C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Friday, May 19, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Random-Flash President



It has always been starkly evident to anyone with a lick of sense that Trump is a blustering, bragging, overgrown baby, a child's mind in a man's body.  Finally, it seems, the oh-so-smart mainstream press of this overstimulated era has figured it out, too.  Duh.

Excerpt from the New York Times opinion piece, "When the World Is Led by a Child," by David Brooks:
At certain times Donald Trump has seemed like a budding authoritarian, a corrupt Nixon, a rabble-rousing populist or a big business corporatist.

But as Trump has settled into his White House role, he has given a series of long interviews, and when you study the transcripts it becomes clear that fundamentally he is none of these things.

At base, Trump is an infantalist. There are three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25. Trump has mastered none of them. Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif. . . .

Which brings us to the reports that Trump betrayed an intelligence source and leaked secrets to his Russian visitors. From all we know so far, Trump didn’t do it because he is a Russian agent, or for any malevolent intent. He did it because he is sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires.

The Russian leak story reveals one other thing, the dangerousness of a hollow man.

Our institutions depend on people who have enough engraved character traits to fulfill their assigned duties. But there is perpetually less to Trump than it appears. When we analyze a president’s utterances we tend to assume that there is some substantive process behind the words, that it’s part of some strategic intent.

But Trump’s statements don’t necessarily come from anywhere, lead anywhere or have a permanent reality beyond his wish to be liked at any given instant.

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

“We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him,” David Roberts writes in Vox. “It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next. But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there is no there there?”

And out of that void comes a carelessness that quite possibly betrayed an intelligence source, and endangered a country.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday Drive: Strauss, Voices of Spring

A favorite composition of the Waltz King, so right for the merry month of May:




Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Moment and the Choice

For the record, here is an open letter, published on Thursday, from the Editorial Board of the New York Times to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

I will make no comment, except to say that anyone who watched Mr. Rosenstein's confirmation hearing in March would find it hard to doubt his integrity and loyalty to the Constitution.  I'm sure at this turning point in the history of our Republic, he must feel himself caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Dear Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein:

It’s rare that any single person has to bear as much responsibility for safeguarding American democracy as you find yourself carrying now. Even before President Trump’s shocking decision on Tuesday to fire the F.B.I. director, James Comey, a dark cloud of suspicion surrounded this president, and the very integrity of the electoral process that put him in office. At this fraught moment you find yourself, improbably, to be the person with the most authority to dispel that cloud and restore Americans’ confidence in their government. We sympathize; that’s a lot of pressure.

Given the sterling reputation you brought into this post — including a 27-year career in the Justice Department under five administrations, and the distinction of being the longest-serving United States attorney in history — you no doubt feel a particular anguish, and obligation to act. As the author of the memo that the president cited in firing Mr. Comey, you are now deeply implicated in that decision.

It was a solid brief; Mr. Comey’s misjudgments in his handling of the F.B.I. investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server were indeed serious. Yet you must know that these fair criticisms were mere pretext for Mr. Trump, who dumped Mr. Comey just as he was seeking more resources to investigate ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

You must also know that in ordering you to write the memo, Mr. Trump exploited the integrity you have earned over nearly three decades in public service, spending down your credibility as selfishly as he has spent other people’s money throughout his business career. We can only hope that your lack of an explicit recommendation to fire Mr. Comey reflects your own refusal to go as far as the president wanted you to.

In any case, the memo is yours, and that has compromised your ability to oversee any investigations into Russian meddling. But after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from these matters, because of his own contacts during the campaign with the Russians, the power to launch a truly credible investigation has fallen to you, and you alone.

You have one choice: Appoint a special counsel who is independent of both the department and the White House. No one else would have the standing to assure the public it is getting the truth. While a handful of Republican senators and representatives expressed concern at Mr. Comey’s firing, there is as yet no sign that the congressional investigations into Russian interference will be properly staffed or competently run. And Americans can have little faith that the Justice Department, or an F.B.I. run by Mr. Trump’s handpicked replacement, will get to the bottom of whether and how Russia helped steal the presidency for Mr. Trump.

In theory, no one should have a greater interest in a credible investigation than the president, who has repeatedly insisted the suspicions about his campaign are baseless. Yet rather than try to douse suspicions, he has shown he is more than willing to inflame them by impeding efforts to get to the truth.

Given your own reputation for probity, you must be troubled as well by the broader pattern of this president’s behavior, including his contempt for ethical standards of past presidents. He has mixed his business interests with his public responsibilities. He has boasted that conflict-of-interest laws do not apply to him as president. And from the moment he took office, Mr. Trump has shown a despot’s willingness to invent his own version of the truth and to weaponize the federal government to confirm that version, to serve his ego and to pursue vendettas large and small.

When Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote by nearly three million votes, for instance, he created a Voter Fraud Task Force to back up his claim that the margin resulted from noncitizens voting illegally (the task force has done nothing to date). When there was no evidence for his claim that President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, Mr. Trump demanded that members of Congress put their work aside in order to dig up “facts” to support it.

Firing Mr. Comey — who, in addition to leading the Russia investigation, infuriated Mr. Trump by refusing to give any credence to his wiretapping accusation — is only the latest and most stunning example. The White House can’t even get its own story straight about why Mr. Trump took this extraordinary step.

Few public servants have found themselves with a choice as weighty as yours, between following their conscience and obeying a leader trying to evade scrutiny — Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus, who behaved nobly in Watergate, come to mind. You can add your name to this short, heroic list. Yes, it might cost you your job. But it would save your honor, and so much more besides.


Friday, May 12, 2017

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Russ Recommends: Blithe Spirit, 1945


Your Head Trucker can't bear to keep up with the ghastly news out of Washington anymore, and so is declaring a moratorium on current events for the duration.

For anyone who needs the relief of a witty, breezy celestial comedy, try the original film version of Noel Coward's celebrated play, if you can find it.  I just saw it again on TCM last night, and it was delightful as ever, with a young and handsome Rex Harrison as the haunted husband and the inimitable Margaret Rutherford as the other-worldly medium. Original trailer:



A short review from the British Film Institute:




Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sunday Drive: Tchaikovsky, Waltz of the Flowers

These days I feel a need more than ever for pretty pictures, pretty sounds, pretty thoughts. I hope these do the trick for my truckbuddies who may feel the same way.




Saturday, May 6, 2017

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dishonored in Death

From the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger:
Picayune Funeral Home, in Picayune, is accused of refusing to cremate the remains of Robert "Bob" Huskey after learning he was married to a man at the time of his death, according to attorney Beth Littrell with Lambda Legal, a New York-based organization working for the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV/AIDS.

"After 52 years together and after having made pre-arrangements to ensure what was already a sad and tragic day would be as easy as possible, they were told that the funeral home was unwilling to honor their agreement and, as a result, their already sad day become immeasurably worse," Littrell said.
The little town of Picayune (pronounced picky-OON) is about 50 miles northeast of New Orleans.




Sunday, April 30, 2017

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Revolution of Tenderness


Pope Francis delivered a surprise TED talk this week, recorded at the Vatican, which your Head Trucker finds very appropriate to this moment in history, when all the world seems consumed by arrogance, ignorance, and deadly hatred.   Excerpt:
How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion. How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us. How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries. Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the "culture of waste," which doesn't concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.

Solidarity is a term that many wish to erase from the dictionary. Solidarity, however, is not an automatic mechanism. It cannot be programmed or controlled. It is a free response born from the heart of each and everyone. Yes, a free response! When one realizes that life, even in the middle of so many contradictions, is a gift, that love is the source and the meaning of life, how can they withhold their urge to do good to another fellow being? . . .

The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of today’s humanity. People's paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money, and things, instead of people. And often there is this habit, by people who call themselves "respectable," of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road. Fortunately, there are also those who are creating a new world by taking care of the other, even out of their own pockets. Mother Teresa actually said: "One cannot love, unless it is at their own expense."

We have so much to do, and we must do it together. But how can we do that with all the evil we breathe every day? Thank God, no system can nullify our desire to open up to the good, to compassion and to our capacity to react against evil, all of which stem from deep within our hearts. Now you might tell me, "Sure, these are beautiful words, but I am not the Good Samaritan, nor Mother Teresa of Calcutta." On the contrary: we are precious, each and every one of us. Each and every one of us is irreplaceable in the eyes of God. Through the darkness of today's conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around. . . .

The third message I would like to share today is, indeed, about revolution: the revolution of tenderness. And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future. To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.

Tenderness is the language of the young children, of those who need the other. A child’s love for mom and dad grows through their touch, their gaze, their voice, their tenderness. I like when I hear parents talk to their babies, adapting to the little child, sharing the same level of communication. This is tenderness: being on the same level as the other. God himself descended into Jesus to be on our level. This is the same path the Good Samaritan took. This is the path that Jesus himself took. He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practicing the real, concrete language of love.

Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other. There is a saying in Argentina: "Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach." You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness. Through humility and concrete love, on the other hand, power – the highest, the strongest one – becomes a service, a force for good.
Full text here.



Click the "CC" button at the bottom of the video to see English subtitles.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Pork Boys Do Easter 2017

Some photos of our Easter feast, along with scenes from M. P.'s garden - click photos to enlarge:

A simple white table with flowers and Easter eggs

Easter egg tree

Electric fireplace decorated with paper flowers

Appetizer:  colored deviled eggs 

Soup: chicken and potato

Entree no. 1:  boneless chicken thighs stuffed with dressing, in a cream sauce

Entree no. 2:  Baked ham with orange sauce

Pineapple casserole (left) and creamed corn; not pictured is a pot of boiled kale

Potato salad with radish roses

A full plate with a "bunny roll" at right

M. P. made a garden this year, the first in a long while.  Here is how it looked on the first of April, just before a heavy rain that night:

Front view:  It took M.P. several weekends to get all this dug up, composted, enclosed, and planted with 20 or so varieties of vegetables.  At the rear, the new compost enclosure he built.

New stepping stones, using found tiles

Closeup of two varieties of tomato plants, showing M.P.'s markers made out of wooden skewers and cut-outs from a milk jug.  At right his ingenious first example of a plant protector made from a clear soda bottle.

Rear view, where squash and cucucumbers are still hiding below ground


And here is the view on Easter Sunday, showing marked progress:

Front view showing more plant protectors around the tomato plants 

Rear view with a lively growth of squash and other things

M.P. also planted several varieties of rosebushes; here are the first two blooming now:

Green Ice miniature roses; as you can see at the top of the bush, they are a pale green when they first blossom.

Sunset rose:  a delicate shade of orange, with a lovely scent.




Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 2017

The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Guernico (1591-1666)

I wish a very Happy Easter to all my truckbuddies.





Monday, April 10, 2017

A Little Night Music

Photo by Ben Gierig, Semperopernball.
Click to enlarge.
Difficulties of one kind and another prevented your Head Trucker from making his usual Palm Sunday post yesterday, but although we are still technically in the sorrowful season of Lent, he has felt the need of something uplifting, a pleasant reminiscence of simpler, happier times to distract his thoughts from the cares and alarums of the present.  The following concert worked nicely for an hour, and I recommend it to any of my truckbuddies whose feelings may also need something light and gay to dwell on for a while.

Andre Rieu and his orchestra in performance at the all-night Semperopernball in Dresden, on February 3rd of this year:




One would have liked to go to a ball, a real ball, just once - sigh.  Alas, no fairy godmother with pumpkin and mice ever came.


Friday, April 7, 2017

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