Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Five "Whole Truths" We Will Never Learn

I see lists, I click on lists, I waste time on lists... so why not waste time writing one and at least get some word exercise out of it...

1) The JFK Assassination
- There is no doubt that Kennedy had lots of enemies and an awful lot of people stood to benefit from his death. But does that mean there was a conspiracy? I don't think we will ever know.

2)What was Greek Fire?
- For hundreds of years, a substance some have described as "ancient napalm" was the greatest fear of a sailor going into battle. But the secret of making it disappeared. Some modern substances have similar properties, but there just isn't any way to learn what the original was. We may actually have the same thing today and just not realize it.

3)Did Shakespeare write everything Shakespeare wrote?
- I am not one of those people that have theories about this or that member of the royal family, nor do I think Kit Marlowe or Ben Johnson took Will's name. But this was at the beginning of theater as an art form and the plays we have are primarily transcripts of performances. How much changed during rehearsal? Didn't actors ad lib, even then? It's fun to wonder who would claim what if we could speak to the members of his acting company.

4) Babe Ruth's Called Shot
- A former Supreme Court Justice swore Ruth called it. The pitcher that threw the pitch says if he had, that pitch would have been in his ear. There are home movies, but the angle and quality makes it impossible to tell if he is gesturing at right-center field or the Cub's dugout. Ruth played the "you tell me" card for years before half-assedly saying that he did call it. And this was not a man given to doing things halfway.

5)Why can't Will Belegon finish a new novel? - Okay, maybe this truth we can learn. Or maybe not. But it probably has something to do with writing blog posts instead of fiction....Twitter may be implicated... and video games are definitely part of the problem.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Breakfast Club

I watched The Breakfast Club with my stepson today...

Such an iconic movie. A moment suspended in time, a single Saturday afternoon in the mid-eighties. It is a piece of theater that seems so dead-on specific to me... and yet, like all classics, it is so universal that thousands of others, and not only in my generation, think it is actually about them.

Breakfast Club came out the winter after I graduated high school, in February 1985. It was filming while I was actually where those kids are, time-wise. In high school, dealing with the little struggles that seem so large... because it is all we know. A failing grade, a trip to the principals office, a first kiss. A single Saturday can envelop the learning of a lifetime.

In 1985, I never would have thought that someone who would turn sixteen in 1990 would be able to relate. Let alone in '95, 2000, etc. It has now been 25 years and yet I think that every person who has been through a detention period in those 25 years finds something in the film that they relate to...

In my multiple endeavors, I work with people that cross many generations and a few cultures. There are only a few things that cross the gaps between oceans and generations. But I can hand a pair of sunglasses to a college kid at my day job and say "For better hallway vision..." and the kid gets it. Right away. He knows the line, he knows the movie and more importantly... he knows what the line means. Not what it says, but what it means.

We used to play the conversation game about "Which member of the Breakfast Club are you?" Which then gets inevitably expanded to which John Hughes character, etc. And someone that wasn't even an idea when I first saw the movie, who wasn't even born when I graduated college, let alone high school... they can play that game, too.

Is it a revelation to them, like it was to us? No, it isn't. The one thing that is true for us is that we were the generation that got to experience this first. Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful. And Fast Times, St. Elmo's Fire, etc. We sometimes forget that, with a few very small exceptions, this didn't exist before us. Before John Hughes, before Amy Heckerling.

There is no Juno or Scott Pilgrim without John Hughes first.

But still, that gives us a bridge. We can cross the years through these films. Not only the years between us and our own adolescence, but the years between ours and our kids.

John is gone now, died last year. Once again, thank you John.

Oh, and by the way, I'm John Bender. Because in high school, I wasn't fulfilling any of the artistic/intellectual potential that made me a published author, nor was I playing the sports I played in college. And I sure as hell wasn't the kind of guy that showed the kind of perseverance necessary to be achieving a black belt.

No, I was a regular visitor with the Assistant Principal, the guy who nearly got kicked out of school a few times and who was probably gonna work at Sears for the rest of his life.

Go figure, eh?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stay Decision Seems To Say No Appeal Possible

The wait for the decision in California's Prop 8 case was long. Months, not weeks... a long time to wait. Especially considering it has been 22 months since the fateful thing passed in the first place.

Thirteen days of actual trial ended and the case went for decision in March. It has been six years since San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome fired his warning shot across the bow of bigotry by issuing licenses illegally. (Though I support Mayor Newsome's actions, there is no doubt that it was not a matter legally in the jurisdiction of the city.)

I think the wait has been long enough, although I understand the wait until Aug. 18th. But beyond that? NO.

When the decision was announced a week ago, it felt like I had won a personal victory. Because although I may be straight and legally able to marry, I have far too many friends who have been treated as second class citizens simply because of the gender of the person they love.

Still, I had that joy stolen once, when the voters of California approved Proposition H8 two years ago. So while pleased, I was cautious about releasing my feelings. As I said, I felt a sense of victory. But it was equivalent to the sense of victory I suspect may have been felt by the 20th Maine as the sun slipped below the horizon on Gettysburg's second day.

The line had been held against determined attack. But another attack was coming in the morning. I waited for the decision on the stay, feeling that this would be the first salvo of the next phaze of battle. I fully expect to see the opponents of equality lining up for their version of Pickett's Charge on the battle line of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

I did expect the opponents to be repulsed. I did not expect them to be so firmly defeated.

When I first read the stay on the decision, I was amazed. A few days before, I gaped at the strength of the legal language from Judge Walker. Legal decisions are written in shades of gray, despite the tendency of laypeople to think of a court's judgment as black and white.

Judge Walker punished the supporters of Prop H8. He paddled their behinds and sent them to the principal's office. He gave them not just an F, but an incomplete. He did everything but call their mother's and tell on them. I suspected the stay would be calmer, although I certainly expected it to be in our favor. It is not calm.

My reading (and the Judge has since confirmed that what I read was what he intended) is that not only is the stay not granted but also that, since they were not actual parties to the suit, the proponents of H8 have no right to appeal.

That right lies with the named defendants, The State and Attorney General of California. Both Gov. Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown have indicated they do not believe in the suit and shall not appeal. Indeed, the Governator twice vetoed bills from the legislature with a stated position that he felt this decision belonged in the arena it now occupies.

Hell, they refused to even defend the suit in court back in January. Imagine this for a second from a different perspective. Someone sues you and your response when called to court is to tell the judge that's alright, you don't need to come. Go ahead and rule the way you want. Can you imagine doing such a thing personally? It's asinine. But of course, so was Prop. 8.

The question of whether or not the Judge should have allowed others to speak in the trial on behalf of the Proposition may be the only thing that allows this case to be appealed. That and the weight of precedence. No court wants to establish a principal of law that could, under other circumstances, be used to further quite a different agenda.

Judge Walker was quite clear. To paraphrase, he said, "You bigots weren't the ones being sued to begin with, but I let you shoot your mouth off because it seemed like I needed to hear if you had a valid argument on behalf of 52% of those who voted in November 2008. You wasted my time and you used my court as a forum to expose your biased and selfish point of view. Enough. You hurt these people and I will not allow it to continue."

And then, in very unusual legal fashion, he slapped them down twice.

Wedding bells begin to ring on Wednesday.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sarah Says Gulf Oil Spill Is Environmentalists Fault

Every once in awhile I think I am beyond surprise. Then something like this happens.

The tragic oil spill in the gulf lacks no shortage of blame. We can blame BP, we can blame the government, we can blame the prior administration... we can even blame ourselves for the unfettered use that fuels the demand.

But this morning, Palin jumped the shark again. We really need to come up with some new terms to describe this woman's particular brand of wacky.

Who's to blame for the spill? The "extreme environmentalists."

Basically, her argument is that by blocking drilling in places like the ANWR, environmentalists force companies like BP to take greater risks.

This is kind of like me falling and breaking my neck while using a rolling office chair to get a cookie out of a jar on the top shelf... and blaming? Not myself. Not the person that put the cookie jar on the top shelf. Not the company that put wheels on the office chair. Not the person who baked the cookies.

No, this is like me taking that incident and blaming the builder that made the ceilings high enough for cabinets that tall to fit in the house.

Monday, May 03, 2010

An Avoidable Tragedy In Sonoma County

I want you to imagine something... Especially if you are heterosexual...

You've been married for twenty years. You and your wife (or husband) are entering those "golden years." You have memories and a home and happiness, if not health. Your partner, eleven years your senior, has become frail. But you still love each other as much as ever. And all the struggles are made easier by the ability to spend time with the love of your life in the house that the two of you have made into a home.

Then, disaster. Your partner falls down the front steps. Imagine the pain, the horror of their injury, your feeling of helplessness.

Now, imagine that the hospital won't let you visit your wife. Worse, they claim that she has no relatives and make all her decisions for her, ignoring your documented and proven legal rights in the matter. Ignoring wills, powers of attorney, all the legal paperwork you were so careful to have in order for just this reason. Then they acquire access to one of your joint bank accounts and drain it to pay bills.

But it gets worse. They evict you from your home, sell off all your joint possessions and force you into a nursing home. And then the worst of all...

She dies. You never get to say goodbye. You have been denied access to the love of your life over the final weeks. Irreplaceable moments.

Couldn't happen? Ask Clay Greene.

Why The Word Marriage Is So Important

Clay had all this happen when his partner of twenty years, Harold, became injured. Clay and Harold,knowing this could happen if they were not careful, did everything right. They got all their ducks in the right rows, had all the paperwork. But of course, they were not "married." By the time they had a short window when that could have happened, it was too late.

Can you imagine this happening to a heterosexual woman whose husband fell down those steps? Or a man whose wife fell? Say yes and I will call you a liar, to your face. You know better.

This is why, until all the playing fields are equal, powers of attorney and domestic partnership filings and any officially recognized relationship that is tagged as the equivalent of marriage... isn't. Just as separate but equal was far from equal in the Jim Crow South.

Greene vs. The County of Sonoma goes before a court this July. Details of the case can be found here. A way that you can do something to help can be found here, at All Romance eBooks.

Of course, you can also help simply by talking about it. Write a blog. Talk to friends. Confront people who try to play "separate but equal" semantics with marriage equality the same way you would if they used that language about race or gender or religion.

This tragedy could have been prevented. Nothing we can say or do or feel or pray can get Clay a single second more with Harold. But just maybe, we can keep this from happening to Mary & Judy, or Robert & Joseph, or yes, Will and Alessia.

It's not about religion or tradition or labels or morality. It is about love.

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Peril of Ali Sabat

A Lebanese man who works as a television psychic has receieved a reprieve today, but it may be short lived... and if it is, so will he.

Ali Sabat was making the pilgramage to Mecca required of all Muslims who can afford it when he was arrested by the Saudi Arabian religious police and eventually sentenced to death by beheading. For witchcraft.

Yes, you heard that right. One of the richest nations on earth, with full availability of all modern technology and in most ways very much a part of the twenty-first century, is preparing to execute a citizen of another sovereign nation for witchcraft.

Ali's execution was scheduled for today, but it was announced it would not be taking place. However, it was not announced that it had been canceled. Just that it wouldn't be today.

If Ali Sabat were an American rather than Lebanese, this would be front page news. Instead, I only stumbled upon it. It sickens and saddens me. Sure, these laws are not new and it is most certainly nothing unique for the Saudi's to be applying them. And the argument can be made that Mr. Sabat should have been well aware that he was taking a risk.

Of course, Mr. Sabat would likely say that he had no choice, that his faith requires him to make this pilgrimage. Ironically, the same faith his executioners will use to explain why they had no choice but to behead him.

But Mr. Sabat is a foreign citizen on a visit. As far as I know, he has not broken any of these barbaric laws while on Saudi soil. We could as easily wait until his executioners visit New York and arrest them for murder. After all, beheading a man for witchcraft is illegal in the United States, right?

How much do you think the Saudi's would squawk if we did that? What if we arrested his judge as an accessory?

The simple plain truth is that they did it because they can. If he had been a Briton, or a Canadian or yes, an American, I doubt he would have been arrested at all. Because those countries can protect their citizens. Lebanon can't.

In other words, the Saudi's aren't only being barbaric, they are being sadistic bullies. Which throws their defense (which they actually haven't felt a need to make, since their victim is not from the west) into the realm of excuse and nothing more. After all, if they were really doing a holy duty, imposed upon them by their God and as unavoidable as Mr. Sabat's need to make a pilgrimage, such mundane considerations should be regrettable but unimportant in the long run.

It is exactly such things as this that have long made me a supporter of Amnesty International.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Massachusetts Means...

Very simply, the GOP victory in Massachusetts is a message. We didn't elect Obama and a super majority to sit and dither with obstructionists. We elected them to get things done. And if you don't do it, we will kick your ass out!

Now, I have no data to support this. It's a gut reaction, enhanced by voter reaction in stories about the election. Especially quotes from independents.

So, listen up Dems. This is not so much a GOP victory as a Dem loss. We are tired of seeing the least visionary and most reactionary 20% of the nation dominate due to their willingness to shout lies and attack anyone trying to use logic.

We didn't create a super-majority and elect a liberal President to get a watered-down version of health care reform that primarily benefits insurance companies and drung manufacturers. We wanted true reform.

You gave us kowtowing to people willing to compare you to Nazis instead of a public option, despite poll after poll telling you that is what the people wanted.

You gave support to Wall Street, after running on support for Main Street. You listened to lobbyists instead of laborers. You gave us fearful, creeping steps forward at a whisper, as though you were afraid of some uncouth, crass idiot standing up in your speech and shouting that you were a liar... when we asked for action.

We wanted strength and you gave us caution. We asked for change and you gave us unnecessary concessions to an opposition whose intellectual standard-bearers felt that being asked what newspaper they read was "ambush journalism."

The results in Massachusetts are a wake up call, indeed. But not to move further to what Beck, Rush and Hannity consider acceptable compromise. No, this is a call to listen to us instead of Fox News.

The people who butter your bread just told you that if you don't do your damn job, there will be consequences. Let's see if you get the message...or if you are too distracted by the circus of the screaming tea-baggers.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The New Lie: Bush Kept Us Safer Than Obama

In recent weeks, a trend has emerged. The next big lie that the Republican leadership seems to want to focus on is a downright doozy. Enough to make me wonder if it is a test. After the Birther and Tea Party silliness actually seemed to resonate with parts of America, someone must have decided this might work with someone.

This isn't even as innocuous as putting a "D" next to Mark Foley's name when the Republican was caught chasing pages or playing up Palin's "death panel" falsehood.

This morning, Rudy Giuliani went on Good Morning America and claimed...

"We had no domestic attacks under Bush; we've had one under Obama."

EXCUSE ME? The man who was once accused of being unable to form a sentence that wasn't subject - verb - 9/11 said that? And what's worst, he is not the first. Mary Matalin and Dana Perino beat him to it. Matalin claims that the 9/11 attacks didn't happen on Bush's watch on Sunday Morning. Perino tells Sean Hannity "We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term."

The last I checked, September 11, 2001 happened nine months after Bush took office. That is most definitely on his watch and during his term. Also, what about the Anthrax attacks that killed five people? And that is just domestically.

I'm not sure who should be most insulted. Perhaps it is the Republican base. Your leadership thinks you are not just inattentive and willing to parrot their words... they think you can't even read a frakkin' calendar!

I sure hope this one bites the GOP in the ass. Otherwise, the next thing they might attempt is painting Sarah Palin into Da Vinci's The Last Supper... or at least having her faith heal Dick Cheney's heart.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Dangers of Compromise In Health Care

The Democratic moderates are shooting themselves in the foot...again. If anyone is going to need new health care, you would think it would be these soon-to-be toeless wonders.

AP, Washington - Facing the need to maintain a tenuous 60-vote coalition in the Senate, House Democrats will probably have to give up on starting a new government insurance plan to compete with the private market, something that's a nonstarter with Senate moderates. In its place they hope for more generous subsidies for lower-income families to buy health insurance.

This was a few column inches down in a story about Obama calling a meeting between House and Senate leadership to push Health Care Reform away from the traditional committee to "reconcile" the two versions from the legislative bodies and instead have the House amend the Senate bill and send that one back to the Senate. Then, it would presumably be passed by the super-majority and go to Obama's desk.

Hey, moderate Dems. I know, you are worried about being ousted in the 2010 elections. I get that. Listen up. No health care bill = Republican weapon in election. Compromising with Republican leadership has only weakened this bill to the point where what came out of the Senate was a boon to only one group -- the insurance industry.

At least the House included some kind of a public option, something the Americans who are not on Fox News' Christmas Card list actually want. And while I realize that Fox is very vocal and that the Republicans are very noisy and numerous, there is something you need to remember. Yes, registered Republicans make up about 36% of the electorate. What you need to remember is that 100-36 = 64.

Reality Check: 64% of the vote will get you re-elected, you idiots.

So, if you really want to hang on to your precious job, quit dragging your feet. And damn it, do NOT take out the idea of a government business to compete with the insurance companies and replace it with "subsidies for taxpayers." Um, reality check time again.

Reality Check: A government plan, even if unprofitable, would at least be bringing in SOME of the revenue to support itself. "Subsidies," on the other hand, bring nothing back. Yes, the money goes into taxpayers checking accounts. But there it gets combined with some of their money and goes to the insurance company.

Ok, so who really gets the money, dumb-asses?

This whole process is already fuel for your opponents. What you need to have is the victory, no matter how Pyrrhic. Because a loss at this point is more fuel for the fires that the Republicans will use to light their torches and sterilize their pitchforks. (After all, none of us wants to piss off the FDA, even Fox News.)

Get it passed. Get it passed in as strong a form as possible. Quit being afraid of your own shadows(Seriously; it hasn't been the Repubs holding this back, its been other Dems.)

You have the majority, you idiots. Use it before you lose it.