We’re having an old friend from Perrysburg over for a nosh tonight.
Friday, August 8, 2014
Sunday, July 20, 2014
He died twelve years ago today.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and miss him. There’s still that worn spot on the bedspread where he slept, and I still make room for him on the bed.
Friendly Help — J. Lester Feder at BuzzFeed has the story on Quakers helping gay Ugandans.
A group of American Quakers say they are offering a way out for some desperate Ugandans fleeing the country’s new Anti-Homosexuality Act.
This group, based in Olympia, Wash., calls its project the Friends New Underground Railroad (FNUR) because it sees itself as following in the footsteps of the Quakers who helped bring slaves out of the American South before the Civil War. Working with fewer than 10 Ugandan “conductors,” they report having funded passage out of the country for 107 people with grants ranging from $52-$185. The refugees mostly travel in small groups on back roads and make their way to safe houses in neighboring countries. FNUR says they know of at least 12 people who have gone on to third countries like South Africa and Sweden, and they have received unconfirmed reports that around 30 have reached Europe.
The security precautions they say they take makes their work impossible to verify. The identities and locations of the conductors are kept secret even from one another. FNUR won’t identify any of the people they’ve evacuated because they say they don’t yet feel secure in their new location, though they say they financed the escape of 22 students in a Catholic seminary accused of homosexuality in the eastern town of Jinja whose case made headlines abroad. They won’t say which countries people escape to, who aids them once they exit Uganda, or how those who have gone onto Europe have secured the visas that other refugees can spend years waiting for because they fear the escape routes being shut off. One of the three co-organizers — the only one of the group with experience in international relief work — won’t be publicly identified by his real name, saying “we don’t want to put anybody in danger.” Instead he goes by Levi Coffin II, adopting the name of one of the Quakers who was a leader in the original Underground Railroad.
“We got into this because we were asked,” Coffin said in a phone interview from Washington state. The person who became Conductor Number One was a Ugandan acquaintance who asked for support when a group of LGBT people asked him to help get them out of the country. “Quakers have a long tradition of this kind of work… This is work that we were both literally and figuratively called to do.”
If their account is accurate, it is a remarkable feat for a handful of individuals with very little experience in international aid. (Their project was adopted by their congregation, the Olympia Friends Meeting, and has since teamed up with another similar effort and other Quaker meetings. It also was just endorsed by the national Unitarian Universalist Association.) Most Ugandan activists and international human rights groups are discouraging LGBT Ugandans from fleeing, since they largely go to Kenya and wind up in enormous refugee camps that are often just as dangerous for LGBT people as Uganda itself. Those lucky enough to be identified as candidates for resettlement abroad can spend months or even years waiting for a plane ticket.
HT to Julie.
An Agenda for 2014 — John Nichols at The Nation looks at what Elizabeth Warren is telling Democrats to run on this year.
Elizabeth Warren says she is not running for president in 2016—despite the enthusiastic “Run, Liz, Run” chanting that erupted when the senator from Massachusetts took the stage at this year’s Netroots Nation conference. But Warren came to Detroit with the platform on which Democrats should be running in 2016.
And in 2014.
Warren is frequently described as a populist. And she can certainly frame her message in populist terms, as was well illustrated by the strongest statement of her Friday Netroots Nation address: “A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail, but a big bank launders drug money and no one gets arrested. The game is rigged.”
But as the Rev. William Barber, of North Carolina’s “Moral Mondays” movement, reminded the conference in a Thursday evening keynote address, populism is not an ideology or a program unto itself. Populism can go left or go right. Populism can be cogent or crude. What matters is the vision that underpins a populist appeal.
What Elizabeth Warren brought to the Netroots Nation gathering was a progressive vision that is of the moment—a vision rooted in the understandings that have been established in the years since the “Republican wave” election of 2010. As Republicans in Congress practiced obstructionism, and as an increasingly activist Supreme Court knocked down historic democratic protections, Republican governors aggressively attacked labor rights, voting rights and women’s rights. Citizens responded with rallies, marches and movements—in state capitals, on Wall Street, across the country. They developed a new progressive vision that is more aggressive and more precisely focused on economic and social justice demands, and on challenging the power of corporations and their political allies.
Warren’s Netroots Nation speech incorporated what has been learned, and what has been demanded. She made a connection between the movements and the political process that has tremendous significance for the coming election cycles.
Warren’s Democratic Party has not fully recognized that connection—not by a long shot—but Warren gets it. And the response of the thousands of activists, organizers and communicators gathered at the Netroots conference suggests that “the base” is ready to rally around it.
So what is it?
“This is a fight over economics, a fight over privilege, a fight over power,” says Warren. “But deep down it’s a fight over values. These are progressive ideas; these are progressive values. These are America’s values. And these are the values we are willing to fight for.”
Bonus: Charlie Pierce on Sen. Warren.
Rick Scott Rakes It In — Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones on the people buying the Florida governor’s re-election.
Florida Governor Rick Scott really knows how to pick a fundraiser. Last month, he was scheduled to attend a $10,000-a-plate event at the home of a real estate developer who’d done prison time on tax charges. Hours after Mother Jones disclosed the event, Scott canceled it. Now, on July 21, Scott will headline a $10,000 per person fundraiser at the Boca Raton home of another deep pocketed donor who is the CEO of a private prison company that’s profiting handsomely over the immigration crisis at the Mexican border.
George Zoley is one of the founders of the GEO Group, the second-largest private prison company in the country. Among the 98 facilities the company owns or manages are several detention centers for undocumented immigrants run through contracts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. One of those is a facility in Broward County, Florida, that’s been the site of at least one hunger strike and protests over allegedly poor treatment of the 700 immigrants held there, most of whom have no serious criminal histories.
In 2012, members of Congress demanded that ICE investigate the Broward facility after reports the center was holding people who should have been released and that it was not providing adequate medical care to the detainees. An investigation last year by Americans for Immigrant Justice also found credible reports of detainees suffering food poisoning from being served rotten food. The group noted instances of sexual assault among detainees and inadequate mental health care that may have contributed to at least three suicide attempts. Detainees also reported being forced to work for $1 a day and to pay $3 a minute for phone calls.
The Geo Group, which rakes in $1.5 billion in annual revenue, earns $20 million annually just from the Florida center.
The GEO Group also operates the Adelanto Detention Center that, with 1,300 beds for men, is the largest immigrant detention center in southern California. In 2012, a detainee there died from pneumonia. The US Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Detention Oversight concluded that the man’s death was preventable. Investigators determined that the medical staff had “provided an unacceptable level of care” and commit “several egregious errors” that led to the man’s death. Immigration reform advocates have reported various forms of abuse at the Adelanto facility: maggots in the food, inadequate medical treatment, mistreatment by the GEO staff, and the overuse of solitary confinement. These allegations landed the center on the nonprofit Detention Watch Network’s list of the worst detention facilities in the country.
The GEO Group is now expanding the Adelanto facility to add another 650 beds, which includes a women’s wing. The GEO Group expects the expansion to result in an additional $21 million a year in revenue. The GEO Group has also invested heavily in lobbying Congress, spending more than $3 million over the past decade to keep the money flowing to its detention centers.
Zoley netted $22 million in compensation from the GEO Group between 2008 and 2012. He’s donated a fair bit to the GOP and to Scott, who’s made privatizing Florida’s jails and prisons a priority of his administration. Zoley accompanied the governor to the UK in 2012 on a trade mission. The Geo Group donated $25,000 to Scott’s inauguration, and Zoley also personally donated $20,000 to help spiff up Scott’s living quarters in the governor’s mansion.
Zoley’s sponsorship of a fundraiser for Scott, who is in a tight race against former governor Charlie Crist, a Republican turned Democrat, isn’t surprising. (Scott’s office did not respond to a request for comment.) But the governor’s cozy relationship with the operator of some of the country’s biggest immigrant detention centers might not go over well with Latino constituents, who tend to oppose federal immigration detention policies.
Doonesbury — Fiction writing.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
I’ve been given the sincere honor of house-sitting Benjamin and Madam while Bob and the OP are traveling for a few days. We live very close to each other so it’s merely a matter of moving a few things like my laptop, and actually it’s closer to work than my place.
Anyway, it’s taking a little getting used to the new routine. It’s been almost exactly twelve years since Sam died, but the programming kicked in; last night as we were taking our after-dinner walk around the block, more than once I prompted Ben to move along to the next bush by saying, “C’mon, Sam…”
The first time I did it I didn’t even think of what I had said until it dawned on me that I had said it. I had a “Whoa” moment, smiled at the memories of taking Sam on his walks, and then, a few minutes later, did it again. The good thing is that Ben did not notice.
We’re getting along fine, but as you can see by the picture I took before I moved in yesterday, he seemed to have his doubts.
All is well, now. He slept in his bed and this morning we followed the set routine. He’s at my feet now, patiently waiting for our morning stroll.
On the other hand, Madam the cat is tolerating me… barely. I’m told she’s very affectionate once she gets to know you, but that’s not happened yet. She’s showed up at feeding time, and last night after I got into bed, she came and looked to see who was sleeping in her bed. She purred loudly but spent the night elsewhere, and after breakfast she disappeared to wherever it is that cats hang out. I think they have a secret hiding place designated in each house in the Feline Master Plan to Rule the World.
I’m looking forward to getting to know Ben better, and I am sure I will soon be doing Madam’s bidding. In fact, I see the glare of her eyes from across the room. Coming, Your Grace….
Saturday, July 12, 2014
In June 1957 my family moved from St. Louis to Perrysburg, Ohio. I was four years old, so my memory may be a little fuzzy on the exact date, but I am pretty sure that the morning after we arrived in our new home, there was a knock on the front door. There stood a boy about my age with his older sister, and he asked “Do you have any boys I can play with?” And thus began a friendship with BC that lasts to this day.
We shared all the usual stuff best friends do growing up; riding bikes, playing games, and even though we weren’t in the same classes in school, we hung out together when we were out of school.
As life went on, we stuck together even as his family went through some tough times, and in 1965 his family moved to Florida. But we stayed in touch and when I was thirteen he invited me down for a visit over spring break. It was my first trip to Florida and I was hooked. I ended up going to college in Miami after another visit to him.
He joined the Navy, served at sea, went on to college after and started a very successful photography business. He married a wonderful woman, raised two beautiful daughters and when we reconnected ten years ago after a long hiatus, it was like we had never been apart. Yesterday we spent the day together remembering back to those days, telling stories, catching up, laughing, crying a little, and never forgetting that we’re both each one’s oldest friend.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Brian moved to Albuquerque in the winter of 2000, and as soon as he was settled in he went to the PetsMart adopt-a-dog weekend and found Marty. She came home with him that very day and was with him until yesterday when age and illness caught up to her. He let me know by e-mail last night that she was gone.
I wrote back:
You gave her such a good life and she was so beautiful. She brightened your days and filled the nights with warmth and comfort. I know how you loved her with the depth that only those who know what pure devotion and affection bring, and you will ache with the loss for a long time. The little reminders of her presence – a stray hair on the couch, a half-eaten bag of treats, a chewed corner of a book – will haunt you for weeks and months, but they will be comfortable reminders of good times, and the friends you made with her at the park and on the street will be there to hold you up.
She could not have had a better life or a better friend.
Friday, November 8, 2013
Ten years ago today — Saturday, November 8, 2003 — I wrote this:
Welcome to Bark Bark Woof Woof, a blog dedicated to my take on life, the universe and everything with my unique sense of dry amusement. The title comes from a guy I once worked for who said “bark bark woof woof” instead of “et cetera, et cetera,” and in memory of my dog, Sam, who was my best friend for 13 years.
Since then, I’ve moved to two different places, been through three computers, I’m on my second Mustang, and written close to 20,000 posts here. Three presidential elections, ten Detroit Tiger seasons, a couple of hurricanes, one off-off-Broadway production, over a thousand music videos, theatre festivals, car shows, innumerable cultural references to Mel Brooks, M*A*S*H, and the Marx Brothers, and all — I hope — with the sense of humor and insight that I aspired to when I said that I was just “trying to get through life without bumping into the furniture.”
Something like this does not happen in a vacuum, even when some of my posts suck. I started out by being a commenter at other blogs and met like-minded people who amazed and inspired me to try it for myself. That’s how I met NTodd, who, it turns out, spent his childhood in my home town, and who served — and still does — as mentor and touchstone for what’s worth writing about. Soon I met a lot of other bloggers and made friends and actually met a couple of them in person. That is one of the enigmas of this craft: you form close bonds with people you’ve never met.
Among those are Melissa McEwan at Shakesville, who one day casually dropped me a note inviting me to be a contributor. I was stunned and honored beyond words, and from that has grown a bond that has taught me so much about being a better person, a listener, and a feminist. There is so much to admire about Melissa’s strength, courage, and just plain Liss-ness.
Michael J.W. Stickings at The Reaction has been a good friend and teacher, and being a part of his group is both an honour (the blog is based in Canada) and a welcome challenge to keep up to the standards that he sets for liberalism unbound. Every year when I go to Stratford we talk about meeting in person, and some day it will happen.
None of what you see here would be possible without the help and guidance of my brother CLW. Not just on the technical side — the countless hours of design work front and back and support when hackers attack — but also for the brotherly love and inspiration of topics and views that go way beyond C++.
I know that if I listed all the people who have been a part of these ten years, I’d be rattling off names for a long, long, time, and the cake would get stale. So let me say to each of you who has been with me since 2003 or if you just clicked on the link last week: thank you. I appreciate you more than you know, and as Bilbo Baggins famously said, “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
And with that… here’s the cake.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and miss him. There’s still that worn spot on the bedspread where he slept, and I still make room for him on the bed.
Monday, June 3, 2013
Congratulations to NTodd for ten years of blogging about everything from the plight of Gaza to the joys of wiping his kids’ noses and raising kittens on the fly.
He is the one who inspired and prodded me into this gig, too, so I owe him a lot of thanks and gratitude. (You, dear reader, know who to blame.)
Best wishes and keep on. Peace out.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
This is from my trip to the William Inge Festival. It’s me with Elizabeth Wilson, the only surviving member of the original Broadway cast of Picnic from 1953. You might recognize her from her many roles in film (Dustin Hoffman’s mom in The Graduate and Roz in 9 to 5, and recently as Sarah Delano Roosevelt, the mother of Franklin D. Roosevelt, in Hyde Park on Hudson). She has become a great friend of the festival and a good friend to many of us who attend. She is a bright shining spirit.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Less than three days after losing one good blog here in Florida, we’re losing another: South Florida Daily Blog posted its farewell last night.
For five years Rick has been posting links to what he thinks are the best works on South Florida blogs and sharing them with his considerable readership, and doing his own writing as well. For reasons known only to him, he has shared a lot of the writing that I do here. There are a lot of really good blogs and sites here, so it has been a honor and a privilege to be chosen by him on such a consistent basis.
I also had several occasions to meet Rick. He’s a good man, dedicated to his work and his causes, and I’m sorry to see him go. He has his own reasons, and I will not argue with him for making his choice, but I will say that he is leaving the place better than he found it, a goal that he shares with me both on the blogosphere but on the hiking trails of Colorado, where I know he longs to be.
Thanks, Rick, for everything. Happy trails.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Friday, March 8, 2013
Benjamin J. Kirby at The Spencerian has decided to hang it up.
I am starting to understand, finally, what it means to get older. It means nothing is black and white. There are no absolutes, and there are such things as mixed emotions. Children teach this valuable lesson as well. I may be furious with Emeline for something, yell at her to go to time-out, but every time I see her, my heart overflows with love.
And so it is with genuinely mixed emotions that I write the blog post that has needed writing for some time.
I am sending The Spencerian on an extended hiatus. I am not sure when it will be back, if at all.
There are a lot of blogs and writers that come and go without much notice, which is the nature of anything, and then there are those who start out with great promise and then settle into a dull mediocrity that makes you wonder why they bother. And then there are writers who are always fresh, always saying something, asking, even smirking at themselves, and those are the ones you read day after day — and get really pissed at (in a good way) when they say something you wish you’d said.
The latter is the case with BJK and The Spencerian. I do not question his reasons for hitting the hold button, but I’m going to be a tad selfish and say that there will be a hollowness in the daily scan of Google Reader when the days go by and there’s nothing more there in that little space.
Best wishes, BJK. Take care of yourself, your family and your world. They — and we — will all be better for it, but we will also want to hear from you again.
Friday, February 1, 2013
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Technically the U.S. government went over the cliff at midnight, but at the last minute the White House and Republicans worked out a compromise deal on taxes and sequestration. The Senate whooped it through 89-8, and the House will vote on it later today, which means it could still blow up and we’ll be back where we started.
Hillary Clinton is still recovering in at hospital in New York from a blood clot near her brain. This development is not necessarily life-threatening, and doctors say she should make a full recovery. But it does make the right-wingers who said she was faking her illness to get out of testifying before Congress about the incident in Benghazi look like churlish asshats. But then again, they already were, so no news there. Two years from today I expect us to be chattering about her standing in the Iowa polls, a year out from the Iowa caucuses.
Marriage equality comes to Maryland today. It was one of three states that voted by public referendum to legalize the unions over the objections of such ironically-named hate groups like Focus on the Family, the National Organization for Marriage, and One Million Moms. They had claimed that judges and legislatures had no business overturning the will of the people and no state would allow same-sex marriage if the the people got to vote on it. Maryland and two other states, Maine and Washington, made that point moot, and now those groups are trying to figure out a way to overturn the elections. Best wishes to the happy couples.
The last two Cuban day workers at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base have retired, but there’s no legal way for the U.S. to pay their hard-earned Defense Department pension without violating the embargo. It’s long past time the embargo itself was retired, and without a pension.
Today marks Marty’s thirteenth birthday. She’s been my friend Brian’s faithful companion since she was a pup, and she’s still going strong. Best wishes.
And today marks a milestone for my 1988 Pontiac 6000 LE Safari station wagon, which I have also had since it was a pup. It is now officially 25 years old, thus making it an antique car.
That’s what it looked like when it was twenty years old. I’ll have more pictures of it later this week when it comes back from the body shop where it’s getting some nips and tucks done to make it ready for its first national AACA show in February.
Happy new year, everyone, and may this one be better than the last one.