NBC News PR tweets this:

reince_muslim_registry

And cue the boilerplate right wing outrage! The tweet is misleading! They left out the Important Part!

reince_muslim_registry-full

Well that clarifies it. The effortless way Reince doublespeaks that is. But one supposes that’s a requirement for the job of Chairman of the Republican Party. So which part of that statement he gave was incorrect…the part where he says he’s not going to rule out anything, or the part where he rules out something?

But that’s not even close to the totality of the mendacity going on here. The statement is even more sinister when you consider how many of them on the white nationalist right have been saying for years that Islam isn’t a religion, it’s a political movement. A good follow up question would have been “Is Islam a religion?”

But it was Chuck Todd asking the questions…so…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Ruling Out Decency

Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


    What I'm Currently Reading...




    What I'm Currently Watching...




    What I'm Currently Listening To...




    Comic Book I've Read Recently...



    web
stats

    This page and all original content copyright © 2015 by Bruce Garrett. All rights reserved. Send questions, comments and hysterical outbursts to: bruce@brucegarrett.com

    This blog is powered by WordPress and is hosted at MomoWeb. Some custom design was done by Winters Web Works. Some embedded content was created with the help of Adobe Photoshop for MacOS and/or The Gimp. I proof with Firefox on either Windows, Linux or MacOS depending on which machine I happen to be running at the time.