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Thursday, September 5, 2002.

Notes from the gutter...(continued)

The The San Francisco Chronicle Reports today that Smirk has appointed two women from the Independent [sic] Women's Forum to its domestic-violence advisory committee. The group is adamantly opposed to the law the committee oversees.

Why is it that law and order conservative types seem to think beating the crap out of your lover isn't all that big a deal? Is this the misogyny of the American right shaking its fist again, or that empty pit people end up in when they decide that trust and honor are for chumps, and anyone who lets their guard down deserves what they get?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, September 4, 2002.

The Gay Mafia made us do it...(continued)

The Miami Herald is reporting that it has found six more people who say their signatures were forged on repeal petitions...among them was a 93-year-old woman whose signature was scrawled on the petitions four times! To get a feel for the breathtaking scope of the deceit involved here, read the Herald article in full. Forged names were misspelled. People who were vehemently against repeal where shocked to see their names on the petitions. One Take Back worker signed as witness on more then eight-hundred signatures in one day, across eleven of thirteen county commission districts, and then admitted to the Herald that he didn't actually gather most of the signatures himself.

Both Antonio Verdugo and Nathaniel Wilcox had signed as witnesses on petition sheets with forged signatures on them. When confronted by evidence of forgery on sheets he witnessed, Wilcox averred that signing in his presence, as specified in the Miami-Dade County charter, doesn't mean he and other circulators needed to personally watch each signature.

This is the bottomless pit hate can lead a person into. Hate is a jealous, hungry god. You must have no other thought, but to worship it. You must give it everything you own. Your good name...your conscience...your soul...

Update: Did I just say I'd let you could have a few crumbs? Oh...sorry...

Is that actually a spine I'm seeing in the Republican Unity Coalition? Bill Simon's gay hating constancy had a cow when he said he might support a few things like domestic partnership laws...provided they weren't based on sexual orientation, and apparently, while Steve Miller at the Independent [sic] Gay Forum was waving his hands and shouting Progress, Progress, Simon was furiously backpeddling. Now he says someone must have forged his signature on that Log Cabin questionaire. I suppose a sock puppet bearing a striking resemblance to him did the Ronn Owens KGO radio show too.

Now Simon is saying that even hospital visitation rights "based on sexual orientation" are out of the question. Nice guy! Maybe he'd like it if he was kept away from his wife's hospital bedside during a crisis. Maybe Steve Miller can explain why this is also progress. At least the Republican Unity Coalition yanked Simon's invitation to speak at their LA fund raiser when he started machine gun kissing Louis Sheldon's ass. Oh, there are limits to appeasement are there? Eschaton says he'd "like to give RUC and the LCRs some credit, but they're not stupid enough to support a loser." Yeah. Probably.


I've corrected the days on today's and yesterday's posts. Yesterday was Tuesday...not Monday...

He may be two-faced bastard, but he's our two-faced bastard...

Steve Miller at the Independent [sic] Gay Forum, writes approvingly about the apparent move to center of republican right winger Bill Simon in the California governors race. That move consists in part, of Simon saying that he would approve domestic partner legislation...provided that it was broad enough to include brothers...sisters...basically anyone who wanted to sign up for them. Under the guise of allowing gay couples some legal status then, Simon's plan actually takes homophobic dehumanization of gay people a step further:

"Let's not premise this thing on having the government go in your bedroom," Simon told a caller on the Ronn Owens KGO radio show. "What happens if my brother and I...why couldn't we be domestic partners, if we both lost our wives?"

Asked by Owens if he was proposing such laws for incestuous relationships, Simon said definitively he was not - but for "any people who want to have a special relationship and set it forth in a contract, I'd look at that." -San Francisco Chronicle, August 28, 2002 -

So Simon is proposing the law not only deny the element of romantic love in gay couples, but also the sexual component as well, which is actually a step backwards from the usual claim by haters, that homosexuals are nothing more then a special interest group who want benefits on the basis of who they have sex with. Under Simon's plan gay couples don't even get the downgrade status of most "domestic partners" ordinances that heterosexual couples who don't want to actually get married can also apply for. What they get, is the official status of "miscellaneous".

Miller, reliably, sees this as progress. But as Michelangelo Signorile observes this week in his Gist column, Simon's move to center is less a sign of progress, then one of desperation in a candidate who is loosing badly, in a race that should have been an easy win.

For Simon to all of a sudden cozy up to gays after courting their fiercest foes only days before is political opportunism at its baldest. -Signorile, The Gist.

When democrats do this kind of thing it's evidence of their duplicity. When republicans do it, it's progress.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, September 3, 2002.

Flea Markets and Jesus...

One sign of a healthy, well lived life, is that your world keeps getting bigger. When I was a kid in elementary school, my world was pretty much compassed out by the distance my parents would allow me away from the apartment. By the time I reached high school it was the distance I could walk in a day. Then I got my first car, a little 1973 Ford Pinto, and the world expanded to include all of Montgomery County, and a good chunk of the adjoining ones. My first car and I drove just about every little back road in the county, often randomly taking this or that turn in the road just to see where I ended up. To this day I have no fear of being lost; more the pleasant pique of curiosity at being somewhere I've never been before.

When mom moved to southern Virginia, I soon became familiar with the route to Hillsville. But for years it was just a long drive, something to be over and done with between here and there. This year was different, the distance seemed trivial. I was there and back again before I knew it. I think it was the big drive I took back in May. My little green Prism and I covered about six-thousand, five-hundred miles wandering between Maryland and California. The memories of it are still fresh and vivid. A six hour drive to southern Virginia doesn't seem all that much right any more.

If you've never been to a massive flea market like the annual Labor Day one in Hillsville you should find one somewhere and go to it. In Hillsville every Labor Day weekend, it's as if two universes intersect for a few days, and some free floating chaotic marketplace appears within the town, then disappears, leaving behind whatever people bought from it, and lots of funnel cake plates. There are people on lawns, the street corners, inside the town VFW post, and all the local campgrounds selling a harvest from America's attics and basements and forgotten storage lots. One guy there this year had, I swear, one of the old Bob's Big Boy restaurant statues for sale. Another was selling landscapes he painted on old mill saw blades. You see everything from pop culture junk to drop dead gorgeous furniture, pulled out of old farmhouses and country estates, made from breathtakingly beautiful wood you just can't find anymore, and it's just too much to take it all in, even over the course of four days.

Antique shows that are simply oversized ad hoc tailgate markets are a lot more fun to wander around, then the perpetual ones confined to Historic districts, or the carefully arranged shows they hold nowadays in city convention centers. Whenever people try to foil Sturgeon's Law at a flea market, they end up sucking the life out of it. I am not an antiques collector, and I don't like wandering around antique shows with people who are looking for investment properties depression glass up a quarter, Aladdin's lamps down a third.... I just like fussing up my nest with this and that...mostly deco relics from the 40s and 50s, and common household items that just strike me as having more human warmth and charm to them then the stuff they make nowadays. If my little 50s Westclox kitchen timer ever broke I'd scorch earth search Baltimore for someone who could fix it, rather then buy a new one. I am not that great a cook to need more accuracy then the little ticker gives me, and it looks like it belongs in a kitchen, not a laboratory. This probably has something to do with having a childhood that passed through the 50s into the 60s. But my mother was a country kitchen kinda person, and her kitchens always reflected that. I am definitely deco-diner style. This I figured out, after getting hooked on Fiestaware.

When I moved into my first apartment, instead of running out to the Kmart and buying whatever dishes they had, I just wandered around the stores, looking at this and that, determined to keep eating off plastic dinner plates until I found something I actually liked. For months I saw nothing I'd want in my nest. I looked everywhere, Williams-Sonoma, Hechts, Pottery Barn, Sears, Price Club. It all seemed like the same old same old. Then I happened across someone's garage sale and noticed some plates that were utterly unlike anything being sold in the stores, all bright colors and a little deco, and as soon as I laid eyes on them something inside clicked. That's it! Now I hear that Fiestaware is another gay stereotype, but (shrug) it's me, it's my kitchen, so I don't care. Problem was, the only place you could buy it then were flea markets, and what was worse, I found myself competing with collectors, who were not only driving up prices but would probably hang me by my thumbs to learn I was actually using what I was buying.

Homer Laughlin started making Fiestaware again a few years back, and that made a lot of people happy until we started seeing what the new colors looked like. Fiestaware was known for its bright, vivid colors. The new stuff was sickly and anemic. Lately they've been bringing out a new color here and there that is a tad brighter, but still pale compared to the originals. Now I know who to blame for it: Bloomingdales. There's a dealer that comes to the Hillsville flea market every year selling the new stuff, and she told me of conversations she had recently with Bloomie's Fiestaware buyer, who as a bulk customer of Homer Laughlin china, commands a great deal of that company's attention. She apparently could not care less why people have liked and even collected Fiestaware all these years. Her interest is only in what fits into the Bloomingdales scheme of things. She decides on an absolutely fabulous Bloomingdales color, and Homer Laughlin obliges her wishes. And the result is a color scheme that probably fits right in with a Bloomingdales state of mind, but which isn't Fiestaware. Maybe they should start calling it GardenPartyware.

You see a lot of old kitchenware at the Hillsville flea market. I found someone who had a set of 50s red handled Crest cooking utensils, unused, in the original box, which I snapped up, and some collector's going to smack me across the head for hearing that I'm actually going to take them out of the box and use them to cook with. When I moved into my first place, mom let me have my favorite old Crest spatula that I've since used to death. It just took to my hand better then all the others I've ever tried, but I had no idea how nice it would have looked new. Now I have the whole set in new condition and it cost me less then some of the deluxe utensil sets you can buy at Williams-Sonoma (a set of All Clad tools sells for $120, I bought my Crest tools for 60...they probably sold for four or five bucks new...).

The Chicago Old Telephone Company was there this year, to my delight. This is a retired couple who travel around from show to show in their mobile home, displaying some of the most beautifully restored old phones you are likely to see anywhere. They say they once supplied the prop phones for the revived "Untouchables" TV show a few years back, including the big brass candlestick Al Capone used, which they still sell (it ain't cheap...). Years ago I bought one of their Kellogg model 900 phones, a gorgeous art deco piece which they restored and painted an antique white (they offer it in a variety of colors, including the south beach pink you see here...)

Kellogg model 900

When I bought my little Baltimore rowhouse I knew what I wanted down in my basement club room was one of their Automatic Electric model 50s.

Automatic Electric Model 50

They had one at the flea market, and so I came home with it and was fooling around a bit this afternoon trying to install it next to the bar. Mounting it was no problem, but I fussed for an hour trying to find a nice short and painless way to tap into the phone wiring near the bar. There's a jack in the paneling by the door, but when I took it apart I found that it was one of those quick splice things that I couldn't tap into without damaging. The alternative was to cut the wires leading to it and splice everything together in the box, but whoever installed the box didn't leave me with very much slack in the wire there, so a splice in the box was risky.

I thought I caught a break when I discovered a convenient splice someone had put in above the ceiling over my bar, which I figured went to the kitchen jack. But try as I might I could not get any dial tone off of it. Further investigation revealed that the wires connected to the thermostat. Oh...that's why I can't get a dial tone... Worst case I have to run a phone line back to the telco block at the back of my basement, which isn't far and I have plenty of phone line. But I didn't have a lot of time this afternoon because I had a cartoon to get done and I wanted simplicity. Well...I know where the thermostat line runs now anyway...

I didn't get any proselytizing this year from family, which was amazing, although I noted one of them had a shiny new Truth Fish Eating The Darwin Fish emblem on her car trunk. For someone who deeply reveres the spiritual, who wonders often about the nature of the creator and creation, and who feels a religious awe in the sciences of astronomy and physics, Bible Belt religion can be very frustrating. There seems no room for wonder and room ultimately, for faith itself. You cannot doubt, you cannot question, you must believe...what everyone else believes. But as long as I bowed my head while everyone said grace I was left alone, which was a nice difference from the way it was at my mother's funeral.

Had the communist party been as deeply woven into the everyday fabric of people's lives in Russia, as protestant fundamentalism is in the Bible Belt, there would still be a Soviet Union. I go down there and I see Jesus advertised on billboards and bumper stickers. I see particle board and drywall cathedrals as thick as fast food joints. I try to use my car radio and four out of five stations I can tune in are religious broadcasters. Christian rock of all kinds is getting popular enough down there that I have to listen closely to what I'm tuned into while driving, to make sure I'm hearing real music and not faux music.

Faux music. I mean that. One Sunday back in 1981, I took one of the first Sony Walkmans on a wee hike with me around Sugarloaf mountain. This was my Bruckner period, and when I got to the top of the mountain I plopped myself down on a rocky ledge and looked south toward the Shenandoah valley, into a beautiful blue cloud flecked sky, listening to the Te Deum. When it was finished, I turned to find that while I'd been entranced by the beautiful music and the view, my quiet spot had been invaded by a crowd of picnickers. I figured them for a church group, since the boys still had their Sundaywear on, and their hair slicked down. Then I saw near me, a kindly older lady, who was looking straight at me with that expression I'd come to know and love...

Incoming proselytize!

She smiled a perfectly transparent smile at me, and said, "That must be very nice music you're listening to. What is it?"

A hook...I knew it. I don't know what kind of answer she expected of me. I was dressed in cutoffs, Hudson Bay Outfitters t-shirt and Chucks, and my hair was about as long as it gets, almost halfway down my back with a blue bandanna tied around my head. I was in my golden earring and bright golden lambda necklace stage of outedness. But I answered her question seriously. "The Te Deum, by Anton Bruckner," says I. "Conducted by Zubin Mehta and performed by the Vienna Philharmonic."

I think her eyes glazed over for a second. Then she smiled at me again and I swear she said, "That's very nice, but I think on the Sabbath we should listen to music that praises god...don't you?"

That was supposed to start a conversation about Jesus. What happened was I ran the hell away from her, nearly dropping my walkman in the process. I've been careful ever since to watch my surroundings while wearing headphones.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, August 28, 2002.

Rain...glorious rain...

I never thought I'd ever want to see a Labor Day weekend rained out, but we've been having it bad here in Baltimore. One of our city reservoirs is down to twenty-five percent and in total, they're all down to under fifty percent. Mandatory water restrictions here are getting progressively tighter. One county school lost its well water before opening day, and instead of closing it down until a new well could be certified, the jackasses made the kids come in anyway and not drink from any fountain, and not flush any toilets. Their parents were a tad displeased. But the rain is coming down now, and looks to keep coming for most of the weekend. A nice steady, but not pouring, rain. Good. We need it bad here.

I'll be visiting family in southern Virginia until Sunday. Friends and neighbors will be taking care of the house while I'm gone, but I doubt I'll get any posting done while I'm in Hillsville, even though I'm taking my laptop. I'll be at one of the biggest flea market events on the east coast, browsing the stands for Fiestaware, bakelite, and motion lamps. No As Seen On TV. No Big Johnson t-shirts. No faux indian posters, t-shirts, dream catchers. Maybe one funnel cake.

Enjoy the weekend. I'll be back and posting on Monday.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, August 27, 2002.

Notes from the gutter...(continued...)

Someone, I think it was the Chancellor of the University of North Carolina, was giving a speech on C-SPAN radio as I drove home from work today. It was about the recent apoplexy the religious right had when the university assigned the book, "Understanding Islam" to incoming freshmen. The usual RR legal pit bulls filed suit on, get this, separation of church and state grounds, and I'm happy to say, lost. Yes...they understand the difference between teaching about religion, and teaching religion. Yes...they were deliberately trying to confuse one with the other in the courts to further their own agenda. have to wonder who the hell they think they're fooling anymore. But the lawsuit was about two things: keeping up the pressure on the system until it caves, and fueling their grassroots with that propaganda that Eric Hoffer once said, does not deceive people, but merely helps them to deceive themselves.

The Chancellor read some of the hate e-mail the university received, one of which stated that they were anti-American, and hoped they'd receive a packet of anthrax in the mail. Probably had one of William Bennett's moral compasses in his pocket...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Scraping your flesh with razors

In Robert Heinlein's Job: A Comedy Of Justice, the main character Alexander Hergensheimer holds on fiercely to his shaving razor as he whirls dizzily through one strange world after another. If there is a deep meaning to that razor in the story it keeps escaping me, but I can relate to the man's determination not to loose it. You get used to a particular razor and you hate having to adjust to a new one. Breaking in a new razor generally means a week or more of little blood sacrifices all over your face and neck until you get the touch of the new one down, or you decide that your hand and that handle just aren't a good match and you go look for another one.

Thing is, the drugstore brands seem to want to keep you buying the latest model, and never mind that the old one did the job perfectly well thank you. Back when I first started sprouting a beard, they had to sell you on a new product by dazzling you with some flashy gimmick that made you want to throw away your old razor. Now that you can't find injector or double edge razors in the drug stores anymore, they have a new way: they simply discontinue making the proprietary blades your old razor used.

When I discovered Schick was doing this to me again recently I nearly exploded. I've gone through several Schick razors in the past decade, each of which were perfectly good and I would have been content to just buy the blades from them forever. But that kind of long term business relationship was not what Schick had in mind for me. A few weeks ago I hit about several dozen stores in my area looking for a particular blade, before I had to admit that I was stuck with another orphan product. In its place was a shiny new something or other with completely different blades and I was furious.

I decided it was time to find a good razor, that took a generic blade. The little Bic disposable, which let it be said is still the same as it was when Bic first started making them, would work for me, and at times I've resorted to them while traveling, or when I was between yesterday's model that I couldn't buy anymore, and if I was a real red blooded American Consumer probably shouldn't have wanted anymore anyway, and the very latest and greatest thing I just had to have to live a completely fulfilling life. But I am not comfortable with tossing thousands of those little yellow plastic things into landfills over the course of a lifetime. Disposable blade razors might not be as green as a straight edge, but I don't have the nerve to take one of those to my face either. That left me with pretty much one option: a razor that took a double edge blade.

I hadn't used a double edge since I was 17, and my beard really started coming in, and my memory of that razor was that once it got a taste for human blood it couldn't be trusted anymore. But I went looking around the web anyway, in hopes that somewhere somebody had worked on the technology a little. Happily, I found several places on the web selling razors from Europe, where they've apparently kept refining the double edge razor all these years since they disappeared from American drugstores. I ended up buying a nice, solid little German one that looks a bit like it's been squished under a truck or something. The odd shape of the head actually makes it track my face and neck pretty well though.

After I ordered it I let my beard grow just to give it a good test when it arrived. When I got it, I found it took to my hand very well, but it was a tad less forgiving then the Schick and I nicked myself a couple of times. The next day was nick free, and the next, and I got a little cocky with it and the following day cut myself a good one on the chin. I'd forgotten that the balance of those things is very different from the little single edge things I've been using all these years. But the heavy steel handle on this new one gives it a far better balance then my first razor, and after using it a couple of weeks now I've pretty much gotten the hang of it.

I don't think either Schick or Gillette make double edged blades anymore, but I don't have to care. Lots of companies all over the world still do. A little victory then, for non-proprietary software. Now if I can just get Linux to do my bidding...

The haters of America

Ted Rall, who Andrew Smear My Body With Testosterone Please Sullivan once averred hated America, nails who the real haters of America are in a dazzlingly brilliant editorial on Yahoo here.

There are few more sickening sights than George W. Bush wearing a lapel pin bearing an image of the American flag. Bush and his creepy henchmen can wrap themselves in nationalistic symbolism all they want, but these right-wing thugs aren't patriots. They may pledge allegiance to the flag, but they despise the republic for which it stands. -Ted Rall, George W. Bush Hates America

And if there is one thing anti-democratic strongmen hate with a passion, it's dissent. In Portland Oregon the police pepper sprayed men, women, children and infants who were trying to obey orders and disperse, but who couldn't because they'd been herded straight into a line of cops who were waiting for them. The people were there to protest Smirk's appearance at a fund raiser. If you think American citizens have a right to protest that the government is bound to respect, then read one first hand account of how his wife and children were brutalized by a bunch of brownshirts in blue. here . Pay attention to the fact that when he called 911 to get help for his pepper sprayed infant, the man was told by the 911 operator that ambulances would not be made available to the protestors, but that they were to "report" to a first aid tent on the other side of the police lines.


Not sure if the guy with the angel's face, who sat and talked with me recently about how persistence is the key to achieving your dreams, was real or a dream himself, but if he was a dream it was one I sure wouldn't mind having again...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, August 26, 2002.

Our Guest Speaker At Tonight's Jewish Defense League Luncheon Will Be George Lincoln Rockwell...

I'm a little thin on posting here the past few days because I've become entangled in a wee controversy on one of the Pink Pistols mail lists. Seems they want to have as a guest speaker at one of their conferences a guy who did a really bang up job at debunking Michael Bellesiles's "Arming America". The guy now has a reputation in gun circles as a top notch researcher and fact checker. Problem is, on Usenet he has a reputation as an aggressive homophobe, with a penchant for dispensing a variety of anti-gay hokum, including that most homosexuals support NAMBLA, and that AIDS would disappear overnight if homosexuals learned a little self control. Gotta love those researching and fact checking skills! So far, most of what I've heard from his defenders, is that he's shown himself to be very civil to private. Well isn't that swell.

I wouldn't exactly call myself a gun enthusiast, although I own a few and I'll even admit to a certain fondness for the classic 1911 colt .45 auto. And I strongly believe that the second amendment confers a right upon individual citizens. But I've never dived head first into it like some of my straight friends, probably because I haven't the time to do more then practice at the local range whenever I can. I covet a new Kimber but it's just not in the budget this year. I browse the stands at the gun shows and wish for more time, and a heck of a lot more money since a good firearm of any kind isn't cheap. But I grit my teeth whenever I hear some vein throbbing right wing gun buff bellyaching that the homos need to distance themselves from their fringe elements if they ever want any respect. If I bought a copy of Turner Diaries every time I saw one at a gun show, I'd own thousands, not to mention various other William L. Pierce paraphernalia, and books like "Hit Man", and other detailed guides to booby trapping automobiles, homes, blowing up railroad tracks, buildings, bridges and so forth...copies of Hitler posters (like the one I saw at a Pikesville gun show only a few years ago, that read, "I'm coming back, and next time it'll be no more Mr Nice Guy.")...and racist, sexist, and homophobic bumper stickers by the zillions. I could festoon a fleet of cars with the ones I've seen, year after year after year after year. You complain about this and you typically get a lot of "free speech" rhetoric, which is fine except they don't seem to want to give the gay civil rights movement the same free speech buffer zone they want to keep for themselves, which is the usual right wing hypocrisy.

Its nice to see gay people challenging stereotypes, but I am not terribly convinced that proving we can shake hands with people who hate our guts is a necessary way to go about it. And it isn't enough to simply wave the second amendment around like a goddamn flag. Some quality thought needs to be spent on why the right to keep and bear arms is important. If it's not because we have a primary right to our own lives, and an ultimate right to protect and defend our lives, our very existence, then what is it? A gun can be seen as a symbol of brute might makes right force, senseless violence and mindless wasting of precious human life, or it can be a symbol of self reliance, independence and the will to preserve and protect life. If its the latter, then I don't think defending the right to keep and bear arms maps to shaking hands with people who incite hate, whether it's against homosexuals, or against anyone.

...which is why I am not an NRA member.

Petrograd. No...Leningrad. No...St Petersburg... (continued...)

News from The Hampster That The Free Republic website has pulled the thread mocking the suicide of a New York Times business editor. It never happened...honest... A "Freeper" writes Hampster in their defense that the reason the Times elicits such hatred from the right is that, "The New York Times hates conservatives and smears conservatives on practically a daily basis." Let me guess...the Times calls them a bunch of knuckle dragging thugs who threaten violence when reason fails them (which is usually), and laugh delightedly at other people's pain and that about it?


Sometimes you really wonder about the things that go on in your head. I dream often and usually quite vividly. I frequently wake up between dreams, toss and turn for a while and then go back to sleep. The other night I had five dreams in a row, in which a particular string of numbers kept appearing: 47362. In one dream it was the address of a house I was trying to find while walking down a lonely city street. In one dream I was back in school and it was my locker number. In another it was a phone number I was told I had to call. In the last dream I was out in my back yard working on my deck, and reached for my electric drill only to find it didn't work. I took the drill inside and called customer service. They asked me for the serial number on the drill, which was 47362. There's a story in all of this somewhere, if I only had the time to write it.

Some people would spend their entire day trying to find the meaning in that particular number. I kept wondering about how the brain creates dreams, and how information might get passed from one dream to another, despite the fact that you might not remember it at all between dreams. I'm a geek, kill me now.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, August 25, 2002.

Not much web logging this weekend...sorry. I've a cartoon to do and things to prepare for a trip to visit family over the Labor Day weekend. I'll be posting next week's cartoon on Tuesday morning, instead of Monday morning.

Notes from the gutter...(continued...)

I was digging around on the web for a photo of Anthony Verdugo Jr., chairman of the Miami-Dade County Christian Coalition, who has been working with Take Back Miami/Dade to repeal their anti-discrimination ordinance. I couldn't find one...but I found this Quote from Verdugo

"The Boy Scouts is our Matthew Shepard."

What you have to remember when staring into the open sewer that is hate in America, is that there is no bottom.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, August 22, 2002.

Notes from the gutter...(continued...)

A business editor for the New York Times has died, as a result of an 11 floor fall from a window of the newspaper's office building in Times Square. Eschaton notes the reaction from posters at the Free Republic website. Read them if you have a strong stomach, and belief in the human status. If you thought Rush Limbaugh was merely a right wing gas bag buffoon, then ponder for a moment what the poster, who wrote that Rush started playing "It's Raining Men" after the news broke, is telling you.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, August 20, 2002.

Try to silence me will you...

I owe the Independent [sic] Gay Forum credit for helping me finally track down a link to the story I commented on a while back, regarding the efforts of several congressional republicans who were demanding an account of all U.S. funding that went to support the conference as well as a list of individuals who received HHS grants to attend the International AIDS Conference in Barcelona. But then...I owe Andrew Sullivan credit for turning me on to Paul Krugman's columns too.

After the Brooks Brothers riot that helped abort the recount in Florida, you'd think even republicans would be too embarrassed to bellyache about vocal protesters shouting down anybody. Steve Miller of the Independent [sic] Gay Forum has just gotta wag his finger at the protestors at the AIDS conference who shouted down Department of Health Secretary Tommy Thompson, and then tell them that if they loose their funding, it's their own damn fault. Miller, in other words, sees a moral equivalence between protesters who shout down people whose views they don't like, and congressmen using the power of government to silence people they don't like, proving once again that republicans just can't be trusted with the reigns of power in a democracy, because they just don't fucking like the concept.

Miller tastefully omits from his account of those "conservative members of Congress who are not exactly gay friendly", that they weren't just annoyed by the shout down of Tommy Thompson, but also that none of the speeches or lectures delivered at the Barcelona AIDS Conference addressed "faith-based" ways to combat HIV/AIDS. These congresscritters are of the opinion that if organizers continue to prevent religious points of view from being presented at AIDS conferences, then federal money that would have been used to support them should be withheld (What do you mean I can't take my GOD HATES FAGS sign in there...???). Miller can be counted on to omit those sorts of details from his lefty bashing web log. Independent? Independent? Sure. Like Enron subsidiaries were from Enron.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Homosexuals Made Me Sell My Soul To The Devil...

And speaking of Florida election shenanigans, news from Miami that Take Back Miami/Dade operatives, including local Christian Coalition leader Anthony Verdugo, are now being led away in handcuffs for their petition fraud. Jeb Bush (who just recently hired a fundimentalist advocate of child abuse to head the Florida Department of Child Services) took the probe into Take Back Miami/Dade malfeasance away from Dade county prosecutors, and tried to bury it in Polk County, near Orlando, where they have fewer resources to pursue an investigation. But the authorities in Polk have risen to the challenge, and now arrests are being made. Andrew Tobias has a good article on the recent events in Jeb Bush's Florida on the Gay Financial Network site.

In the Miami Herald today a story on the arrests has this enchanting quote from the defense attorney, Rosa Armesto de González, who is representing the arrested petition gatherers:

"This is the work of the homosexual, bisexual and transsexual mafia that wants to destroy our families and take away the right of every Dade County citizen to vote,"

Yeah...yeah... It was homosexuals who made them go out and bulk forge so many signatures on petitions that you can find sheet after sheet with the same handwriting on them. It was homosexuals who made their own notary notarize his own signature. It was homosexuals who made their petition gatherers falsely swear to having witnessed voters signing their petitions. It was homosexuals who made their petition gatherers lie to voters about what they were signing. Maybe this is what the religious right has meant all along, when they said that homosexuality corrupts society.

Oh...and there was also this:

"There is no proof that anything wrong was done."

Well that's sure a ringing proclamation of innocence if I ever heard one. Question: if you sell your soul to the devil in order to achieve a victory for god...whose little victory did you actually win?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, August 18, 2002.

The usual wedge politics...

I see Steve Miller at the Independent [sic] Gay Forum is bellyaching about the persecution of gays in the territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority. He relates a story by a young gay Palestinian, who was arrested and tortured for months before fleeing to Israel, where he now lives illegally, and dreams of moving to Tel Aviv. Miller suggests that gays who run across groups opposed to the Israeli occupation, such as Q U I T ! (Queers Undermining Israeli Tyranny) "think about this".

Does anyone at the Independent [sic] Gay Forum have a conscience left? I have to wonder, because in the stories I'm hearing about the routine torture of Palestinians by the Israeli army, I must have missed the part about where they only torture the heterosexual ones. Gays in Israel have it a hell of a lot better then Gays in any arab state, without a doubt, but just try being an arab, let alone a Palestinian, in Israel. I really don't think that any of the young Palestinian men I keep seeing the Israeli army rounding up day after day have a snowball's chance in hell of getting humane treatment, if they told their captors that they were homosexual. The young man in Miller's story actually has a hell of a lot to fear from the Israeli government, and his story is more, frying pan into the fire, then one of persecution finding sanctuary. He's a Palestinian living illegally in a nation at war with Palestinians, and he is Gay, something the Israeli army has a track record of using, to force Palestinians into becoming informants. If he is discovered, things could get very bad for him, very quickly. But count on Miller, and the other deep thinkers at the Independent [sic] Gay Forum not to dwell on that.

But let's put all that aside for a moment. Does Miller actually believe that the Palestinians cause stands a better chance of getting sympathy from this administration, if they treated their gay and lesbian citizens justly. Fat chance. Back in the Reagan years, when the American Right was getting it's shorts in a knot over the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, that country had no laws on its books regarding homosexuality, and Nicaraguan homosexuals were taking their first tentative steps toward acceptance. After the "liberation" of Nicaragua, one of the first things its new freedom loving democratic government did was pass a sodomy law, which not only provides jail for homosexual acts, but also for anyone who advocates repealing the law (Article 204 in the Nicaraguan Penal Code). Prison terms can reportedly range from three to 20 years, depending on the circumstances.

Now...I don't recall any of the deep thinkers in the republican party, telling the new freedom loving Nicaraguan government that they had to respect the rights of their homosexual citizens before the United States would recognize them. Matter of fact, in some republican quarters, persecuting homosexuals is regarded as the duty of a just government:

"There should be no one that should try to make them feel comfortable, that somehow what they're doing is perfectly normal - it isn't." -Bruce Keough, Republican Candidate for Governor of New Hampshire.

Tell me how persecuting homosexual people doesn't put the Palestinian Authority, let alone, most arab states, on the same page as the various republican party platforms, including the one in Smirk's political home state, Texas. This is an area where the republican leadership and the arab world agree. But count on the deep thinkers at the Independent [sic] Gay Forum to point their fingers anywhere else but their own party.

And since when did treating Gay and Lesbian's fairly, and decently, give anyone a free pass to treat other people like human garbage? I'm real glad that Israel treats its homosexual citizens with a measure of decency, if not complete equality. But given how they're treating the Palestinians, it's not something I place a whole hell of a lot of trust in. Abraham Lincoln said that anyone can stand adversity, and if you want to test someone's character give them power. The lives of Israel's gay and lesbian citizens is not nearly as telling, as the lives of the Palestinians under its occupation.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, August 17, 2002.

Calling the Republican Unity Coalition...

News from "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire, that every single one of the primary candidates for Governor are promising to roll back rights and protections for the state's gay and lesbian citizens if elected.

"There should be no one that should try to make them feel comfortable, that somehow what they're doing is perfectly normal - it isn't." -Bruce Keough, Republican Candidate for Governor.

Charming. And you just know the head in the sand republican wonks over at the Independent [sic] Gay Forum will ignore it, and point to things like the Republican Unity Coalition as if that group has had any measurable impact on the steaming hostility of state republican organizations toward gay and lesbian Americans.

Colmunist Michelangelo Signorile wrote in January 2001, in a column titled, Keeping Gays at the Gate, that Alan Simpson became a tad annoyed when Washington D.C. Councilman David Catania stood up and said,

"At this point the Republican Party's treatment of gays and lesbians is at best unacceptable and at worst disgraceful."

Simpson, according to Signorile, replied,

"I've been in this party since I was 21 years old," he said later in a folksy and friendly but nonetheless stern manner. "Since you're now casting a rock with this remark on the party, you ought to remember that the party fails every time it gives itself the saliva test of purity. What you're speaking about, David, is old crap. That ain't where we are now. And so there's no need to go back and wash out the old laundry."

Old crap is it? Okay...get out the old crap shovel then Alan, cuz they're busy shovelling it in New Hampshire. Oh...wait a minute...that's a big primary state...isn't it? Never mind...

by Bruce Garrett | Link


I'm not ignoring this space (honest!). It's just that the life of a software engineer can get suddenly hectic as all hell. I've been facing a build deadline at work and sorting out problems that keep popping up during testing, between code I'm delivering, and code a contractor is delivering. It would be easy in this kind of situation to just blame the contractor, but I was one once myself. And in any case it's even easier to blame our version control system, CVS, which I know a lot of people just love to pieces, but which I personally despise for it's cheerful willingness to merge source code files and automatically resolve differences whether it knows what it's doing or not. This is why I keep my own running backups of my source at home, but I've just spent three hours this morning trying to pin down why code I'd delivered last week had suddenly dissapeared from this week's build. If I hear one more CVS wonk tell me that source file locking is ineffective because programmers will work around it anyway, I'm going to throttle him. are a few random bits...

The dangers of heavy petting

Was driving home from the grocery store and tuned into a fundamentalist radio station broadcasting a lecture somebody was giving to a group of school students. It was the kind of sex negative rant you'd expect, but when the guy started warning the kids that they shouldn't even be touching one another at all, let alone in any kind of suggestive way, it sent a little chill down my back. Your innocence, says he, is a god given gift, and every time you give yourself to someone else, you loose a little of your innocence. At first I thought he was talking about sex, but as I listened it became chillingly clear he was talking about any human contact at all.

The stereotype of the knuckle dragging fundamentalist is that they have the human warmth of a cell door. Now I was listening to how they pass that down from generation to generation. Don't touch anybody...or you'll loose your virtue.... He praised students who made the choice not to kiss. Kissing in his reckoning was bad in its own right, not because it could lead to sex.

I figured he was probably talking to a class of elementary school kids or maybe junior high kids. But after the lecture was over, he was interviewed by someone from the radio station, and it became clear that he had given that talk to a room full of college students!

I have dated, and had my own heart broken by someone who grew up in that environment, and I listen to this stuff when I come across it, wondering if there was anything I could have done differently. He told me often as we lay together, that touch was something he got precious little of growing up. It was a wound I'd have given anything to be able to heal.

One shameless plug deserves another...

Some of us like to mix the serious with the light hearted in our web logs. I've always seen mine as a kind of running commentary on my life and my world, with no particular topic per say other then what I'm up to, or what has my attention on any given day (hence: The Story So Far...). Others, such as the many political web logs out here, have dedicated their space to more specific topical grounds. Rittenhouse Review splits the difference with a second, more lighthearted site, TRR. It's a fun companion to the more serious, and very worthwhile "journal of foreign policy, finance, ethics, and culture".

And while I'm plugging here...let me also give credit to my web host, Zzapp, which is run by my longtime friend Jon Larimore, operator of the old GLIB BBS system. GLIB (The Gay and Lesbian Information Bureau) still exists as a web site, with all the old message boards us oldtime GLIBBERS remember. GLIB was my first experience with the on-line gay community, back before the Internet was accessible to most of us. It was a founding member of the old GayCom network of BBS systems, and for several years in a row made the top ten in Boardwatch BBS magazine rankings. Jon created GLIB to be first and foremost an information resource for the gay community, and his system always had a professional polish and class that few others could match. In the days before the Internet, it was a lifeline to news and information about the gay community, that even the Advocate, and the Washington Blade couldn't match. The Internet has pretty much replaced the old BBS systems, and nowadays gay people have almost an embarrassment of wealth in on-line resources. But Jon and Joe still faithfully maintain GLIB, and some of us long time GLIBBERS are greatful for it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, August 14, 2002.

Bill Mauldin

Bill Mauldin was one of the first cartoonists I found myself greatly admiring. In the days when I was scouring the libraries for books by political cartoonists, I happened on a couple by Mauldin, and from there found my way to his amazing World War II cartoons. Find, if you can manage it, a copy of Up Front. His Willie and Joe cartoons, about the day to day experiences of two front line infantrymen over the course of the war, earned the everlasting gratitude of many of the men who were there, and gave the generations who followed them a more authentic representation of their experience, then can be found in nearly any textbook, or coffee table version of their story.

Mauldin's cartoons were published in the 45th Division News, and then in the Army's Stars and Stripes newspaper. Once, getting himself into Palermo Italy while it was in the middle of being liberated, he drew his cartoons on the back of portraits of Mussolini and King Victor Emmanuel ("Photos of these worthies, which were always printed on high-quality double-weight paper, provided me with a steady source of paper for the next several months..."), then talked a local engraver into helping him produce printing plates with zinc plates taken from a coffin that Mauldin bought from the local coffin maker. "We stayed out of everyone's hair, we put out a readable paper, in spite of production difficulties, and we had credibility."

Yes. Credibility. What a precious commodity that is. How hard to come by. How easily lost. Mauldin never lost his credibility. After the war, he worked as a political cartoonist, winning a second Pulitzer in 1959, and never loosing either his wry sense of humor or his sense of justice. In 1962 he covered the segregationist riots at the University of Mississippi, witnessing events he would later draw for his newspaper, and the nation, from the fringes of a mob that beat any photographer they saw on sight.

Sad news comes now, from Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene, that Mauldin, after a bad household accident, is in ill health, and alone in a nursing home. Please, if you can help out, it would mean a lot.

I spoke with members of his family; they said that, even though Bill hardly communicates, the one thing that cheers him up is hearing from World War II guys -- the men for whom he drew those magnificent cartoons.

Which is not what you might expect. Mauldin was not one to hold on to the past -- he did not want to be categorized by the work he did on the battlefields when he was in his 20s. He went on to have a stellar career in journalism after the war, winning another Pulitzer in 1959. Many Americans, and I'm one of them, consider the drawing he did on deadline on the afternoon John F. Kennedy was assassinated -- the drawing of the Lincoln Memorial, head in hands, weeping -- to be the single greatest editorial cartoon in the history of newspapers.

But it's his World War II contemporaries he seems to need now. The guys for whom -- in the words of Mauldin's son David -- Mauldin's cartoons "were like water for men dying of thirst." David Mauldin said his dad needs to hear that he meant something to those men.

He needs visitors, and he needs cards of encouragement. I'm not going to print the name of the nursing home, so that this can be done in a disciplined and scheduled way. A newspaper colleague in Southern California -- Gordon Dillow -- has done a wonderful job organizing this, and he will take your cards to the nursing home. You may send them to Bill Mauldin in care of Dillow at the Orange County Register, 625 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92701.

What would be even better, for those of you World War II veterans who are reading these words in California, or who plan on traveling there soon, would be if you could pay a visit to Mauldin just to sit with him a while. You can let me know if you are willing to do this (, or you can let Gordon Dillow know (
by Bruce Garrett | Link

Kyoto? Hell...let's get rid of that dammed Geneva Convention too while we're at it...

If the revelations in David Brock's Blinded by the Right weren't enough to make you question the morals, let alone the patriotism of the American Right, if the Brooks Brothers riot didn't quite do it, then consider the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi. Now winding its way through the American judicial process (such as it still is...), this case will tell us whether or not the American Right has finally extinguished the American Dream of liberty and justice for all. An American citizen is being held in prison, while our President Select declares he can neither avail himself of the consitutional rights guaranteed to all Americans, nor the Geneva War Conventions regarding Prisoners of War.

The New York Times quotes this, from an exasperated judge who has repeatedly tried, and failed, to get Smirk's people to admit to one small, but vital concept, that their declaration alone, is not enough to deny a prisoner their rights under one, or the other, principal of law. In other words, that there still exists a rule of law at all:

"I have no desire to have an enemy combatant get out. But due process requires something other than a declaration by someone named Mobbs that he should be held incommunicado. Isn't that what we're fighting for?" -Judge Robert G. Doumar. If Smirk and his pals had the slightest use for democracy, and democratic values, they wouldn't have thieved their way into the White House in the first place. As of my writing this, the Smirk still declines to acknowledge there is any rule of law, apart from decree by his administration. Is this a surprise to anyone? Seriously.

The forth circut court of appeals, the most right wing appeals court in the nation, has been nudging Doumar to give deference to the "executive branch's constitutional right to wage war". In other words, accept whatever excuse the executive branch gives you and call it constitutional. This way, the Right gets to claim there was judicial review, even when that review amounts to looking the other way while Smirk and the Right rape the consitution of the United States, and argue after the fact that whatever Smirk did was constitutional. Doumar, to his everlasting credit, isn't putting his name on that.

And it gets better...:

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's announced desire for camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be "enemy combatants" has moved him from merely being a political embarrassment to being a constitutional menace.

Ashcroft's plan, disclosed last week but little publicized, would allow him to order the indefinite incarceration of U.S. citizens and summarily strip them of their constitutional rights and access to the courts by declaring them enemy combatants.

The proposed camp plan should trigger immediate congressional hearings and reconsideration of Ashcroft's fitness for this important office. Whereas Al Qaeda is a threat to the lives of our citizens, Ashcroft has become a clear and present threat to our liberties. Not just Ashcroft.

Add it up people. A president who strong armed his way into the White House by fraud and a threat of force, is now asserting that there is no higher constitutional principle, no rule of law, beyond his will. And he's about to take the country into war.

If your rights as an individual citizen can be unconditionally nullified by order of the military commander in chief, you are living in a police state.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Greetings From Hallmark get the hell out of our store...

The Gay Financial Network's Commerical Closet reports that Hallmark Cards is "greeting" the gay community by targeting us...with online cards. Oh joy. I suppose the motto might be something like, When the real thing is more then you want to send...

Not that they'd want to actually treat their own gay and lesbian employees with a little fairness and decency, let alone assure their gay and lesbian customers, or the families of gay and lesbian people, that they won't have mall security called on them when they try to buy a pair of same sex teddy bears.

To The Gay Market...
Our Sincere Regrets...

We're so sorry we overlooked you.
Will your wallets forgive us?

Please accept this e-card with our sincere apologies.

And remember it's not our fault
if our franchisee treats you
like some warm dog shit they just
stepped in.

Have a Nice Day!

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, August 12, 2002.

One cartoon this week. Housework prevented me from getting to the other cartoon I had on the drawing boards, but I've kept the rough and should be able to finish it for next Monday's batch.

And sorry about the confusion of dates. Blame it on careless cutting and pasting, when I redesigned the look of the cartoon pages slightly. The dates are correct now.

Saturday, August 10, 2002.

To The Victors Belong The Spoils...To America Belongs The Leftovers...

I'll be busy the rest of the weekend with chores, and getting my cartoons out (I'm hoping to get two done...but we'll see...I gotta lot of stuff to do around the house too...). In the meantime, here's two to Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo web log, concerning Smirk's gutting the VOA, possibly (probably I'd say) as payback for the career VOA personnel being too independent to suit the Smirking Chimp. The second is to a Washington Post AP story, by way of Joe Carlson's excellent Salon web log, to the effect that since the republicans took control of congress, a tidal wave of patronage money has flowed into republican districts, and out of democratic ones. In the article, (which Carlson observes somehow managed to vanish from the New York Times site, and then from Google when he linked to them) republican Dick "Barney Fag" Armey says, quote, "There is an old adage, to the victor goes the spoils."

For Molly Ivans, her "whoa moment" with the Smirk came when he mocked to the face of Talk Magazine reporter Tucker Carlson, death row inmate Karla Faye Tucker, just weeks before her execution. For me it was during the 2000 presidential primaries, while reading an article that asked several people who knew him, what he valued most in a friend. Every single one of them replied without hesitation; "loyalty."

Sycophants are what people use to in fill the rotted void where a self once was, or where one could have been. Friends not only keep us grounded, they teach us what honor is, and what it costs, and why the cost is worth it. I could not love thee, dear, so much, Loved I not honor more -Lovelace. If the most a man wants from his friends is that they're loyal, then that man has no brakes. Reading that article was pretty much when the sinking feeling that Bush had no business whatsoever being president of the United States, joined with the sinking feeling that he was going to get it anyway, because nobody was looking too closely at the open sewer behind the face of the down home good old boy. When Bush campaigned against John McCain, by viciously attacking his wife and family, my only surprise was the general indifference to what it said about him. Even Andrew Sullivan noticed it. But after all the bellyaching in the press about Clinton and morals, suddenly you couldn't find much interest in pointing out that someone who wants the most powerful office in the land so badly they will destroy a man's wife and his family to get it, has no business whatsoever sitting in that office. But then on the other hand, when has the press ever flinched from destroying people's families to sell newspapers...

Loyalty. Forget taking God out of the pledge of allegiance. For the time being, that place belongs to Smirk. Figure that to sit at the table of George Bush's America, and be called a citizen, means you have to kiss his ass. Nothing more. Nothing less. But of course...that's the way all tinpot dictators think, isn't it...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, August 8, 2002.

Sheer beauty...

TRR takes note of the beauty of the new Thunderbird. Yes. It's beautiful. It's drop dead gorgeous is what it is. I'd own one in a heartbeat if it wasn't built on the Lincoln LS chassis. I'm just not sure I trust Ford to build a car as good as that one looks anymore. But god, does it touch place, deep inside of me.

I was just a wee kid, not even in school yet, when the first four seater Thunderbirds came rolling down the highways. Back then, most of the grownups in my blue collar neighborhood were still struggling with old blimp-esq post WWII cars. My best friend's father had an old 53 Ford that was always breaking down. A neighbor across the street from us had an old Hudson Kaiser. One of our church deacons had a big Rambler that nearly got us all killed one day when one of its radius rods broke on the way to church (in those days there were no seatbelts, the dashboards were all solid steel, and the steering wheel columns usually impaled the driver on impact). To suddenly then, begin seeing these low, sleek, spaceship like cars gliding down the highway was almost a religious experience.

I've never forgotten the effect that car had on me. It's still the perfect car of my dreams.

1959 Ford Thunderbird

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, August 7, 2002.

No sex please...we're Moderates...

And right after reading the Sun article below, my eyes wandered over to the Independent [sic] Gay Forum, where Steve Miller reassures us that McCarthyism is still very much alive and well in America. In a stunningly callow (not to mention ironic) attempt to make the Marxist/Communist label stick to Richard Goldstein, despite Goldstein's rebuttal that gay liberationists like himself had to fight Marxists, who regarded sexism and homophobia as "distractions from the class struggle" (See the Sun article below, for more about how Communists felt about homosexuality), Miller quotes David Harsanyi to the effect that Goldstein is more tolerant of "Marxism's all-encompassing tyrannical dehumanization" because he takes issue with Marxist sexual repression.

Communism's 100-million plus victims are not as damaging a crime to him as a fellow traveler's lukewarm support for the local same-sex prom.


Oh...heaven forfend we should get anywhere near as angry about ...oh... about the blood legacy of communism:

I was coming home from school with fat lips or bloody noses, and I'd tell my parents that it was from basketball. I knew it would get worse if I told. I thought my mom would get aggravated because she came here for me to have freedom and friends. And it didn't work out that way.

One night, my parents found out. I wasn't sleepwalking, but sleeprunning, and I was sweaty and screaming, ''I'm going to be dead!'' And they woke me up and started asking me, ''Why are you saying this?'' I told them everything, what the kids were saying about me, that they hit me, that I woke up screaming all the time. My parents had no idea. When they went to the school district, teachers said, ''Our hands are tied; we can't do anything.'' Nothing much happened to the kid who had kneed me, but I was transferred to a different school. So I started all over again. I took karate -- not to beat anyone up, but just to be able to have some self-defense.

The first three, four weeks, everything was fine. But the kids from my old school told kids in my new one that I was a figure skater and that no one gets in trouble, you can make fun of him as much as you want. One day I was sitting on the bus next to this kid, and he said, ''You're gay.'' And I said, ''Whatever you say.'' And then he kicked me. I didn't do anything. He kicked me again. So I kicked back. Then he hit me in the forehead with his knuckle. The kids cheered.

The accusation that jerk farms like the Independent [sic] Gay Forum like to toss around, is that Gay Liberationists have made sex the end all and be all of their lives, whereas they are centrists...moderates...people who dislike extremes. A moderate disapproves of the wholesale dehumanization of millions under communist rule, more then the piecemeal dehumanization of their sexual lives, more then the dehumanization of a few gay kids denied the magic of that once in a lifetime prom night, more then the dehumanization of one small boy, mistaken for gay, in the country his Russian family fled to, looking for freedom. A moderate, in short, doesn't give a good goddamn about anything but the noise level.

No sex please...we're Marxists...

Interesting article in today's Baltimore Sun about the delayed sexual revolution in Russia, and its backlash. I was impressed that a mainstream newspaper actually bothered to observe that the newly won freedoms of Russian homosexuals was also a target of the backlash (we're getting there...). But what made the piece so fascinating to me was the short and sweet depiction of how sexual repression walked lock step in russia, with political repression.

The Soviets weren't always so dour. In the years after the 1917 revolution, women in particular pushed for more sexual freedom. Although Lenin had a mistress, he denounced attacks on traditional family values as "un-Marxist and anti-social." While talking about sex with one German revolutionary, he said: "The revolution demands concentration. ... It cannot tolerate orgiastic conditions!"

The real crackdown came under Stalin. Scientific research about sexual behavior was banned. Erotic imagery in art and literature was outlawed. Painters made sure to depict fierce-looking women in peasant blouses buttoned up to their chins. Homosexuality was prohibited as a capitalist vice in 1934. Abortion - legalized in 1920 - became illegal again in 1936.

Sex - like so much of Soviet life - went underground. In some intellectual circles, scandalous behavior became a form of protest.

The official Communist line was that the Soviet Union had channeled the nation's sex drive into more serious pursuits. In 1986, one Leningrad woman declared in a televised debate that "there is no sex in the Soviet Union." About the same time, Dr. Lev Shcheglov, a Leningrad sociologist, reflected sadly: "What kind of orgasms do you expect in a society which, on top of all the shame we've loaded on sex, lived for decades in communal apartments?"

Really makes you wonder what the American right had against the commies. Oh...I know...I know... They were godless. But when I watch America's stalinists gut from people their capacity for human intimacy, so they can fill that aching bleeding hole with a blind obedience to authority, I think that only made the communists less hypocritical.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, August 6, 2002.

A nearly perfect record of business incompetence, relieved by the occasional crony seeking political favors...

Column by David Ignatius in today's Washington Post regarding one of Smirk's early business debacles, the ill fated Caterair International:

It's not something George W. Bush talks about much -- indeed, it's a fact that has been virtually purged from his official biography -- but for four years in the early 1990s, Bush was a director of a company that ultimately collapsed under the weight of its junk-bond financing and management mistakes.


During Bush's four years as a director, Caterair's problems went from bad to worse to insoluble. Because the company was privately held, there's no public record of his role in board discussions. But Caterair is in some respects an early example of the sort of financial engineering that has subverted so many prominent companies recently.

Any more questions as to why the economy is tanking?

Petrograd. No...Leningrad. No...St Petersburg...

Paul Krugman on why the OMB web site is starting to resemble Andrew Sullivan's. I suppose Clinton is responsible for dragging their moral standards down too...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, August 5, 2002.

Roosevelt's wheelchair

Not since FDR has the press been so silent about the obvious. But Roosevelt's wheelchair was arguably not relevant to either his character or ability. George W. Bush's many crooked business dealings, his conduct during the presidential primaries and during the election, his, and his brother's collusion with the American right to steal the election, and his brick brained imbicilities while in office, are arguably very relevant indeed. But if Big News is your only source of information, you'll never hear about any of that, any more then people during the Great Depression were likely to hear about Roosevelt's wheelchair. Years from now, people will probably be nodding their heads about Smirk, and saying they never knew.

Which is not to say they couldn't have found out if they'd really wanted to. Before I turned in for bed last night, I was watching the International News Channel, and saw a Canadian broadcast that showed a bit more of Smirk's impromptu golf cart press conference then you were likely to see or read about. Web logger Eschaton writes about it, quoting this story from the Los Vegas Sun:

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine- It was a quick shift from angry statesman to Sunday golfer.

Bush rose before dawn for a round of golf with his father, but was "distressed" to learn of another suicide bombing in Israel.

"There are a few killers who want to stop the peace process that we have started. We must not let them," he said, wagging his finger for emphasis, just as his cart pulled up to the first hole at the Cape Arundel Golf Club.

The six-sentence statement complete, Bush thanked reporters, then smirked and ordered: "Now watch my drive."

This actually looked a Lot worse to watch on TV then it reads. Bush is a pathetic swaggering imbecile, and that's a large measure of why the middle east is bleeding buckets of innocent blood, and you never saw that more clearly then in that video clip, which I saw for the first time, not on American network news, but from a Canadian network. If that shot of Bush switching in an instant, from doddering pontificator on world affairs to golf club bar stool numbskull ran on any of the American network news broadcasts that day, I sure didn't see it. Oh...I saw the solemn, struggle-for-the-correct-words-and-barely-pronounce-them-right, sermonizing, but not the rest, which was bone chilling. Thank god the Soviet Union fell years ago, or this babbling frat boy jackass would have his finger on a nuclear war hair trigger. Yet, it may still come to that, if the forces that strong armed him into the White House have their way. Part of the reason Smirk and his pals were cold cocked by 9/11, was their obsession with missle defense, and gut stabbing the ABM treaty (one of several treaties they decided to rip to shreds, because they could).

Stories are starting to come out now, of how members of the press covering the presidential campaign sought to deliberately sabotage the Gore campaign, and elevate the Bush campaign. This goes beyond merely having a bias, this goes beyond simply emphasizing or de-emphasizing news items based on personal judgement...what happened time and again in the press was deliberate, calculated lying to the nation, in order to influence the presidential election. An election that was ultimately stolen from the people.

In addition to the stories now coming out about the malfeasance of the press, we're starting to get more pieces of the story of the Florida putsch:

The documents show that the Bush organization put on the payroll about 250 staffers, spent about $1.2 million to fly operatives to Florida and elsewhere, and paid for hotel bills adding up to about $1 million. To add flexibility to the travel arrangements, a fleet of corporate jets was assembled, including planes owned by Enron Corp., then run by Bush backer Kenneth Lay, and Halliburton Co., where Dick Cheney had served as chairman and chief executive officer. [emphasis added]


Three of the Miami protesters are now members of Bush’s White House staff, the Miami Herald reported last month. They include Schlapp, who is now a special assistant to the president; Malphrus, who is now deputy director of the president’s Domestic Policy Council; and Joel Kaplan, another special assistant to the president. [See Miami Herald, July 14, 2002]

The Bush committee records show, too, that Bush’s operation paid for the hotel where the Republican protesters celebrated after the Miami riot at a Thanksgiving Day party. At the party, the activists received thank-you phone calls from Bush and Cheney, and were serenaded by crooner Wayne Newton, singing “Danke Schoen,” German for thank-you very much. [Wall Street Journal, Nov. 27, 2000;'s "W's Triumph of the Will"]


The Brooks Brothers Riot – carried live on CNN and other networks – marked a turning point in the recount battle. At the time, Bush clung to a lead that had dwindled to several hundred votes and Gore was pressing for recounts. The riot in Miami and the prospects of spreading violence were among the arguments later cited by defenders of the 5-to-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Dec. 12, 2000, that stopped a statewide Florida recount and handed Bush the presidency.

Backed by the $13.8 million war chest, the Bush operation made clear in Miami and in other protests that it was ready to kick up plenty of political dust if it didn’t get its way.

A later unofficial recount by news organizations found that if all legally cast ballots in Florida had been counted – regardless of which kinds of chads were accepted, whether punched-through, hanging or dimpled – Gore would have won Florida and thus the presidency. Gore also won the national popular vote, defeating Bush by more than a half million votes, making Bush the first popular-vote loser in more than a century to be installed in the White House.

These are the people who are about to lead this country into war. Pray for America.

"As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it"
-Boss Tweed

...and speaking of the cesspool that is the Florida Republican party, Jeb got a replacement for Katherine Harris installed quickly after all. So I reckon she'll not be refereeing her own election after all. At least not in plain sight...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Them Damn Cartoons...

It's been a little over half a year since I took up political cartooning again, and started posting them to this site. My intent was to fill a gap I perceived in editorial cartooning, an art form I love, with regard to gay and lesbian civil rights issues. When I started again, after so many years away from my drafting table, to say my hand was a tad rusty would be understatement. But I have stuck with it, on the grounds that if I stop now I'll never get any better. Looking back on what I've managed to do so far, I can definitely see improvement. But that hasn't been nearly the best part.

Along the way, some readers have been kind enough to send a few kudos for this or that cartoon, and that has given me much needed fuel to go on with it. Several times, completely out of the blue (I really haven't advertised this site all that much), people have written to me saying that they were involved, in one way or another, with an event that a particular cartoon was about, and that seeing that cartoon was a help to them. I could not ask for better praise then that.

I've pulled most of my early cartoons down from the site for the time being. that I can compare my current output to what I did when I started back in December, I'm a little uneasy about some of the roughness I see in the first months, particularly in my hand lettering, which as always been downright lousy (let's hear it for graphic image editors). Over the next several weeks I intend to rework some of the better ones, mostly with regard to the lettering, and put them back up. Some of them, alas, I am putting into early retirement, although if events warrant I'll probably redraw the cartoon and post it again (if Bill Mauldin can redo the one about the soldier putting his jeep out of its misery over and over, I reckon I can redo one or two of my own cartoons from time to time...)

After I've done this for a year or so, I'll take another look at my output, and think about farming out a portfolio, or a few individual cartoons to some papers, or agents, and see if I get any hits. But whatever happens (or doesn't happen) to my work professionally, there will always be this space, that you and I share. Jeff Danziger, one of my favorites in the business, has his own web site, lots of working cartoonists out there do, and it seems to work for them just fine. One way or another, I reckon I'll make it work for me too. Every artist wants their own gallery. This one's mine.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday, August 4, 2002 11:30PM.

Never reminisce about the past with a calculator handy...

I am looking at some of the old train snapshots I'd dug up for the post about the Amtrak accident below, prior to putting them away. A line from a college sophomore mindset list I read once, comes back to haunt me; The Vietnam war is as immediate to them, as World War Two was for us.... Just for kicks I decide to calculate a couple of distances in time. How long ago I was sitting on that bridge taking those snapshots (2002 - 1968 = 34 years. I was fourteen at the time), and how distant that time was, from an equal distance in the past. In other words, how old would I seem, were I to appear to my fourteen year old self on that bridge back in 1968.

1968 - 34 = 1934.


(whine...) Serves me right for wondering. Nietzsche's abyss isn't the only thing that gazes back into you, if you gaze long into it...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday, August 3, 2002

I never called you a Marxist, you Marxist..!

Andrew gets his testosterone in an uproar because Richard Goldstein, in his current Village Voice column, calls him on his McCarthy style red baiting. "He cites my alleged 'repeated references to [him] as a Marxist and a Communist'", huffs Andrew, who then proceeds to call him a Marxist.

So how on earth is it red-baiting to describe Goldstein as a Marxist? He is. It's simply a statement of fact.

So how on earth is it 'alleged' Andrew? Oh...never mind...

Andrew's claim that he has never altered his archives amounts to his usual hairsplitting at best. That he's altered the text on his web log after he's posted it, in some instances to cover up really stupid mistakes he's made, like the one where he completely rewrote a post where he made claims about Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin's involvement with Enron while he was with Citigroup that were easily debunkable by simply checking some basic facts (like...oh...when Rubin was actually at Citigroup...for example...), are by now legendary in the web log world. I suppose by the time things get into his archive the deeds are already done. But that he has a record of doing it, is beyond question.

And he has to do it to save what little tattered shreds of face he has left. He gets his facts wrong so often that it's just about impossible to keep seeing it as haste and sloppiness and not for the fundamental failure of moral character that it is. He wrote a review of Michael Moore's Stupid White Men where he averred "There is also barely a mention in Moore's book about the current war on terrorism. You can understand why. It raises questions the left simply doesn't want to answer." was no mention of the war on terror in the book, because the book had been published, and was sitting in the warehouse waiting to be shipped to dealers, on September 10, 2001. Andrew hemmed and hawed for days after posting that, to try and explain his essential falsehood, not just about the book, but that he represented himself as having actually read it before reviewing it, away. Didn't work. I think he's just learned now, to rewrite his own history when necessary.

Sorta like the way the old time Stalinists once did...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday, August 2, 2002

Clarifications that really clarify things...

CNN is reporting that Katherine Harris, in attempting to clarify why she hadn't resigned from office when the law said she was supposed to, said she thought the law didn't apply to her. Well...of course not. When, pray, did she ever? Meanwhile Jeb says she can remain on the job anyway, until he finds a successor. other words...Harris can run for office while holding onto the same position in the state government she (and her boss Jeb) used to strongarm Smirk into the White House.

I wonder how the voters in her district will take to having an election where the referee is also a candidate. CNN sure didn't seem to think anything much was wrong with that...



by Bruce Garrett | Link

Men are are pigs...except for me...

Some of Rex Wockner's readers seem to have missed out on the warning that to find Prince Charming, you have to kiss a lot of frogs. I can relate to some of their complaints, particularly the ones about how some guys just don't get the difference between dating and crusing for sex, let alone that some of us are very much into the one, and very much not into the other. But...geeze...yeah it's hard sometimes. Especially for homosexuals, who have to cope with an adolescence that equips precious few of us for one of life's fundamental challenges, and a heterosexual majority which, for all their progess on this issue, still wants to be able to pretend that we don't exist, when it's convenient. Don't ask...don't tell...

Our straight peers get role models, support and encouragement from family, friends, and the general culture, which insists that we keep our sex lives hidden, out of sight, out of their culture, and we're left to fumble around with it, fall, cut ourselves and bleed, on our own. There is no formal dating and mating structure in our lives, because we can't socialize and pair off the way heterosexuals do, we have to do it in tightly gay segregated venues that shove everyone together on the basis of their sexual orientation, and necessarily drag the process straight down to the lowest common denominator. This is why some of us fight so hard to bust down the barriers between gay and straight society. For us to have decent lives, have whole love lives, we need to be able to live our lives out in the open, and heterosexuals need to accept that homosexuals live among them.

When Ohio repealed its sodomy law in 1972, the state legislators made a backroom deal to enact an "importuning" law at the same time. Largely to calm opposition to the sodomy law repeal, the law made it illegal for a gay man to proposition a straight one, when the straight one found the proposition offensive. In theory the importuning law applied across the board, but case notes in the Ohio Revised Code, which summarize committee rationale for passage of laws, indicate that the committee believed that "indiscreet solicitation of deviate conduct is...highly repugnant to the person solicited, and there is a risk that it may provoke a violent response." In other words, the law was aimed at homosexuals. The effect is more then simply keeping heterosexuals free of same sex advances. Who, after all, besides a low class lout, hits on someone who they know isn't even remotely interested? Heterosexuals have to deal with this among themselves all the time, and they manage it through a whole host of social protocol and ritual that would work just fine with us playing too, if they'd let it. But first they need to accept the fact that homosexuals live among them, and that from time to time, the pass they'll want to take a pass on, will come from a member of the same sex. That, for all the progess we've made over the years, is still the fundamental problem. We fight it, not because we want to hit on people who aren't interested, but because living segregated lives takes a profound toll on us, that the majority has no right to ask us to bear, just so they won't feel uncomfortable. Get Over It!

The Ohio supreme court overturned that law on May 15, and immediately the state's homophobes declared their intent to enact a Texas style "homosexuals only" sodomy law. Let's hope they don't succeed. The Texas law is being appealed to the U.S. supreme court, which held back in 1986 that sodomy laws were constitutional, and homosexual only sodomy laws were certainly constitutional. Only three members of the 1986 court still sit on the 2002 one, and a slim majority voted to overturn a Colorado state amendment that banned any municipality in the state from enacting equal rights protections for homosexuals. However they allowed to let stand a similar city charter amendment in Cincinnati. So there's no telling what'll happen this time. We could take another step into the sunlight, or have the door slammed in our faces once again. And for all our determination to kick it right back open, there is no rationally denying the effect living segregated lives has on us, and no place better to see it, then in our awkward, painful struggle to find and hold onto the one precious thing hate is most determined to keep from us: to love, and be loved.

We need to be free to live our lives openly. To live, work, make friends, on the basis of who we really are, not live behind a mask for most of our day, only to take it off for a little while every now and then. We need to be able to socialize freely, meet people by the common threads in our lives and by happy chance, become friends with some, become close to a few, and finally, fall in love with one, who has fallen in love with us. We need to make our lives whole. Until that day comes, I foresee a lot more verbiage spent on bellyaching about the conditions we date and mate in. I sure hope Rex wasn't thinking that any of that was original.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday, August 1, 2002 11:30PM.

Failed to make your legal deadline? No problem...just forge a document to say you did meet it. And if you're Katherine Harris, you may as well do it in front of the whole goddamn world...

CNN was reporting, as I was readying myself for bed, that Florida secretary of Election fraud...uh...State...Katherine Harris failed to resign on July 15, as required by Florida law in order to run for office. So she claims she didn't understand the law and backdates a letter of resignation. How...unsurprising...

I suppose, if you're Katherine Harris, why would you bother hiding the fact that you're to democracy and the rule of law, what cancer is to a healthy body...?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

I love this technology. It earns me a very decent living, gave me the key to working for the space program, a childhood dream come true, allows me, a gay man, to get news and information regarding my community, that I wouldn't otherwise get if I had to depend on the interest (and intellectual honesty) of the majority culture on the subject. I hadn't fully appreciated until recently, how that free channel of news and information could benefit me not just as a gay man, but an American citizen. The web logging phenomena has become for me now, in the second year of the Smirk, what radio free Europe was, I suppose, to the east Europeans, back in the days of duck and cover.

From Tom Tomorrow's web log, to The Rittenhouse Review (which did me the honor recently, of adding me to their "Better Blogs" list), to the fiesty Media Whores Online and The Smirking Chimp (really more a news digest then a web log), I have available to me nowadays sources of news and commentary about my world far more penetrating and comprehensive then anything I could hope to find in the Big News networks. And the difference in the quality of the news and information between them could not be more stark.

Case in point: the Slacktivist web log. I see a link on one site (Public Nuisance), which says they got it from another (Eric Alterman's MSNBC web log), and which says the site has relatively unusual perspective (Baptist liberal). This piques my interest (I was raised in a Baptist household), and when I follow the link I see he's been linked to himself by Rittenhouse. So I start reading and the first thing I see is an entry about how Smirk is pulling another stunt like he did while governor of Texas, to the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Under the heading "VETS HELP FINANCE ESTATE TAX REPEAL", Slacktivist relates how a memo from Smirk appointee at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Laura J. Miller, made it to Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo web log. In the memo, Miller orders local administrators to "ensure that no marketing activities to enroll new veterans occur within your networks." Efforts to get out the word about VA health services, the memo goes on to say, "with such activities as health fairs, veteran open houses to invite new veterans to the facilities, or enrollment displays at VSO meetings, are inappropriate."

In other words, don't, for god's sake, tell any veterans about the benefits they're entitled to, or they might avail themselves of them.

The other day we get the right wing pundocracy singing the praises of the rescued miners in Pennsylvania...the same right wing pundocracy that is the bitter enemy of any government rule or regulation, any union activism, that has made their jobs measurably safer over the decades. Did Big News bother to point any of this out? Will this slap in the face to America's veterans and their families get any attention? Don't hold your breath.

But...thanks to this technology...people can find out exactly what a gutter crawling thug their annointed president is. The pamphleteers have their hands on the new printing press, and it gives them the same world audience that Big News once had all to itself, and all the kings horses, and all his men, can't silence them now. I like to imagine that right now, in some better world, Tom Paine is dancing a jig...

The Rittenhouse Review has a piece about Norah Vincent's sudden dalliance with theology in her current LA Times column. She apparently tries to make religion dance with politics and foreign policy, with the usual result. The passage quoted put me in mind of H.L. Mencken's saying, that theology is "An effort to explain the unknowable by putting it into terms of the not worth knowing."

I'd have strolled to the LA Times site to read the thing whole, but I'm just about registered out for this decade, and Vincent's verbiage wasn't enough to make me plug my name, street address, phone number, email address, and whatever other info their marketing department might find helpful, into yet another web

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tales of the Smirk...continued...

Good Joe Conason entry today at Salon and a link therein to a Paul Vitello column in Newsday, about Smirk's ire at an amendment to the welfare reauthorization, offered not by a wild-eyed stalinist liberal commie pinko but moderate republican Olympia Snowe of Maine. Seems she had the unforgivable nerve to suggest that up to ten percent of welfare recipients should be able to meet the work requirement by attending college. Presumably this amendment is offered on the grounds that an education might be of some help in getting oneself out of poverty, and just for good measure, that educated citizens are good for America. Read them, for another one of those little flashes of insight into that open sewer that is our annointed president's conscience:

"In the way they're kind of writing it right now out of the Senate Finance Committee, some people could spend their entire five years on welfare - there's a five-year work requirement - going to college. Now, that's not my view of helping people become independent, and it's certainly not my view of understanding the importance of work and helping people achieve the dignity necessary so they can live a free life, free from government control."

-George W. Bush, addressing a $1,000-a-plate fund-raising crowd gathered in a South Carolina high school gymnasium.

Conason avers that Smirk probably "equates college with loafing because he spent so much time partying and playing in New Haven. His pompous lecturing hardly becomes a man whose fraternity brothers still think of him as Bluto, the toga-clad lunkhead played by the late John Belushi in Animal House". would, if that's what it was. More likely it's his bellicose, born to privilege essential self, getting past his handlers again, so it can spit and laugh in the face of anyone in the lower classes trying hard to better themselves.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Why life is good...

Levi Strauss is making low rise jeans for men again. Yes! Yes...Yes...Yes!!! Really cute guy modeling them in the first commerical too. Low rise jeans were one of the perfect joys of my high school and college years. They're not for every figure, and that doesn't just apply to the out of shape. Even many perfectly fit males just don't pull low risers off well. But for the ones who can manage it they are sexy beyond compare. I'm looking forward to much much better eye candy then I've had all during the era of Fred Mertz pants.

Now if they'll just start wearing their hair long again...

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

From our Never Argue About Religion With A Drunk Holding A Shotgun department...

A friend of mine passed me this from CNN: Heaven-or-hell argument ends with shotgun slaying

I was weaned on a hard Yankee Baptist faith that, if it taught me anything, taught me never to presume you were gonna just dance right into heaven on judgement day. I made my peace with it years ago, and if I were to go back to church now, it would probably be to a Unitarian congregation. But I still have these little Baptist attacks, and reading this story through the lens of my childhood faith, with its strong prohibitionist temperament, the thought of three bar hopping drunks and one designated driver arguing about who was going to heaven and who wasn't, struck me as sad to start with, never mind the sad and violent turn it took.

But violent it turned, and there's a lesson there for all of us, particularly in these days when politicians and pundits have no qualms at all over stoking religious passions to suit their own ends. It is good to ask the Big Questions. Why are we here? What is worth living for? What is worth dying for? It is good to look for answers to the Big Questions. It is good to wonder from time to time if your life measures up. But you need to do that with a little humility, and a lot of respect for that which created you, and for your neighbor's own search for those same answers.

Isaac Newton, who figured out among other things, why a light shined into a prism produces a rainbow, and how the moon and the planets stay in their orbits, once observed that he seemed to himself as a child on the beach, now and then finding a sea shell, or a prettier pebble then usual, while the great ocean of truth remained undiscovered all around him. It is good to remind yourself from time to time, that the beautiful sea shell you found, isn't the sea.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

I'm watching news coverage of the Amtrak derailment in Kensington, and trying to piece together where it was, and what may have happened. I can see the local news faces broadcasting remotely from a bridge over the Washington beltway, near Forrest Glen, an old army mental hospital, built way back in a time when that area was considered countryside. That isn't exactly close to the accident, but probably the best nearby spot to put up microwave antennas for beaming a signal back to Baltimore. There's a stretch of rail line running just outside of the beltway and before Connecticut Avenue, where I think the accident is (I'll know better when I read this morning's papers...). It's about as far as I ever went on those lazy summer vacation days, when I wanted to walk the railroad tracks.

I keep hearing that heat may be a factor in the accident. That's confusing me somewhat. I understand how heat can warp the rails, but I was out in the baking southwestern desert last May, and several times I pulled over to watch trains go by (a lot of the main highways out there follow the rail lines), and the heat was intense even then and it was only May. Surely they know how to keep the rails from buckling right and left under that heat, and if they can manage that, why couldn't they manage it here? Next time I go out there, I'll stop here and there and look at the tracks more carefully. Maybe they don't use the continuous welded rail out there, that they do here. Or maybe they just build the rail beds better out there. In the dry desert, they probably don't have to worry about erosion, or tie rot. The story I'm hearing now is that the engineer of the train that derailed yesterday saw a bulge in the tracks and tried to stop. But of course you don't stop a train that quickly.

At least nobody was killed. The 1996 Amtrak/MARC accident not far from there was horrific in the loss of life, and the manner of it. Diesel fuel from ruptured tanks caught fire, and people in the lead cars of the MARC couldn't get out, because the doors had jammed, and the emergency window exits were few, and confusing to use. They completely redesigned the emergency exit systems after that one, but I expect the neighborhood rescuers who came to help when they heard the crash, will go to their graves remembering what they saw that night.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday, July 29, 2002 11PM.

Another Amtrak accident, this time near my old stomping ground. I used to walk the tracks close to the Kensington area where the accident occurred. It's a few miles out of D.C. from where the bad Amtrak/MARC commuter train accident happened in February 1996, on the line that is D.C.'s rail link west. The line joins with one going west from Baltimore at Point Of Rocks, and from there goes to New Brunswick and points west. I used to sit on an abandoned bridge near the apartments where I lived, and wait for the 4:30 passenger train headed out of D.C. for Chicago, back when I was a junior high school kid, and the B&O railroad still ran passenger service.

My earliest memory is of looking out the window of a train as a snowy landscape flashed past. Later my parents told me that would have been the trip from California, and the land of my birth, to Washington D.C., where I would live until I was school age. As I grew up, mom filled me with stories of her travels all over the country, back when she was a girl, and the United States had a first class passenger rail system. I wanted to ride the California Zephyr. I wanted to ride the Sunset Limited. I wanted to ride the 20th Century Limited. I did manage a couple of rides on the Seaboard Coast to Ft. Lauderdale and back again when I was in Elementary school. I can still vividly remember the excitement of boarding those trains, and the scenes of America that went past our compartment window; the vistas and the cities and towns, great and small, full of life during the day, still and quiet as our train pulled in during the middle of the night. What a ruin our rail service has become. If I could go back in time to talk to that kid waiting on that old abandoned bridge just to see the train roar past, I'd want to tell him a lot of things, but not about the junkyard America has thrown the great passenger trains into.

For the life of me, I don't understand why passenger rail service became caught in the culture wars of the times. Amtrak is by some right wing measurement, the ultimate embodiment of why liberals are bad/evil/un-American, because they favor government subsidies. Never mind the vast tax subsidies granted to the airlines, and the automobile/trucking industry. Somehow taxpayer subsidies for roads and highways, airports, aircraft manufacturers, and an air traffic control system, managed to escape the taint of liberalism. Don't ask me how or why, they just did. And actually, I don't think a big national passenger rail system will ever replace what was lost when the big rail companies bailed out of passenger service. But it does this nation no good to put all of its passenger eggs in one basket. We need alternative avenues for national passenger service. And trains can't be piloted into buildings. Maybe they can be high jacked, but they ain't going anywhere the rails don't let them go.

Last May I took an extended three week vacation into the American southwest. I drove a tad over six-thousand miles and it wasn't because I'm afraid of flying. I actually love the act of flying. My first commercial airline travel was an almost religious experience, my face pressed against the window nearly the whole trip, enraptured by the view of the earth, and the sky itself, from the sky itself. But the airlines made air travel a living hell long before 9/11, and I love traveling overland, because that is where you really get a sense of how big and beautiful this good earth is.

Once upon a time you could take those journeys in a steel wheeled hotel, complete with fine dinning, and observation lounges. You could sit back and watch America go past, have a good old time with your fellow passengers in the lounge, or the observation decks, and pull down your bed for the night and be gently rocked to sleep by the movement, and the clickety-clack of the train, then wake up the next morning refreshed, to the sound of the porter's chime announcing breakfast is served. At least I got a chance to see the tail end of it. Too bad it was before I old enough to do it on my own.

Overlooking the B&O mainline, as the Captial Limited goes by - April, 1968...Rockville, Maryland.

The Capital Limited - April, 

by Bruce Garrett | Link

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