Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Looks Like It's Official...

My career as a press operator seems to be over. Actually, I haven't run a press since March; I was moved to the pre-press department then. And if I'm reading everything going on at the print shop correctly, that department is where I'll be staying. The company hired two new people for the pressroom, and let one guy hired on earlier this year go. I don't know what was going on there, since he was working nights and I rarely even saw him around -- hell, I didn't even have a chance to get to know him, working on the day side now. It was probably a lowest-on-the-totem-pole deal.

Whatever the case, they're fully staffed in the pressroom now. They don't really need me there. I'm definitely needed in pre-press, though -- that department continues to get slammed with new orders, and they're still preparing orders for the plant in New Jersey as well. It is amazing what these folks go through just to complete one day's work. There were times while I was running a press that I thought the pre-press people had it made -- I mean, there they were, sitting in their air-conditioned room at their computers and listening to the department head's iTunes by day, and there I was in that noisy kiln of a pressroom sweating my balls off by night. Then one day, I was put in pre-press, and quickly learned that I was greatly mistaken. It may not be as physically demanding as running a press, but these people work just as hard, if not harder, than press operators do.

I say "these people" because even though I'm in their department now, I still think of myself as an operator. That's what I was for several years, and if I were to be put back on a press, that's what I'd go right back to doing, much like remembering how to ride a bike. These folks do graphic design, and that's a whole other ball of wax to me. I've picked up bits and pieces of that part of the business over the last five months, but most of the rest of it remains friggin' Egyptian to me. What I do is the bulk of the manual labor so that they can concentrate on the graphics aspects -- I burn the plates and carve up a good portion of the digital proofs for the operators. In a couple ways, I have to look after five presses instead of one now, so that can be an occasional headache. Then again, it manages to beat the hell out of sweating my balls off on the press at 1 AM. I'm getting too old for that shit.

Thing is, I'm low man on this totem pole. Sometime within the next few months, business will slow down. It does every year. I can never rule out getting laid off, even though I've been with this print shop going on eleven years and am one of its more versatile employees. It could happen.

But for now, things are fairly stable. I shouldn't really complain...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What They Said, Too...

From Paul Krugman, in its entirety (emphasis mine):

I’m finding it hard to read about politics these days. I still don’t think people in the administration understand the magnitude of the catastrophe their excessive caution has created. I keep waiting for Obama to do something, something, to shake things up; but it never seems to happen.

Here’s what I wrote in February 2009. It’s pretty rich that now the usual suspects are accusing me of having shared the administration’s optimism. But that’s a trivial point; the important thing is that all signs are that the next few years will be a combination of economic stagnation and political witch-hunt.

This is going to be almost inconceivably ugly.


The boldfaced part reminded me of that "Generation Jones" post Will Bunch wrote after Barack Obama nominated Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court -- the generation Bunch, Obama, and Kagan belong to...

...The reality is that Generation Jones is showing up just in time, when the planet really does need saving -- and we are blowing it, big time. The challenges faced not just by the United States but by the entire world -- global warming, a deadly addiction to fossil fuels, governments addled by debt yet unable to stop spending billions on weapons -- require bold, boat-rocking risk-takers, people who have looked into the abyss of humankind and are not afraid to make daring moves.

This is simply not my Generation Jones -- a generation in which (for Americans, anyway) there was no war from the time I was 14, when the last regular troops came home from Vietnam, until Operation Desert Storm, when I was 32, and when economic woes brought "malaise" but not the Great Depression and then disappeared for a key time for young professionals in the 1980s and 1990s. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter described us as "the perennial swing voters, with residual '60s idealism mixed with the pragmatism and materialism of the '80s." He's right -- except that the pragmatism won out years ago.

We are careerists -- clinging to our conviction that we can change the world not by forceful ideas but by the mere force of our own often-coddled personalities, even if the ideas and passions that once animated our humanity have been buried under pages of resumes and cover letters The roadmap for people who wanted change was no longer the 1960s mantra of "stickin' it to the man" but now "working within the system," and now that the system is collapsing underneath us in 2010 there is no Plan B -- just more calls for compromise, more reason, more digging in to be -- in the words of another 1979 hit, Supertramp's "Logical Song", the product of "a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical."

Exhibit A is the man at the top, Barack Obama. No doubt he was a young man filled with a passion for what he would later advertise as "change" -- studying how to rid the world of nuclear weapons as an undergraduate at Columbia, where he graduated in 1983, and heading to Chicago as a community organizer poised to do battle against Reagan's "trickle-down economics," but the reactionism of the 1980s clearly changed him. When he returned to Harvard Law School at the end of the decade, those experiences made Obama less a promoter of ideas than a seeker of compromise...while promoting himself.

"I come from a lot of worlds and I have had the unique opportunity to move through different circles," Obama told the Los Angeles Times when he was elected the first ever black editor of the Harvard Law Review in 1990. "I have worked and lived in poor black communities and I can translate some of their concerns into words that the larger society can embrace." But even back then, some saw him as too prone to compromise, like second-year law student Christine Lee, who said nearly 20 years ago of Obama: "His election was significant at the time, but now it's meaningless because he's becoming just like all the others (in the Establishment)."

The same could be said of President Barack Obama today -- from his ridiculously cautious picks to run the Pentagon and the Treasury to his stubborn search for compromise in areas like health care where no middle ground actually existed to his willingness to "look forward" and ignore the blatant and serious law-breaking of the previous administration. He is more than willing to accept the vast presidential powers in areas like state secrets that had been grabbed by the Bush administration, because a long time ago Barack Obama began believing less and less in the power of ideology to do the right thing, and more in the power of Barack Obama.

...

Careerism. Not rocking the boat. It is a disease that came to affect different kinds of people from Generation Jones in different fashions. On the conservative side of my generation, the two most popular figures in 2010 -- radio's Glenn Beck and the cultural phenomenon of Sarah Palin (born, amazingly enough, on consecutive days in 1964) -- have both have the power and the right-wing incarnation of charisma to move millions of people. But they prefer to use all that political capital to make only millions of dollars for themselves...


Excessive caution, not rocking the boat. That might explain just about everything we've seen from the Obama administration over the last nineteen months. I guess from now through 2012, the path is more or less clear: Obama will continue to drive his base crazy, all the while seeking common ground with people who will never in a million years vote for him.

Then again, look at the alternative: Republicans back in charge. That's the only reason I'll be voting for Obama in 2012, assuming he runs for re-election, and the Democrats this year. Unlike a growing percentage of American voters, I haven't forgotten which party got America mired in two hopeless wars and almost destroyed the economy...

* * *

"Food For Thought" Update: Y'all do know which generation is next in line to start running things once it's time for Generation Jones to retire from the scene -- don't you?


You have six to ten more years. And then you're all fucked. Get used to that now, you'll be better off that way...

What He Said...

Frank Rich. Just read it if you haven't already:

...Only the fat cats change — not their methods and not their pet bugaboos (taxes, corporate regulation, organized labor, and government “handouts” to the poor, unemployed, ill and elderly). Even the sources of their fortunes remain fairly constant. Koch Industries began with oil in the 1930s and now also spews an array of industrial products, from Dixie cups to Lycra, not unlike DuPont’s portfolio of paint and plastics. Sometimes the biological DNA persists as well. The Koch brothers’ father, Fred, was among the select group chosen to serve on the Birch Society’s top governing body. In a recorded 1963 speech that survives in a University of Michigan archive, he can be heard warning of “a takeover” of America in which Communists would “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the U.S. until the president is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.” That rant could be delivered as is at any Tea Party rally today.

Last week the Kochs were shoved unwillingly into the spotlight by the most comprehensive journalistic portrait of them yet, written by Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. Her article caused a stir among those in Manhattan’s liberal elite who didn’t know that David Koch, widely celebrated for his cultural philanthropy, is not merely another rich conservative Republican but the founder of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which, as Mayer writes with some understatement, “has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement’s inception.” To New Yorkers who associate the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center with the New York City Ballet, it’s startling to learn that the Texas branch of that foundation’s political arm, known simply as Americans for Prosperity, gave its Blogger of the Year Award to an activist who had called President Obama “cokehead in chief.”

The other major sponsor of the Tea Party movement is Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, which, like Americans for Prosperity, is promoting events in Washington this weekend. Under its original name, Citizens for a Sound Economy, FreedomWorks received $12 million of its own from Koch family foundations. Using tax records, Mayer found that Koch-controlled foundations gave out $196 million from 1998 to 2008, much of it to conservative causes and institutions. That figure doesn’t include $50 million in Koch Industries lobbying and $4.8 million in campaign contributions by its political action committee, putting it first among energy company peers like Exxon Mobil and Chevron. Since tax law permits anonymous personal donations to nonprofit political groups, these figures may understate the case. The Kochs surely match the in-kind donations the Tea Party receives in free promotion 24/7 from Murdoch’s Fox News, where both Beck and Palin are on the payroll.

The New Yorker article stirred up the right, too. Some of Mayer’s blogging detractors unwittingly upheld the premise of her article (titled “Covert Operations”) by conceding that they have been Koch grantees. None of them found any factual errors in her 10,000 words. Many of them tried to change the subject to George Soros, the billionaire backer of liberal causes. But Soros is a publicity hound who is transparent about where he shovels his money. And like many liberals — selflessly or foolishly, depending on your point of view — he supports causes that are unrelated to his business interests and that, if anything, raise his taxes.

This is hardly true of the Kochs. When David Koch ran to the right of Reagan as vice president on the 1980 Libertarian ticket (it polled 1 percent), his campaign called for the abolition not just of Social Security, federal regulatory agencies and welfare but also of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and public schools — in other words, any government enterprise that would either inhibit his business profits or increase his taxes. He hasn’t changed. As Mayer details, Koch-supported lobbyists, foundations and political operatives are at the center of climate-science denial — a cause that forestalls threats to Koch Industries’ vast fossil fuel business. While Koch foundations donate to cancer hospitals like Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York, Koch Industries has been lobbying to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from classifying another product important to its bottom line, formaldehyde, as a “known carcinogen” in humans (which it is).

Tea Partiers may share the Kochs’ detestation of taxes, big government and Obama. But there’s a difference between mainstream conservatism and a fringe agenda that tilts completely toward big business, whether on Wall Street or in the Gulf of Mexico, while dismantling fundamental government safety nets designed to protect the unemployed, public health, workplace safety and the subsistence of the elderly...


There's more at the link. I simply have nothing to add to it...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wait Until They See The Ink Spot Level...

Here's a challenging game: 4 Differences. Each level consists of two mirror images except for, well, four differences. Click on all four and proceed to the next level. The last level will be the one with horizontal stoplights.

This game is too much like what I do for a living, but I still enjoyed it...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Better Late Than Never...

Ken Mehlman came out of the closet this week:

"It's taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life," said Mehlman, now an executive vice-president with the New York City-based private equity firm, KKR. "Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I've told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they've been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that's made me a happier and better person. It's something I wish I had done years ago."

Privately, in off-the-record conversations with this reporter over the years, Mehlman voiced support for civil unions and told of how, in private discussions with senior Republican officials, he beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage. He insisted, too, that President Bush "was no homophobe." He often wondered why gay voters never formed common cause with Republican opponents of Islamic jihad, which he called "the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now"...


Well, that one's almost too easy. Al-Qaida and other Islamist asshole groups probably do constitute the biggest anti-gay force in the world. But apart from our Log Cabin brothers and sisters, the most likely reason we gay voters aren't flocking to the GOP is because it may be the second biggest anti-gay force in the world. In my own book, the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

And several years ago, Mehlman was Bush's Director of the White House Office of Political Affairs while the Republican Party was actively trying to write homosexual people out of the Constitution. Technically, that makes him my enemy.

But this time, I'm going to let it slide. It took me 37 years to start telling people I was gay, and unlike Mehlman, I'm not completely out yet. Not everyone I deal with on a daily basis knows for a fact that I'm gay. Therefore, I don't think I'm in a position to judge him.

Instead, I wish him the best of luck in his search for happiness and in life in general. The good his coming out will do in the long run just might outrun the bad he did on behalf of the GOP...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How About Some Music?

This song is titled "Hypertension." I wrote this in '95. It's an instrumental intro to another song, in the same general way Boston's "Foreplay" segues into "Long Time" -- but that's as far as this analogy goes, believe me.

Enjoy...

This Should Be Required Reading in Middle School -- and in High School, Just as a Reminder...

War Is A Racket by Smedley Butler:

War is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few -- the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill? This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations...


This was first published in 1935. Nothing much new under the sun here, is there?

Smedley Butler died in 1940, so he didn't witness any part of the Second World War. But he damn sure saw it coming:

...

At each session of Congress the question of further naval appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals of Washington (and there are always a lot of them) are very adroit lobbyists. And they are smart. They don't shout that "We need a lot of battleships to war on this nation or that nation." Oh no. First of all, they let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people. Just like that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.

Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.

The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.

The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the United States fleet so close to Nippon's shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles...


He said that six years before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

It wasn't always like this with America, though. George Washington himself warned Americans not to get involved in foreign wars. Many generations later, Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans of the growing military-industrial complex. Their words went unheeded.

Now we have soldiers stuck in Afghanistan -- commonly known as the place where empires die. That war is now the longest one in our nation's history. While we also have many soldiers in Iraq, that colossal mistake is being slowly, and thankfully, wound down. But all that means, if the last century or so is any guide, is that we'll soon be gearing up for another invasion somewhere else. In the name of National Security, of course. Most likely Iran, with the wild card slot currently occupied by Pakistan.

"Let me ask you one question," sang Bob Dylan to the masters of war: "Is your money that good?" Apparently, their answer is yes...


Something That Breaks My Heart...

There's this guy I found over at Fur Affinity some two years ago. I've never met him, but we've left lots of comments on each others' user pages, and we've talked over the phone many times over the last several months. He and I have several things in common: we're both gay, we're both "music makers" over at FA rather than visual artists, we love the furry fandom, and both of us have spent years abusing alcohol. We've both seriously tried beating it this year, too. I went seventy-five days with out a drink; he lasted almost five months.

We have our stark differences, of course. For one thing, my FA friend (I'll call him C.) not only describes himself as a total slut, he freely admits that he's cheated on his current boyfriend with two other guys -- and somehow, his boyfriend is okay with that, which I don't get at all, but whatever, it's their relationship. I have no part in this.

Not that this is an obstacle to C., though. He has told me, in detail, what he would like to do with me if he ever manages to get me in bed. Not likely to happen -- we live in different states. I will say that, for a minute, I seriously considered hopping on the next Greyhound bus to the city where C. lives after he told me all that. Obviously I've missed out on all kinds of stuff!

Still, even if he lived here in Henrico, I wouldn't have joined him. I'm not currently seeing anyone, but if I was, he would be the only one I was seeing. I'm solitary by nature. I'm willing to make room in my private life for one other, and if that doesn't work out, we can end the relationship, and I can make room for another one. But I don't two-time -- and if I found out my mate was, I'd cut him loose instantly. C. and I together is all but an impossibility on that count alone.

But there are other reasons. I've joined Alcoholics Anonymous and abandoned it. So has C. But C. has also joined and abandoned Narcotics Anonymous and the Straight Edge society, and gone right back to doing drugs as well as drinking. I've never done drugs, and I never intend to. Couple C.'s drug habit with his promiscuity, and you can see with crystal clarity why I absolutely refuse to hook up with him -- he's an AIDS casualty waiting to happen.

All the same, I care about C. so much, through our phone conversations, our mutual love of music, our love of the fandom, our shared pain through alcohol abuse, our private messages to each other. He posted a journal entry on his FA user page not long ago, saying he was going into rehab, and after that, to a place called Greenbriar. I've heard of Greenbriar through the handful of AA meetings I've been to -- it's a treatment center and retreat for substance abusers like C., and they have multiple locations in America. I think C. will make a full recovery through the route he's chosen.

And when he goes back to the city he lives in afterward, and I know he will, all of that progress will unravel. And that's what breaks my heart.

See, while I was working Friday morning, C. called me. But I missed the call. I got to it around 6 PM, after I was done working, when I checked my cell phone for messages. He said he was entering rehab that day. He said the 12-step AA program was bullshit. He said his life was so fucked up, and he wanted so badly to get it back in check. He said he loved me -- and he added that even if I didn't love him back, I was still someone he really wanted to hang out with.

He said my music was wonderful.

One of two things that kills me is, the whole time he was telling me these things, I couldn't help noticing that his voice sounded almost exactly like that of Layne Staley of Alice In Chains while he was slowly and inevitably dying from being a junkie. Low, gravelly, weak, and so sick from all the junk he'd taken in that he wanted to cry out loud but was in to much pain to release it.

The other thing that kills me is, C. is only 30 years old. I'm 40. Confession time: back in July, I had a medium-level attack of pancreatitis. It had my system all fucked up for about four days. Somehow, I managed to go to work and come home through it all. I still haven't completely recovered from it, but I'm eating regularly, and I didn't have to be hospitalized at the time.

What of C., ten years my junior? His voice over the phone was almost as clear as a bell during his stretch of sobriety, the deterioration from then to now was that rapid. If he leaves Greenbriar and goes back to where he lives, the place that got him all fucked up to begin with, he's as good as dead.

And there won't be a damned thing I can do to stop it.

And it hurts.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me (Sort of)...

It's official: I'm 40 years old.

And I don't have much to say about it. That's mostly because I'm not getting the birthday present I hoped I was, which is a real bummer, but in this instance, not surprising in the least. Remember how Judge Vaughn Walker ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional, and that same-sex marriages were to resume in California on August 18? Won't happen -- the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on Walker's ruling. The good news is, the case will be heard in December, which is pretty damn soon as federal litigation goes.

This is just one more setback, not a devastating loss. I think within the next ten to fifteen years, it'll be happening in all fifty states. The demographics all but scream it. Voters aged 18-29 are the group most supportive of allowing gay couples to marry, whereas the 50-plus group is the most opposed to that. In fifteen years, the former group will be aged 33-44, and they'll have a small but influential role in determining this country's course by then. The latter group will always have a much larger share of the social and governmental pies, but times are changing -- in fifteen years, nearly all of these people will be far more interested in their Social Security checks than what the sexual orientations of their grandchildren are. In fact, given that lots of grandparents delight in spoiling their grandchildren in ways they never would have dared with their own children, maybe having a gay grandchild or even two will bring forth changes in some of their hearts.

So I can go without the birthday present this year. In the long run, the entire LGBT community will receive the same gift.

Beyond all that? Not much. I have to work today -- between working and the there-and-back commute, that's eleven hours of the day gone. But I'm not complaining. Thought about using a vacation day for today, but we're short-handed in the pre-press department -- one woman picked this week months ago for her own vacation time, and the main reason I was brought into that department was to help them keep pace with a greatly increased workload, so I figured what the hell, I'll show up. Millions of people can't find a job to save their houses, straight marriages, or asses right now. Fuck all that noise -- I'm slated to work today, I'm going to work.

And then there's my music. I've hit another roadblock. I put everything I wanted to do concerning a project from the 90s titled "Black Jackal Radio" on hold in order to get a request out of the way. Last month, I posted this cover of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," to which a man named Max supplies the vocals. Max and I are both members of Fur Affinity, arguably the largest furry fandom site on the Internet. He and I are going to do another cover version, courtesy of a third FA member we both like. But since I'm supplying the music, I'm the one holding the process up -- the song in question is giving me conniptions. That, and other things I won't go into here, have been killing my concentration. Blogging is what I fall back on when I get frustrated musically -- hence the unusually active blogging lately. When that thing is finally finished, I'll link to it here.

Well, time to go. Wish me a good day at work...


Monday, August 16, 2010

It Ain't Easy Being Me...

Here are some of the things I've learned over the last six-odd years in my capacity as a low-level blogger.

1: The Rule. If I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, and the victory went to the Republican candidate because five Supreme Court justices said it did in a highly controversial (if not unconstitutional) ruling, then I Threw My Vote Away.

2: The Exception. If in any later year, you stayed home on election day because you thought the Democrat was a joke or a sell-out, and the victory went to the Republican thanks more to low voter turnout than anything else, then You Stuck By Your Principles.

3. Heads You Win. If, with the 2000 election debacle in mind, I try to explain why voting for the Democrat that has a shot at winning any given race is better than voting for the third-party candidate who doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning to you who intend to vote for the third-party candidate, then you will tell me that I'm Part Of The Problem.

4. Tails I Lose. If I attempt to meet you halfway and suggest we try working together after the election on behalf of third-party candidates, since it's too late to do anything about it now but maybe down the road we'll have something to work with, then you will tell me you've tried that before, and it just doesn't work -- in other words, There Is No Solution.

5. "What Window Of Opportunity?" If I say that Congress should pass a deeply flawed health care bill now, and worry about fixing the flaws later, while there's still plenty of time, my detractors will, after chastising me to their own satisfaction, tell me they would rather see No Bill At All.

6. "Oh, That One." If my detractors realize later on that if no health care reform bill is passed this time around, there may not be another one in the works for a generation or more, they will demand that their congressional creatures Pass The Damn Bill.

7. Damned If I Do. If, over the course of several years, I write a couple thousand blog posts slamming the Right for its hypocrisy, its ignorance, its ineptitude, its lack of vision, its lack of spirit, its lack of heart, and its overall repellant nature, then I will be told that I'm Wasting My Time.

8. Damned If I Don't. If I write one post -- one post -- saying that lots of people who call themselves progressives are really just left-wing ideologues and idealists, which is not the same thing as being a progressive, I'll be informed by members of the hurt-by-the-truth cadre that The Right, Not The Left, Is My Appropriate Target.

And people wonder why I'm so tense and irritable.

Well, when you're a liberal who used to be a conservative, but you still get along better with conservatives than you do fellow liberals, what other result is to be expected? I'm really beginning to hate some of the people I agree with the most. And I think it's because I became a liberal, whereas most of the liberals I know have always been liberal. If we were all financially wealthy, I reckon I'd be New Rich and they'd be Old Rich.

And the Old Rich always looks down on the New Rich -- as if having it made from the start is something to be proud of, while being poor from the start but somehow managing to getting it right through your own efforts later on is, through some bullshit pretzel logic, to be despised.

I don't know what else to make of that. It is unusual for people to migrate from the right to left, as I have -- a process that is never enjoyable. But I have noticed one thing about those of us that have done so: nearly all of us are pretty much marginalized. The exception may be David Brock of Media Matters, and I would attribute that to his former status as a right-wing hit-man who sailed to the left shore in a boat he paid for in his former capacity. The rest of us came here through far more modest means, and we were damaged beyond repair in any number of ways before we made it to the shore...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

This Friggin' Game...

I was just looking around on the Internet for something different, and I found Doodle God. I've been playing it for an hour. It is a whole lot harder to play than it first appears.

Doodle God starts off very simply. You start with the four basic elements, air, earth, fire and water, and you combine two of them to make new elements. Initially, there are six possible combinations. If you begin with air and earth, for example, you get dust. Now you have five elements and a total of nine remaining possible combinations. If your next move is combining air and fire, you get energy, giving you six elements, and there are now thirteen possible combinations. Each new element created opens up more possibilities. But most pairings will produce nothing (such as dust and energy), and it gets increasingly harder to find the right ones as you go along.

The goal is to find 115 elements in a total of 14 groups. So far, I've found eleven of the groups -- dust is in the "earth" group, air, water and fire are in their own groups, and energy belongs to a fifth group. I've only found 39 elements, though, and it's never going to get easier. Some combos make sense. If you match earth and fire, you get lava, and if you match lava with water, you get stone. Match water with earth, you get swamp; match swamp with energy, you get life. But there are some surprises in this game. Match life with stone, for example, and you get golem -- and golem goes into the group that contains ghost and treant (a tree with human traits, it appears) thus far in my progress.

And I've been at this for an hour.

Play this game only if you have lots of free time...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

They Want Their Mosque, Let Them Build It...

This is a link to the Frum Forum, of all sites for me to link to. Alex Knepper comes out in favor of President Obama's support for the Ground Zero mosque -- though he does have his reservations:


...Obama didn’t ground his support for allowing the mosque to be built on the basis of the upstanding character of the imams behind it. The only relevant factor in allowing the mosque’s development, as Obama correctly pointed out, is whether the property was acquired legally. Whether one is personally offended by its being built — as I am — has nothing to do with whether it should be permitted. One’s rights don’t evaporate upon the majority taking offense. Our rights exist primarily to defend not the majority, after all, but the offensive, the radical, the shocking, and the outlandish. Obama and I diverge drastically when it comes to the nature of Islam, and his respect for property rights has not always been particularly stellar. But on this issue, he is absolutely correct and the right is absolutely wrong.

I glanced around for a little information about the man who wants to build Cordoba House, Feisal Abdul Rauf. According to Wikipedia, he's a Kuwaiti-American who's been an imam in New York City since 1983. I'm guessing that he's no run-of-the-mill imam and he could lecture me for hours on what 9/11 means to him, because he's the author of a book with the curious title of What's Right With Islam Is What's Right With America. From what little I've gleaned thus far, Rauf sounds like he might be the Muslim version of former bishop John Shelby Spong. If so, then that's a good thing.

And I have to grab a copy of that book of Rauf's sometime for weekend reading. That should prove fascinating. Because Fareed Zakaria, the man who recently returned his award and $10,000 honorarium to the Anti-Defamation League for its opposition to the building of Cordoba House -- an appalling decision that runs directly against the grain of its own charter -- says Rauf calls America the "ideal Islamic society because it encourages diversity and promotes freedom for all individuals and for all religions." I read that line, cocked my head, and muttered, "It does?" That's a good one, Mr. Rauf -- you should tell that one to the Latinos who live in Arizona.

Or better yet, tell that to gays and lesbians who live anywhere in America. Just make sure you don't let slip that your religion considers homosexuality to be one of the worst sins out there. That may prove problematic. You're already toxic to Alex Knepper, who like me is a gay man, although I have no idea to what degree, if any, Islam's general take on homosexuality influences his opinions. It certainly isn't inspiring me to orient myself eastward and pray to Allah five times a day, that much I can assure you.

But a mosque at Ground Zero? I'm totally fine with that. I cannot see how that would not be an enormous step forward in mending relationships between America and the Islamic world. Most Americans might not think so. But I'm betting that most Muslims in other countries might.

We won't know for sure until after it's a done deal...

I'm Through With Skippy...

He hasn't heard a single damn word I've said. So I started deleting my posts over there last night. Got tired real quick, went to bed. If I had all day, I'd delete the rest of my contributions as well.

I also dropped him from my blogroll. Never thought I'd see the day when I did that. But here it is.

I was a contributor to his site for five and a half years. Five and a half years. All for nothing. Everything is a joke to that man.

Whatever, Skippy. Good-bye, and good luck.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Party of Booth...

Frederick, one of the Guys From Area 51, highlights one of the more memorable exchanges from the movie The Good Shepherd...

Joseph Palmi: Let me ask you something... we Italians, we got our families, and we got the church; the Irish, they have the homeland, Jews their tradition; even the niggers, they got their music. What about you people, Mr. Wilson, what do you have?

Edward Wilson: The United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting.

The link in that post goes to a WashPost article describing how the Republican Party, whether they gain or lose in November, are all but finished as a political entity in the long term. And personally, I think future historians will mark this development as the moment the Republican Party officially jumped the shark...

...By pushing for repeal of the 14th Amendment's citizenship clause, the GOP appears to have concluded: If you can't win them over -- indeed, if you're doing everything in your power to make their lives miserable -- revoke their citizenship.

On this page last week, my colleague E.J. Dionne Jr. rightly noted that by attacking the amendment, Republicans seek to undo one of their party's greatest and most inclusionary achievements. Civil War- and Reconstruction-era Republicans took pains to ensure the citizenship not only of freed slaves and their children. They -- in particular, Abraham Lincoln -- also decided not to permanently keep millions of Confederate soldiers and sympathizers from regaining their citizenship.

The Confederates had renounced all allegiance to the United States. They made war on the United States -- the Constitution's definition of treason -- and, in an effort to keep 4 million Americans enslaved, killed more of our soldiers than any foreign army ever did.

Yet Lincoln was determined to make it easy for Confederates to regain their citizenship. By taking an oath to support the United States and its Constitution, Confederates were made Americans again.

Suppose, though, that Lincoln had been filled with the spirit of today's Republicans. The crimes that Republicans ascribe to today's illegal immigrants pale next to those of Confederate leaders and supporters (chiefly, treason). A Lindsey Graham-like Lincoln would never have let the Confederates regain citizenship. Moreover, he would have denied citizenship to their children and their children's children. A large share of the nation, certainly of the white South, would have drifted endlessly in a legal limbo. The current Republican Party, anchored as it is in the white South, would scarcely exist...


There are times when I wonder why Lincoln bothered at all. These usually arise whenever I hear some neo-Confederate yabbo talk about wanting to secede. Maybe letting some of the southernmost states secede would be beneficial to the U.S. -- I don't know how this would play out concerning the House of Representatives due to the sizable decrease in the American population, but the quality and effectiveness of the dysfunctional-as-hell Senate would improve measurably. Of course, if Virginia were to join the ranks of the secessionists, I'd have to move northward. But the people who own the print shop I work for own two other plants as well, both in states that fought on the Union side -- I'll just have to look into the possibilities for a transfer.

Anyhow, this whole anti-immigrant right-wing asshole furor, as it pertains to Latinos? I don't understand it at all. First of all, these people are here because they want to be here, rather than whichever hellhole country they came from. I can't say I blame them -- though I question their decision to come here, seeing as how both our own right-wing nativist assholes and left-wing ideologues masquerading as progressives are working to make this country a hellhole, too. Maybe they just didn't know this before they showed up, I dunno. But here they are.

I'll use Mexicans for my example, 'cause they're the ones directly south of us. Mexicans were living here several thousands of years before white Europeans showed up. The border between America and Mexico is an officially recognized line on a map -- and that's it. Seriously. That's all that border really amounts to. You want to talk ancestry? Fine. Mexicans in general are... what, five percent European and ninety-five percent Indio? And Republicans want to write these essentially Native Americans out of the Constitution because they don't look European enough?

Gringo, please.

This is my own immigration policy. Say my job is to locate illegal immigrants, and I find out you're a foreigner living in America illegally. The first thing I'll do is hold you in a cell. I can do that -- you are, after all, breaking U.S. law. The second thing I'll do is learn everything I can about your history. If I learn that you have a criminal record in whatever country you came from, I'll ship your ass back to that country. That's my job, asshole, pendejo, or whatever you call it wherever you're from -- Bottom line, we don't need or want you.

But if I determine that the only law you've broken is crossing that officially recognized line on a map illegally, then I'll give you a choice: either go back to where you're from, or toe the line while you go through our naturalization process. And just to prove I'm not a total hard-ass, I'll waive the language barrier part if you have too much trouble learning English. The older you are, the harder it is to learn a new language -- but that shouldn't prevent anyone from seeking a better life.

I'm convinced that one of these days, given the way the demographics of this country are predicted to change, America will wind up with two official languages. But as long as one of those languages is English, I really won't give a fuck what the other one is. It could be Choctaw for all I care. Anyone can become an American. Not everyone deserves to become an American. But if anyone deserves it, it's the ones whose people have been on this side of the Atlantic for thousands of years. Whatever they call themselves now. It's their birthright, no matter what the officially recognized line on some map is.

Historically, the GOP was the Party of Lincoln. But from a spiritual standpoint, it has tragically degenerated into the Party of John Wilkes Booth. And it has done so willingly, if not purposefully.

That, senoras and horsemen, is what I call jumping the shark...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Seriously Thought About It, But Didn't Do It...

I don't know if anyone is even reading this blog, but a lot of people do read skippy. Once in a while, I make a contribution to his blog. To this day, I think it's the best blog on the Internet -- at least when I'm not on the main page.

See, there's been this ongoing antagonism between me and some of the people who post and/or leave comments over there, very likely including skippy, that has existed for quite some time. It would flare up every now and then over certain issues where I found myself in a minority position among other left-leaning people. I don't know when this started or what started it, but it's there. One flare-up began when I said some disparaging things about gay marriage, which I'll admit is a very odd thing for a gay man to do. I've retuned my attitude toward it since then, and I know I'm way overdue in apologizing to more than a few people for some of the things I said.

It's just that when I hear things like "marriage is not just a fundamental right for all, it's the fundamental right" and how wonderful it is, my eyes begin to glaze over and turn red at the same time. I come from a family that is painfully familiar with divorce -- don't ever tell me how fucking wonderful marriage is, because a large part of my childhood consisted of living through what can happen when a marriage fails. It was dreadful, to say the least, and I haven't forgotten it.

But then there was the time in 2006 when amending the state Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman appeared on the Virginia ballot. It passed handily. I voted against it -- and this was a year and a half before I went on skippy's blog and the old Medley and declared that I was gay. So in spite of a lot of the things I've said, I think my record on supporting gay marriage is crystal clear and beyond dispute -- I may question it 364 days of any given year, but on the day I cast my vote, I'm 100% for it. So that's the back story behind that one flare-up.

A second flare-up on skippy's site occurred last year, during the debate over health care reform. Scores of fellow lefties were saying there shouldn't be an HCR bill that doesn't include a public option. Personally, I wanted a bill that included a public option, too, but what I didn't want was no bill at all.

What blew my mind at the time, though, was that my take on things was shared by... well, no one that I can think of. Liberals and self-proclaimed progressives, one after another, were happier with the prospect of letting the bill die if it had no public option -- something I thought was like throwing the baby out with the bath water. So I went and said, "Pass the stupid damn bill.". In response, skippy said, "No, we can't just pass the stupid damn bill." As for how that drama played out, all I'll say is, a month or so later, when the professional left {*cough cough*} A-list liberal bloggers realized no HCR bill was worse than a bad one, they started telling -- and petitioning -- the rest of us as follows: Pass The Damn Bill. I know full well that they didn't get that from me -- they left the "stupid" bit out. But I much prefer being ahead of the curve to being anyone's inspiration.

Anyway, now there's another flare-up over at skippy international -- and this one confirms all my worst suspicions. Just go over there and read my second-to-last post. In it, I say that what Press Secretary Gibbs said about the "professional left" is mostly correct. Then click on the kangaroo image in the upper right hand corner of the main page and read what Jill and skippy said after what I said. I'm not sure if I should contribute any more posts over there. Right now, that doesn't seem like a good idea.

I don't feel like I'm making a total break from that site. We're all going to vote pretty much the same way in November. At day's end, we're all on the same page. When it comes to blogging, skippy and I clash too often. Jill and I clash quite a bit, too. Maybe I should just stay away from there. I think I hurt the site more than I help it. And I'm tired of this.

But I'm not going to stop blogging. I'm the kind of guy who speaks from his heart, come what may. I just need to choose my outlets more wisely, that's all...

* * *

Almost forgot...

The title of this post? What I seriously considered doing was deleting every single post I ever wrote for skippy going back five-plus years. At one point this afternoon while at work, I was actually hell-bent on doing that.

Fortunately, I calmed down before I got back home. But that's what I'm talking about concerning these recurring flare-ups. I simply can't keep doing this, folks. I got a 40th birthday coming up next week. I'm getting too old for this shit...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Well, Let's See...

By now, I think everyone who knows of me through blogtopia knows that I'm a press operator by trade. I haven't said much about the print shop in months, but I'm still employed there. Started there when I was 29, and later this month, I'll turn 40, so that more than one-quarter of my life working for one company -- and I've worked for at least a dozen since my high school years. Not a small achievement.

Thing is, though, I haven't operated a press since March, nor have I worked three twelve-hour nights since then. I work five days a week now -- the "normal" work schedule. These days, I split my on-the-clock time between putting proofs together (proofs are to printers what blueprints are to architects) and burning plates for the other operators. Overall, I prefer what I'm doing now to running a press. It's easier on the body and, well, like I said, I'm pushing 40. College kids and adults in their twenties are best suited to factory floor labor.

But while I prefer the lighter physical burden of what I'm doing now, I don't prefer it by a whole lot. Making proofs and burning plates for five presses that usually run around the clock has its own drawbacks. For one thing, on most work days, I eat my lunch while I'm working, especially if I have a few dozen or more orders that need plates. The way the machine is designed, I can only burn one plate at a time, and that process takes anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 minutes per plate, mostly depending on the plate's size. In most weeks, I burn 600-700 plates -- and I've had a few weeks where the total approached 900. The plates have to be burned before I go home, no matter how long it takes. If I sit down for lunch, I could be staying longer than I want to. And then there are the proofs on top of that.

I was given these tasks because the pre-press department responsible for them needed an extra body badly, and my name came up as a suggestion. The company had bought another print shop back in January, and it had one pre-press guy doing there what took five people to do here. In essence, our pre-press department was working for two companies, and they were just about exasperated from the workload and long shifts. Now that I'm on board, everyone usually clocks out at a decent time. They love me in that department.

I'm just really surprised I'm still doing this. Originally, I was given a 30-day estimate on how long I'd be in pre-press; then they'd put me back on the press on nights. I'm into my fifth month of this. Part of the reason I was taken off was because this other company does the kind of work the press I was on normally gets, and much of that got outsourced to that place. The press' reduced workload naturally justified having one less operator assigned to it. So I was moved.

There's just one little thing: that press is back up to four operators again. And I'm not one of them. I hear that some, perhaps much, of the outsourced work will be coming back to us, so having that press fully staffed makes sense. Which begs the question: what does the print shop plan to do with me?

I've heard six rumors, five of them plausible. One says I'll be temporarily laid off. Another says I'll be laid off permanently. A third says the lineup on that press is temporary, and I'm slated to go back to it on nights when the right time comes. A fourth says I'm going back to the pressroom, but on another press -- which, depending on the press, I may or may not take a liking to. A fifth says that they're going to keep me right where I am, making proofs and burning plates. And then there's the implausible rumor: they're going to make me some sort of supervisor. That I strongly doubt.

I tend to think the second rumor is most likely, followed by the first, then the third. Business starts to slow down near summer's end, and they don't really need me in the pressroom -- they're sufficiently staffed. Maybe they'll want me there eventually. But I really have no idea.

In the event of a layoff, I have several options. None of them are great, but in the short term, they'll do. I don't intend to stay unemployed for ninety-nine weeks, though, that's for damn sure. I know which sorts of jobs are always hiring, and I know which ones I'm cut out for. If need be, I'll take one of those, perhaps two, while I'm looking for a better job. I have no kids, no pets, my rent is reasonable, and my credit debt is much lower now than it was a year ago -- in fact, I've gone from owing money on six separate accounts then to owing money on just one now. This is a far more manageable affair than it would have been if I'd been laid off last year. I'll manage it.

I did tell myself years ago that I didn't want to still be running a press when I was 40. Well, I'm almost there, and I'm not running a press, am I? But this isn't exactly what I had in mind when I said that. All I was thinking of was a simple career change. Be careful what you wish for, folks.

That may be in the works anyway. If they keep me where I currently am, I'll stick around a while longer. If they move me back to the pressroom, I'll work in the pressroom -- and on my days off, I'll likely be doing applications and interviews. I couldn't really do them now if I wanted to, since Monday through Friday, I leave the apartment around 7:40 in the morning and don't get off work until 5:30 or later -- there is no useful time for job-hunting left. But if they lay me off, then I'll have nothing but time. And if they do, I'll go.

Time will tell how it plays out...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

And Now, Some Good News (And It's About Damned Time)...

A federal judge in California has ruled that Proposition 8, which in 2008 reversed a state Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage was legal, is unconstitutional. As fate would have it, the case was overseen by Judge Vaughn Walker, who happens to be homosexual. This particular milestone in the LGBT community's long-suffering struggle for the same rights everyone else in this nation has, no more and no less, is somewhat amusing to me, but not because Walker is homosexual. I'll get to that part in a minute.

First, I applaud Walker for putting what this whole repellant Proposition 8 business was really about in print (boldface mine):

...Supporters argued the ban was necessary to safeguard the traditional understanding of marriage and to encourage responsible childbearing.

Walker, however, found it violated the Constitution's due process and equal protection clauses while failing "to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license."

"Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples," the judge wrote in his 136-page ruling.

He also said proponents offered little evidence that they were motivated by anything other than animus toward gays – beginning with their campaign to pass the ban, which included claims of wanting to protect children from learning about same-sex marriage in school.

"Proposition 8 played on the fear that exposure to homosexuality would turn children into homosexuals and that parents should dread having children who are not heterosexual," Walker wrote...

"Animus toward gays" -- that's the name of this tune in three notes. The homophobes might as well be spraying an entire bottle of perfume on a pile of shit for all the success they've achieved from their efforts at disguising their homophobia. The result may smell mostly like perfume, but it still looks absolutely like a pile of shit.

Which brings me to the amusing part of all this. Again, boldface mine...


...

The plaintiffs presented 18 witnesses. Academic experts testified about topics ranging from the fitness of gay parents and religious views on homosexuality to the historical meaning of marriage and the political influence of the gay rights movement.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson teamed up with David Boies to argue the case, bringing together the two litigators best known for representing George W. Bush and Al Gore in the disputed 2000 election.

Defense lawyers called just two witnesses, claiming they did not need to present expert testimony because the U.S. Supreme Court had never specifically upheld the right to gay marriage...

In light of how much money Proposition 8 supporters spent on their efforts to overturn California's recognition of gay marriage, and that their side won on election day with just fifty-two percent of the popular vote (an astonishingly close vote when you consider how hostile much of the country still feels toward equal rights for gays), you'd think the homophobes would have acted just as vigorously in court in defense of their homophobic views as they did during the 2008 election season -- especially with a gay judge presiding over a high-profile case in which they were the defendants. Didn't happen. Didn't even come close. To me, that's amusing.

But how did they fail so dismally here?

I'm of three minds when trying to answer this one. One mind says they thought their success in getting Proposition 8 passed in an election would translate smoothly into a victory for the defense in court. Trouble with that one is, voters always vote the way they vote on election day based on a combination of their self-interests, their concerns, their fears, their wants, their frustrations, and the conclusions they draw form all of those, whereas sitting judges usually try to make decisions based on their best interpretations of whatever the law says. Apart from the judges who are ideologues, the voters' method and the judges' method are incompatible. Lucky for us, Judge Walker is not an ideologue.

A second mind says that the homophobes are so entrenched in their outdated views, they've come to view them as self-evident. Naturally, they are appealing this case -- using the popular vote as a special plead...

The attorneys also said gay marriage was an experiment with unknown social consequences that should be left to voters to accept or reject...


Mm-hm. Meanwhile, homophobia has well-documented social consequences, all of them negative. Who's really clamoring for special treatment here?

And then there's that third mind of mine. This is the one that says the reason the defendants didn't bring more witnesses to this case is because... they have no real defense, and they know it. As Judge Walker spelled out in his ruling. Nothing but an irrational fear of gays -- and the realization that no matter how much perfume they spray on that pile of shit of theirs, it's still a pile of shit.

What a miserable way to go through life...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How Is It Possible to Forget the Foul Odor of George W. Bush's Presidency?

Unless you're a member of the mainstream media? From William Rivers Pitt:

The media has completely redacted the impact of the Bush era from their coverage of the Obama administration, a continuing act of deception that I believe is completely deliberate. The entire Bush administration is a lesson in media cowardice and complicity; they rolled over for him for virtually every one of those 3,000 days, and would now like to have us all forget it happened. If as Bush falls in the forest and the media doesn't cover it, did it happen? Certainly, but when the daily grind of the 24-hour news cycle omits the idiot elephant that remains in the room, the narrative of the present becomes skewed and distorted.

There are a dozen examples of this available, but the two best also happen to be the two heaviest millstones currently hanging around Obama's neck: the war in Afghanistan, and the BP oil disaster still unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.

The recent Wikileaks document dump may not have been a blockbuster on the order of the Pentagon Papers, but it served to underscore how much of a mess the war in Afghanistan is. Pundits on the left and right have taken to call Afghanistan "Obama's war" - RNC chairman Michael Steele went so far as to claim that Obama was the one who got us into it - even though the war had been going on for almost a decade when he took office. Granted, he's been commander-in-chief for a year and a half, and his decision to send more troops puts the outcome in Afghanistan right in his hip pocket. This cannot be disputed, but the media coverage of the Wikileaks documents utterly failed to note a fact of singular importance: the discussion of the war described in those documents is focused on George W. Bush's failed handling of that war. Except in the independent media, the narrative has been "Oooh, these documents show a war going badly, this must be Obama's fault." No mention of Bush, the big missing piece in everything we're dealing with, again.

As for the Gulf, well, you must have heard by now that it is "Obama's Katrina." Beyond the reference to one of the signal debacles of the Bush era, George's name has hardly come up in the coverage of the BP catastrophe...except it was the Bush administration who fully and completely enabled the elements that led to the disaster in the first place, thanks to their cozy relationship with the oil industry and their passion for deregulating everything that moved. The government agency in charge of keeping an eye on offshore drilling operations spent the Bush administration having coke-and-hooker parties on the taxpayer's dime, and why not? They must have been bored out of their minds. After all, how should a regulator spend his time in an administration that had no interest in enforcing any form of regulation at all? Once again, Mr. Bush and his 3,000 days are the missing piece in the narrative...


All I'll say here is, if the Republicans reclaim House majority status in November, then I fully concede to the notion that one cannot underestimate the stupidity of the American public. And if the Republicans somehow do the same in the Senate as well?

We'll cross that bridge if we come to it...

{via}