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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Just debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York:

BRIDEGROOM is a documentary directed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason that tells the emotional journey of Shane and Tom, two young men in a loving and committed relationship — a relationship that was cut tragically short by a misstep off the side of a roof. The story of what happened after this accidental death– of how people without the legal protections of marriage can find themselves completely shut out and ostracized– is poignant, enraging and opens a window onto the issue of marriage equality like no speech or lecture ever will.

Your Head Trucker can relate. For the background to the story and more movie info see bridegroommovie.com.

Jason Collins Comes Out

The first major-league American sports figure to come out while still playing, basketball star Jason Collins tells the world he is gay in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. Your Head Trucker doesn't give a damn about any kind of sports, but it's great to see another wall come tumbling down for those who are into such things - another sign that the next generation of gays won't have to grow up closeted, fearful, and stunted as my generation did. Excerpt:
The first relative I came out to was my aunt Teri, a superior court judge in San Francisco. Her reaction surprised me. "I've known you were gay for years," she said. From that moment on I was comfortable in my own skin. In her presence I ignored my censor button for the first time. She gave me support. The relief I felt was a sweet release. Imagine you're in the oven, baking. Some of us know and accept our sexuality right away and some need more time to cook. I should know -- I baked for 33 years.

When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue.

I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, "Me, too."
President Obama called Jason to praise his courage, and the First Lady tweeted her support:

Be sure also to read the excellent op-ed by Frank Bruni in the New York Times.

Update: Collins talks with George Stephanopoulos:

Update 2: The President returned to the podium after a press conference today to talk about Collins:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Marriage News Watch, 4/29/13

Matt Baume of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, sponsors of the Prop 8 case, reports:

Love in Exile, an Update

Some of my truckbuddies may remember the story I posted here on the Blue Truck in 2009, about San Angelo, Texas, mayor J. W. Lown, who just days after winning re-election packed his bags one morning and without stopping to say goodbye, left home and country to be with the man he loved.

Since that dramatic, widely-reported moment, they've been living quietly and prospering in Mexico, as well as shunning publicity.  But now J. W. has given an interview to the San Antonio Express-News about their love and life together.  While J. W., son of an American father and Mexican mother, is entitled to live in Mexico indefinitely, his partner could not do the same in the United States, if they were to return to San Angelo - due to the effect of DOMA on the immigration law.  One member of a straight couple can easily sponsor his or her spouse for a green card, but not so if they are gay.

J. W. remains popular among the citizenry of San Angelo, who wish he would return and be mayor again, having done an outstanding job during his time in office.  He hopes by sharing his story to have a little influence over public opinion here, as Congress debates a new immigration bill - which still excludes the gays from consideration.
“It's painful to think about — leaving behind my family, leaving behind eight years of building a stellar reputation within my community,” he said in an interview from his new home, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he and his partner have settled. “I'm hopeful the country has come to a point that we can have this discussion. . . . There's no other place than San Angelo I'd rather be,” he said. “But I have no plans to return again, unless (my partner) can come with me.”

Read the full story here.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Are People Who Oppose Gay Marriage Bigots?

John Corvino is chair of the Philosophy Department at Wayne State University in Detroit:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Waitin' for the Weekend

This week, something a little different that will make you smile:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

You Have the Right to Remain Silent . . .

Now a howl of anguish is going up among some conservative Congressmen over the so-called "intrusion" of a federal judge on the interrogation of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  Last week, early on, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-So. Car.) called for the Tsarnaev brothers, once apprehended, to be held as "enemy combatants" under the Patriot Act and tried by a military tribunal.

However, the Obama Administration decided - quite rightly, your Head Trucker believes - to prosecute Dzokhar, an American citizen, in the usual way through the civilian court system.  And it behooves us all to pay attention to this discussion about civil rights.  Listen to what Judge Napolitano, himself a conservative, has to say about the matter on Fox News:

Why should you care? Because next time it could easily be your ass on the line. As witness what happened to that Elvis impersonator over in Mississippi whom the feds swooped down on last week:

Now mailing poisoned letters to the President is an act of terrorism. Supposing instead of having access to an attorney, who quickly procured a dismissal of charges, Elvis had instead been scooped up from his house, hauled off to Guantanamo, and thrown into some dark hellhole there? Far away from all eyes, out of earshot, without attorney, family, friends, or anyone to help him. And you see how easily it very well could have been you, bud: someone you pissed off online who wanted revenge, or just a careless statement by a friend, relative, or neighbor, and bingo! You're busted. It does happen. All the time.
That's exactly why our English forebears invented such concepts as habeas corpus and trial by jury in open court, to name but two: to ensure that if the cops do make a mistake - and they make plenty, being only human beings, after all - that you won't have to suffer for their mistake.
In this particular bombing case, regardless of what Tsarnaev's mom says about it all being just a big hoax with paint instead of blood, I do think it very likely that the cops got the right man - and he happens to be an American citizen. But it's important to ensure, in fact demand, that he be accorded all the rights that the Constitution guarantees to each of us. Just the same as you would want to be treated. Because that's how the system works. If we let the cops start picking and choosing on their own who gets to be treated fairly and who doesn't - then we will very soon have a police state, where anyone can be arrested at any time and held incommunicado for years, if not for life, at the mere whim of a cop or official. And that's a place you really don't want to go.
Watch this eye-opening, but very entertaining presentation by a law school professor about your civil rights when questioned by police. Pay attention - this is good stuff to know.

Note: I apologize for the spacing errors between paragraphs, caused in some mysterious way whenever I add more than one video to a blog post. Nothing I've tried fixes it. Oh the wonders of technology!

What A Concept: Table Manners

Your Head Trucker had the pleasure of eating at the celebrated
Antoine's once in New Orleans, and highly recommends it.

This 1960 educational film is like an archaeological discovery, preserving a memory of the etiquette of fine dining long since swept away, in all but a few places, by fifty years of social changes. Some points will make my truckbuddies smile, no doubt. Mainly it just makes me hungry for some really good food, like that found on the menu. However it strikes you, enjoy.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

French Parliament Approves Marriage Equality

Socialist deputies applaud in the National Assembly today
following passage of the same-sex marriage bill.

Antigay demonstrator hurls a missile at police during a protest
following the vote in Parliament.
The French National Assembly approved the final passage of a same-sex marriage bill today by a vote of 331-225, along party lines, making France the 14th nation in the world to approve marriage equality nationwide. President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party swept into power last year with a promise to enact the law, which recent polls have shown is favored by by 55%-63% of the population.

However, rightwing activists, with the support of France's Catholic hierarchy and American antigay groups like NOM, have made an issue of the adoption rights which marriage would allow to gay couples, equating it to "the murder of children," along with the familiar rhetoric about "traditional family values." In recent months, they have led massive, sometimes violent demonstrations against the law in the streets of Paris.   After tonight's vote, protesters decrying "Socialist dictatorship" once again clashed with police. Gay haters are also circulating messages of "Death to Gays" and "Homosexuals Must Be Killed" on Twitter. The conservative UMP party, which has used the marriage law to regain some support among voters, now plans to appeal the law to France's Constitutional Court, which has the power to disallow the law before it comes into effect (unlike the American Supreme Court), but analysts say there is little likelihood of that occurring, and same-sex couples may be able to marry starting in June. Since 1999, France has offered civil unions, called PACS, to both gay and straight couples; straights made up more than 95% of couples getting "PACS-ed" in 2010. However, the PACS provides significantly fewer rights than marriage, and does not allow gay couples to adopt.
In other marriage news, same-sex marriage bills advanced in the Delaware House and the Rhode Island Senate, and the Nevada Senate approved the first step in removing that state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Also, Nevada state senator Kelvin Atkinson (D-North Las Vegas), came out publicly, saying:
I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male. . . . If this hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Marriage News Watch, 4/22/13

Matt Baume of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, sponsor of the Prop 8 case, reports:

Bill Clinton Honored by GLAAD

Clinton accepts the award, flanked by Chelsea

Former President Clinton accepted GLAAD's "Advocate for Change" Award at the GLAAD Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday, making a moving speech in which he praised gay-rights activists for helping America progress towards "a more perfect union" - and credited daughter Chelsea and her gay friends with helping him evolve in his views.  The speech is quite good, well worth your time:

In March of this year, Clinton wrote an editorial for the Washington Post, urging the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA, an act which he signed into law in 1996 after being passed by overwhelming majorities in the Republican-controlled Congress. Excerpt:
In 1996, I signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Although that was only 17 years ago, it was a very different time. In no state in the union was same-sex marriage recognized, much less available as a legal right, but some were moving in that direction. Washington, as a result, was swirling with all manner of possible responses, some quite draconian. As a bipartisan group of former senators stated in their March 1 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, many supporters of the bill known as DOMA believed that its passage “would defuse a movement to enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would have ended the debate for a generation or more.” It was under these circumstances that DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress. . . .

When I signed the bill, I included a statement with the admonition that “enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination.” Reading those words today, I know now that, even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory. It should be overturned.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

You Can Help

In this iconic photo of Monday's tragedy,
bystanders rush the injured Bauman, seated in a wheelchair, towards
medical help at the scene of the bombing.  Both of Jeff's legs were later
amputated below the knee.

Jeff Bauman, 27, whose legs were torn off in the Boston Marthon bombing last Monday, and who from his hospital bed gave investigators the first eyewitness description of the bombers, faces enormous medical bills as he recoveries from his injuries.  Friends have set up a Bucks for Bauman account in his name, with a goal of raising $1 million to ensure that Jeff gets all the care he needs without the burden of the expenses:  as a part-time worker at Costco, Jeff could not afford medical insurance.  You can donate as much or as little as you please here.

In addition, last week Governor Duval and Mayor Menino established The One Fund Boston to assist all the victims of the attacks.  [Update, 4/25:  more than 250 have been identified now.]  More info and a donation link to that fund here.

It goes without saying that the need to raise money to pay for victims' medical bills and rehabilitation even in Massachusetts, with its groundbreaking statewide health insurance coverage, aka Romneycare, says a lot about the failure of our society to provide for the most basic needs of its citizens.

Your Head Trucker fiercely believes that all healthcare should be free at the point of delivery and available to every man, woman, and child in the country, regardless of employment or income, no questions asked.  The ways and means are negotiable, but it must be done.

Sunday Drive: Beethoven, Spring Sonata

Sonata No. 5 for violin and piano, Opus 24, Movement I, Allegro:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

We Can All Use a Little Comedy Relief Now

Cheering crowds hail Boston police at the end of the manhunt on Friday night.

1. D-O-M-A, by Columbia Law Review Students - crudely versified, but good for a laugh:

2. "Jesus, This Week" from The Onion - excerpt:
Following what could only be described by witnesses as the goddamned week to end all soul-crushing weeks, sources all across the nation reported that, sorry, is all this shit really happening at once? Because if all this shit is really happening at once, multiple reports verified, then this might actually be, honest to God, one of the worst weeks of all time.

No joke, added anyone with a set of working eyes and ears. Of all time.

3. Ah but truth is stranger than fiction, and not as funny: "Marathon Runner Witnesses Double Disasters," from the Associated Press.

4. And to take your mind off earthly things, what happens when you wring out a wet cloth in space? The answer is fucking amazing:

5. Andrew Sullivan: If Dali were a bird, he'd be an Inca tern.

Rassurez-vous - Fear Not

On Palm Sunday in Paris, demonstrators of the religious right protesting against the government's same-sex marriage bill give the Fascist salute while singing the Marseillaise; immediately afterwards, they attacked the police, sparking a violent riot.

In the wake of violent protests, gay bashings, and calls from the French rightwing for "blood" and "civil war" if Parliament passes a marriage-equality bill - likely to happen this coming Tuesday - one Frenchman has produced a really beautiful video poem to soothe the fears of the homophobes. He could sure soothe me, anytime - how about you, fellas?

Hint: for English subtitles, click "CC" on the menu bar of the video.

Or read the whole thing, after the jump:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Waitin' for the Weekend

Manhunt in Boston

Photo of the two men the FBI says planted the bombs that killed three and
maimed or wounded dozens at the Boston Marathon on Monday.
The black-hatted Suspect #1 is now dead, and white-hatted Suspect #2
is at large, the subject of an intense search in the Boston area.

Friday, 5:30 a.m. - The wheels of justice are turning swiftly in Boston. Overnight, two law enforcement officers have been shot, one fatally, and one of the prime suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings is dead, with the other being tracked by a massive manhunt in the suburbs of the city.

Authorites have ordered residents in those areas to stay indoors, businesses have likewise been ordered not to open, and the entire Boston transit system has been shut down across all of Boston - something completely unprecedented. I'm sure the news is all over cable TV, but for folks like your Head Trucker, who doesn't have cable (by choice) and for my overseas truckbuddies, here are a couple of good sources for news, frequently updated, which I've been following all night as the story has progressed:

NBC news videos

The Guardian's live blog (A sign of the times - a British newspaper has some of the most up-to-date info on an American crime scene)

Boston.com, the online presence of the Boston Globe, also updates its main story from time to time, but overnight not as quickly as the other two.

I hope they catch Suspect #2 shortly, and no police officers or innocent bystanders get hurt.

Update, 6:45 a.m., Texas time - The two suspects are said to be brothers originally from the Chechnya region of Russia, but have lived in the Boston area with their family since 2002. WTF??

Update, 6:00 p.m. - After sleeping all day, woke up to find the suspect is still at large - how, with so many thousands of cops and troops combing the area? The whole of Boston has been locked down all day until finally about the time I woke up, the Governor said people could go out and about again. I can't second-guess the cops but I wonder if shutting down an entire metropolitan area was really necessary for one 19-year-old on the run - even with a gun and a bomb.

But just now, there's been another volley of gunfire in Watertown, so I'm watching the live NBC report as cops and paramedics swarm on a location there. Hope they have the little bastard and can bring an end to all this fear and worry.

This week's New Yorker cover by Eric Drooker is well done:

6:30 p.m. - NBC reports suspect has been found in a boat, apparently in someone's back yard. Helicopter view confirms he is moving, not dead. Cops waiting around for something, not sure what. This is too much like a Hollywood movie - I'm sure somebody in California is writing a new screenplay right now, you know they will make a million billion on the film when they get it made. Calling Ben Affleck, Matt Damon.

7:45 p.m. - NBC reports wounded, bloody suspect has been taken alive, no police hurt, medic called for, cheers going up on the sidewalks of Watertown. A peaceful end to this terrible week, thanks be to God. Now the doctors can mend him, the cops can interrogate him, the courts can try him. And then, I sincerely hope, the hangman will swing him high.

8:45 p.m. - Governor Duval, Mayor Menino, police chiefs, FBI head agent, U. S. Attorney, others give news conference. Suspect is in serious condition at Massachusetts General, the huge regional hospital Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. Ecstatic crowds applauded and cheered police, firefighters, troops, paramedics, etc., as they left the area following the suspect's capture. I'm sure all my fellow Americans feel relieved and proud too. Way to go, Boston!

For the historical record, Rachel sums up the happenings of the last two days:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Adam Gopnik reflects on this week's events in the New Yorker:
Surprises surely await us as we go on, but an intuitive scenario—in which an older brother who had struggled with the promise and disillusion of American life and turned to extremist Islam for comfort, dominated and seduced a younger brother not born or made for violence—seemed plausible. But all of our experience suggests that it is not “fundamentalism” alone but an aching tension between modernity and a false picture of a purer fundamentalist past that makes terrorists. And it was an American story, too, in what could only be called a hysterical and insular overreaction that allowed it to become the sole national narrative. I happened to be in London on 7/7—a far more deadly and frightening terrorist attack—and by 7 P.M. on that horrible day, with the terrorists still at large (they were dead already, but no one knew that) the red double-decker buses were rolling and the traffic was turning and life, though hardly normal, was determinedly going on. The decision to shut down Boston, though doubtless made in good faith and from honest anxiety, seemed like an undue surrender to the power of the terrorist act—as did, indeed, the readiness to turn over the entire attention of the nation to a violent, scary, tragic, lurid but, in the larger scheme of things, ultimately small threat to the public peace. The toxic combination of round-the-clock cable television—does anyone now recall the killer of Gianni Versace, who claimed exactly the same kind of attention then as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did today?—and an already exaggerated sense of the risk of terrorism turned a horrible story of maiming and death and cruelty into a national epic of fear. What terrorists want is to terrify people; Americans always oblige.
Saturday, 7:20 p.m. - Massachusetts State Police have released this amazing (to a non-techie like your Head Trucker) photo of the boat that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding in, taken by a heat-imaging camera in a police helicopter.  Unfuckingbelievable.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Obama: "A Shameful Day in Washington"

In a rare display of political emotion, President Obama spoke to reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House yesterday, lambasting a cowardly Congress and a lying gun lobby after the Senate failed to pass a bipartisan gun-control bill drawn up in the wake of the Newton massacre.  The President went on to call upon the 90% of the American people who do favor the bill to let their representatives know how they feel.

Full text here.

Alex Koppelman in the New Yorker:
It was always going to be hard to get a gun-control measure through Congress, even one as popular as background checks. So it wasn’t just the vote to block Toomey-Manchin that was so disheartening—that a minority of the Senate, representing a minority of Americans, was able to vote down legislation that had been so watered-down as to make it utterly unobjectionable. It wasn’t just that the Republican-controlled House would never have passed the bill, even if there had been sixty votes for background checks in the Senate. It was watching the whole process, realizing again so vividly and on an issue that matters so much, that the people who make the laws for three hundred million people are often cowards or fools or both.

The unfortunate truth is that so many candy-ass Democrats and liberals are very good at being whiny little bitches about things that concern their own wonderful little selves, but shy to speak up and slow to do anything about issues that affect others.

If you do give a damn about gun contol, however, write or call your senators and representative at USA.gov.

"Like a Nuclear Bomb": Deadly Explosion in Central Texas

Apartment complex in West, Texas, destroyed by the explosion.

Yesterday evening, a fertilizer plant caught fire and then exploded in the tiny town of West, Texas, population 2800, situated on Interstate 35 about 20 miles north of Waco and 75 miles south of Dallas.  The blast, measured at 2.1 on the Richter scale by the U. S. Geological Survey, was felt forty miles away, and destroyed more than fifty nearby homes, an apartment complex, and a nursing home. By midnight, at least five deaths and over a hundred casualties were known; authorities feared many more dead could be found as teams of searchers continued to work their way through the ruins overnight.

The Washington Post has maps and pictures of the destruction here.

Update, Sunday 2:15 a.m.: Check out the before and after pics of the area from Google. Run your cursor over the pic to compare images.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Marriage Equality Around the World

Click to enlarge

A week ago on April 10, Uruguay's General Assembly approved a same-sex marriage bill, which is awaiting the signature of the country's president. Jubilation erupted in the Chamber of Deputies upon the bill's passage by a vote of 71-21:

Also in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand's Parliament today approved same-sex marriage by a vote of 77 to 44, which was followed by a waiata from spectators in the galleries:

National Party MP Maurice Williamson made a humorous, kick-ass speech in favor of the bill:

The bill now awaits Royal Assent by the Governor-General, and is expected to become effective in August.
Uruguay and New Zealand are the second and third countries in the Southern Hemisphere to enact marriage equality nationwide, following South Africa, which legalized it in 2005. The total now stands at 13 countries with nationwide marriage equality, with France expected to join their ranks in the near future, and the United Kingdom as well. Over the weekend, a constitutional convention in the Republic of Ireland recommended that same-sex marriage be submitted to a public referendum there. Same-sex marriage is also legal in some parts of Brazil, Mexico, and the United States.

Along Party Lines

Your Head Trucker remembers having a party-line telephone in the house when he was a wee lad.  I wonder how many of my truckbuddies remember them also? A Bell Telephone training film from the late 1940's explains how they worked, and how the company soothed ruffled feathers when parties clashed:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Guest Post: Reflections on the Iron Lady

Contributed by my truckbuddy Tim from England, now resident in Spain:

Last week Your Head Trucker and I were chatting about the death of Baroness Thatcher. Here’s some of what he said:
Well Tim, the Iron Lady has passed into history now, and I suppose as a Conservative you feel the loss keenly, and if so please accept my condolences.

However, I see from The Telegraph that reactions in Britain are all over the map, from sincere mourning to rampant glee. Can you sort this out for a distant, uninvolved foreigner? What is the real story here?
I’ll start with that initial response to Russ’s enquiry which I wrote at the beginning of a few days’ walking holiday with my Labrador, ‘Lulu’, in a country hotel near Cordoba:

Yes indeed, it was sad news for me; I heard it on a day in which I was already in a strange and somewhat melancholy mood.

On the drive up I had stopped for a coffee and bite to eat at a little one-horse pueblo called Benameji. It breaks the journey and I'd been there before. As I sat outside in the sunshine with Lulu, a scruffy 'campo' dog appeared, all skin and bone, checking out the trash cans for food, so I threw it some pieces of my sandwich.

First of all it ran away in fright, as if I had been throwing a stone, but in a while it returned and timidly snatched the morsels of food which it then took some distance away before eating them. Typical wild dog behaviour; it was frightened of Lulu and even more so of me. Poor thing, there are thousands of them here in Andalusia, and I felt a sense of guilt and shame that Lulu sat there fat and sleek, cared for and loved, and this little dog didn't have a friend in the world.

And what can you do unless you have land and funds? The dog-pounds and rescue shelters are already full to bursting with such poor creatures. Should I feel guilty and ashamed, or is that just the way the dice are thrown? So preoccupied with my thoughts was I that I almost totalled the car, with Lulu and me in it, when I left. I just pulled out in front of a car coming along the road without ever really seeing it. He stopped in a cloud of smoke and curses and I just numbly waved in shock then drove on, feeling very chastened!

And so later, when I saw the news about Maggie and read some of the polarised comments being made, and some were vile - she was after all, a woman, and now deceased - I thought about how black and white her world was, and how, if you were of her persuasion, you could be fat and sleek, safe and loved, but if you were on the other side of the fence, your life was hard and painful, you had an enemy. I hope you get my drift, and a sense of the strange mood I found myself in yesterday.

She was divisive, without a doubt, and that is what the reactions show. I won't talk about specific comments, but she has been demonised by the left in much the same way Richard III was demonised by the Tudors. I don't think she could have ever united the Britain of the 70's and 80's, the nation was beset with class divides, work divides, north-south divisions, etc, etc. It would have taken a huge external influence to bring about reconciliation, which, for a short while only, is what the Falklands war achieved.

Personally, I admired her and thought she did well for the country. I believe that one issue was decisive in marking Maggie’s term of office, and divisive in our subsequent national recollection; the conflict between militant trade unionism and elected government. The unions had garnered far too much political power under successive Labour and Conservative governments, and a painful showdown was inevitable. It is telling that subsequent Labour governments never revoked the legislation concerning trade unions, work and employment that her administration passed, for they too had been released from undue union influence.

For most of the two decades before she came to power, this conflict had influenced British politics enormously. It’s important to understand this historical context, so here’s a little more ‘background’ which may help explain why Maggie did what she did, why it was so popular with some and yet divisive for others. It’s impossible to discuss her role in UK politics without this scene-setting, so to lighten things up I’ve also thrown in some personal recollections for good measure!

Growing up in fifties Britain, even a child couldn’t fail to see that the nation was literally still crawling out of the bomb craters. Paying off the war-time debt was crippling the economy, and job security was a thing of the past. The sixties initially seemed to offer some relief, but increasing industrial unrest meant progress was uneven. By the late 60’s and early 70’s, people were increasingly fed up with seemingly never ending walk-outs, go-slows, and illegal strikes. There seemed to be an almost suicidal intent on the part of organised trade unions to hold the economy back at the expense of unrealistic wage claims and the resultant high inflation. Productivity had fallen against our major competitors, and the nation was becoming an international laughingstock.

The first major confrontation with a democratically elected government came in January 1974, when, in order to protect dwindling electricity supplies due to industrial action by the coal miners, the Conservative administration was forced to instigate a 3-day working week. This limited the commercial consumption of electricity to 3 consecutive days. TV stations closed down early, street lights were switched off, factories, shops and offices shut. Many everyday commodities quickly became scarce. Coupons were issued in preparation for petrol-rationing.

At the time I was on detachment with the RAF in Florida. Just before we were due to return home, I rang my parents to see if there was anything they needed, for the reporting in the US press had painted a worrying picture of daily life in Britain. Toilet paper, came the reply, we’re having to use old newspapers! And so 50 rolls of America’s finest, softest, pink three-ply were purchased at the Base Exchange and flown back to the UK! On arrival back at our base in Scotland, we were first subject to a Customs inspection. You can imagine the look on the officer’s face when he asked me if I had anything to declare!

The Heath government lost a ‘snap’ election called in February and Labour returned to power. The new government restored normal working conditions shortly afterwards, and things slowly improved. However, four years later, they too faced industrial unrest when the unions reneged on a government-backed pay deal designed to cap wages and so slow down inflation. This led to the so-called ‘Winter of Discontent’, with widespread public-sector industrial action, and another round of hardship for the general population ensuing. People were sick and tired of the strikes, a change was due, the government’s lead in the polls vanished.

Subsequently, with the loss of support from the Scottish National Party over the unrelated issue of devolution, the Callaghan Government lost a motion of no-confidence in March 1979, and a General Election was called. For the second time in a decade, industrial unrest had either directly or indirectly lead to the defeat of the elected government of the day.

Maggie had been somewhat unsure about her position during 1978. Although Conservative party leader, she was still not popular with many in the party, and did not have a good public persona. Besides being a woman, in the view of the Tory hierarchy she was not really ‘top-drawer’ either! However, the Winter of Discontent had damaged the Labour party’s ratings, and her slogan ‘Labour isn't working’ caught the public mood.

It was during the run-up to the 1979 election that my partner and I got to meet her in Newquay, North Cornwall. A favourite holiday destination for her and husband Dennis, by the way, and a good choice, I loved my time there in the RAF. I was then a member of the Constitutional Club in Newquay, the social arm of the Conservative Party (I was not allowed to join a political organisation of course, being a serviceman), and she visited in March whilst on the campaign trail. Very petite, smaller than we had imagined (5’ 5”), lovely clear complexion, bright blonde hair, wearing a small-checked two-piece suit. Confident, smiling. Partner got to shake her hand (damn him), which was firm and dry. All I got was this photo of her head, but that hairstyle is unmistakeable!

The back of Partner’s head is in the right foreground. That’s when he had hair, ha! She gave a short rallying speech, buoyed us all up, and then was gone in the official Rover car.

If you consider her background, first as a chemist, then as a barrister, I believe she saw things very much in black and white. Small talk was a waste of time, you were either with her or against her. But she had an inner strength and undoubted determination, and she knew the cards would always be stacked against her, but she overcame that, and how. In May 1979, Maggie Thatcher swept into office with a sizeable majority. The public, if not the unions, had got what they wanted.

A couple of ‘gay’ angles here; although the overall national swing to the Conservatives was around 6%, the swing in North Cornwall was well over 9%. This was against a strong ethic which had seen the constituency held by the Liberal Party for decades. Much of this was swing was thought to be due to the homosexual scandal that befallen the Liberal leader, Jeremy Thorpe and his implication in a conspiracy to murder his alleged homosexual lover, Norman Scott.

And, despite what some people may being saying today about Maggie’s views on homosexuality, it is interesting to note that she was one of only a handful of Conservative MPs who supported the bill to decriminalise male homosexuality in 1966.

But her tenure was too long. Increasingly autocratic and distant from the public, blunders over taxation and the economy, plus a seeming inability to seek or even desire consensus, led to her being isolated within her own Cabinet, and distrusted and disliked by large sections of the population. The daggers were drawn. Not without reason did Roman Emperors have someone whispering in their ear during their triumphal processions the repeated phrase: ‘You are mortal, you are mortal’. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So was she a great leader? Well, it depends on your definition of ‘Great’ of course. For me, a great leader would be someone who unites a nation’s people, like Churchill during WWII or from an earlier time, William Pitt the Younger. So in that sense no, she was not a great leader: but she had a job to do, break the power of the trade unions over democratically elected governments. And if that meant being divisive, so be it, but she desired greatness for the nation, and had the courage of her convictions, which is probably as much as you can ask for in this day and age, so I would say she was a good leader, but not a great one.

She did have a vision, allied to a strong sense of patriotism, but you had to agree with it, there was little room for disagreement, which, of course was her ultimate undoing. She should have left office after 8 years, quit whilst she was ahead. Her supply-side economics were not sufficiently flexible for the situation Britain was in, I think, but I'm no better an economist than a philosopher! And of course, she helped make it accepted for women to be national leaders, that was a big deal at the time, as much for the Conservative party as the nation, as we have previously discussed.

However, unlike many fellow voters, who seem to have very short memories, I still remember those early ‘golden years’. So you can imagine my dismay when I am told, by the BBC no less, that some of the vile and cruel abuse currently being displayed by my fellow countrymen, and countrywomen, against Maggie shows that the nation has a ‘strong and healthy democracy’! And there was I, still thinking that respect for women and the recently departed was a good thing. Oh dear, how very undemocratic of me!

To conclude, I got over my earlier melancholy and relaxed for the rest of my short holiday with Lulu. We both enjoyed the beautiful countryside: it was awash with wildflowers, swathes of buttercups and ox-eye daisies, hawthorn, and almond blossom in abundance, all swaying to their own flamenco in the balmy Spanish breeze, but I saw only one solitary poppy, still, but opened fully to the sun. Now in the UK, poppies are traditionally associated with remembrance and the armed forces. Baroness Thatcher asked that her funeral have a strong military theme, so from a former serviceman, this is my tribute to a leader whose legacy, whilst remaining controversial, will not soon be forgotten.

The ceremonial funeral for Baroness Thatcher, attended by the Queen and other world leaders, will be held tomorrow in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, beginning at 11 a.m., local time (6 a.m. EST in the United States).  Watch it live on the BBC here.

Marriage News Watch, 4/15/13

Matt Baume of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, sponsor of the Prop 8 case, reports:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Horror in Boston


Two bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon today; three bystanders, including an 8-year-old boy, were killed and over a hundred others wounded, some losing a limb or suffering severe burns.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis gave details at a press conference:

President Obama spoke at a press conference in the White House, vowing that the perpetrators will be found and brought to justice:

I hope they catch the cowardly bastards quickly - and it would be very pleasing to see them hanged in Copley Square.

Read continuing local coverage at Boston.com.

Update: Rachel Maddow reports from Boston this evening:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Who Says It's Unnatural?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Drive: Mozart, Clarinet Concerto in A Major

I'm grateful to my truckbuddy Tim from England via Spain for suggesting this lovely adagio.

Paintings are by the great English landscape artist John Constable (1776-1837).

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Is Homosexuality Unnatural?

John Corvino, chair of the philosophy department at Wayne State University, answers that question:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Waitin' for the Weekend

White party:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why Marriage Matters

Roger Gorley and Allen Mansell

Roger Gorley, a gay man in Kansas City, Missouri, was arrested, handcuffed, and dragged away from his partner's hospital bed on Tuesday after the partner's family said they didn't want him there:

This can happen to you. Family wishes always trump visiting friends - and if you aren't married, at best you are just friends in the eyes of the law - at worst, mere strangers, even if you've lived together for years. And as you see here, even legal documents like power of attorney can be ignored at the whim of a functionary.

Nobody gives a fuck if you are lovers, or domestic partners, or "civil-unioned" - hell, they don't even know what that means. They barely know what marriage means, as witness the airheaded, dipshit blonde Fox newsreader referring to the two men as not legally being "man and wife."

But if you are married, then the police and the courts have to respect that. Marriage makes the two of you each other's next of kin. Nobody can muscle in between the two of you, or shove you aside. As I've said many times here on the Blue Truck, marriage is not really about who you love or what kind of wedding you have. It's all about protecting the two of you in your persons and your property, and having the equal respect and dignity of the law on your side.

And that matters a hell of a lot, boys.

Update: John Aravosis of Americablog has talked to Roger's 26-year-old daughter, who was in the hospital room at the time and says that it was the patient's brother who ordered his partner to leave; the nurse on duty ignored the express wishes of the patient himself:
Amanda says that the nurse had her father removed because of the loud disagreement her father was having with his partner’s brother, Lee, who had arrived at the hospital room at the same time as her father.

Rather than intervene and inform the brother that Roger was in fact the designated representative of his gay partner, the nurse had Roger removed. This, in spite of Allen reportedly saying from his hospital bed that he wanted his husband to stay in the room with him.

“Allen said he wanted dad in the room,” Amanda told me. “He said ‘I want him here’” as the nurse was asking Roger to leave.

When I asked Amanda if the nurse was possibly not aware of what the fight was about, Amanda responded: “She knew what was going on.”

Read the full exclusive interview here.

Update:  Further details on the story have come out during interviews with both Roger and his husband's brother, Lee Mansell:

How DOMA Hurts Military Families

You guys may remember when I posted a piece about the gay couple who got engaged at the White House last year.  Well now USMC Capt. Matthew Phelps and fiance Ben Schock share how their lives are hampered and unduly burdened by the continuing effects of DOMA - even now that DADT is history:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wodehouse, Anyone?

One of Wodehouse's immortal creations:
Jeeves, the perfect gentleman's gentleman.

Today's tip from your Head Trucker: whenever you feel the world is going to hell in a handbasket, as I do most days, and you need a bit of cheering up, you can do no better than to turn off all electronic squawking devices and settle back with a nice cup of tea and one of the many delightful comedies written by the inimitable P. G. Wodehouse - pronounced Woodhouse - as this BBC documentary makes clear:

In the 1970's, a British series, Wodehouse Playhouse, dramatized a number of his short stories with the superb husband-and-wife acting duo of John Alderton and Pauline Collins (who also appeared in the classic series Upstairs, Downstairs). Your Head Trucker has a set of these shows, which never fail to amuse. Here's one of the funniest: "Portrait of a Disciplinarian."

Other, less funny attempts have been made at dramatizing Wodehouse's comedies, but as a general rule, they are much better read than watched. So go try one, right this minute, and you can thank me later.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Newsbites, 4/9/13

  • Both mourned and reviled by her compatriots even in death, Britain's Iron Lady, Baroness Thatcher, is dead at 87:

  • America's Sweetheart and and favorite Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello, also died yesterday at age 70:

  • Detroit's Catholic archbishop orders gay-marriage supporters among his flock to abstain from communion or risk further penalties for disrepecting the teachings of the Church - which, as he puts it, amounts to a kind of criminal perjury.

  • Westboro Baptist announces they will picket the funeral of "fag enabler" Roger Ebert. Your Head Trucker thinks they should be barred from appearing at anybody's funeral, period, and given very hefty fines and jail terms if they don't mind their own fucking business. But you know, it's practically gotten to the point that now, you're nobody if Westboro doesn't picket your funeral.

  • Matt Baume of the American Foundation for Equal Rights brings us up to date on developments in marriage equality this week:

  • The trailer for Behind the Candelabra, set to premiere on HBO in May, starring Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Dan Ackroyd, and Debbie Reynolds (as Mama Liberace) is here:

Your Head Trucker saw Liberace in concert back in the 80's and can attest that the man was indeed "Mr. Showmanship" - I took my mom, thinking it might be a bit of a bore, but to my amazement, he kept everyone on the edge of their seats the whole time with a dazzling display of sequined costumes and two hours of non-stop excitement. Quite a memory.

Sometime in the next decade, I happened to see in the paper that Scott Thorson, Liberace's ex-lover and adopted son, was going to be speaking about his life with Liberace at the biggest Baptist church in town - the kind built like an auditorium, with vast tiers of rocking, thickly-padded, movie-theater chairs instead of pews. And he stood up there, golden-haired and movie-star handsome, in the midst of all those tut-tutting Baptists and told a long, rambling tale of how he was "molested by my own father" - weeping on cue while doing so. Then after milking that angle for all it was worth, carried on with some sordid, convoluted story of being taken into FBI custody and hidden for months in a windowless skyscraper room for his own protection as a witness against some drug dealers or something like that. Not to mention all his personal failings with drugs, booze, sex, and you-name-it.  The Baptists, rocking contentedly and purring like old cats, ate up every word.

I thought there was something fishy about all this at the time - and I'm sure the rich Baptists paid him very nicely to come warn them of the wages of sin - but we didn't have the Internet back then to double-check with, so I just filed it away under Suspicious Stories in my mind. And wondered how many of those hatchet-faced old blue-haired ladies had flocked to hear the great entertainer - that awful sinner, you know - back when he had filled the civic center.

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