Sunday, May 30, 2010


At the age of six, I was enrolled into tee-ball baseball, a variation for little kids that does not involve pitching. Instead, the ball is placed upon a tee, where the batter hits it, which should be a sure bet for any competent player, which I wasn't. I didn't have much interest in tee-ball. My thoughts tended to be elsewhere. I had a rich inner world. I believed in magic, God, the Devil, and all kinds of things that I had picked up from Church, television and my friends. I liked thinking about these things rather than things like tee-ball. I liked to imagine that as yet unseen spirits might want to get in touch with me and give me gifts or grant me special powers that would be completely cool and awesome.

Due to all this daydreaming, I was in the habit of striking out or hitting the tee-ball somewhere easy for a quick out. My coach wanted to win. I still remember him even to this day. He was a tall, muscular, good-looking high school stud with dark hair who wore a gold chain and spat, used slang and cursed more than may have been appropriate for our tee-ball league. I disapproved of the cursing because I knew my parents would disapprove, but no one else seemed to mind, so I decided he must be an unusual exception to the no-cursing rule. The parents were overlooking his cursing because he was such a good coach, I decided.

The coach crouched beside me as I swung the plastic bat at the tee-ball. He tried to show me the best way to hit the ball. He even held my forearms and tried to swing the bat for me, using my grip on the bat and his aim. The opposing coach objected to this as cheating, and my coach had to back off, but he stayed nearby to give advice. There was another delay as the opposing coach called a time-out, because one of his players had to go to the bathroom. While waiting, I hummed a parody of "The Batman and Robin Show" that was making the rounds at school:
Jingle Bells,
Batman smells,
Robin laid an egg!
The Batmobile
Lost its wheel
and the Joker ran away---ay!
My coach snapped, "I ain't laid no egg!" I turned to him in surprise. Then I remembered that his name was Robin, and I laughed. He repeated his denial. I tried to explain that the song had nothing to do with him, but I don't think he ever caught the part about Batman. I gave up trying to explain and concentrated on the tee-ball. I scored a hit and made it to the first base, only to be caught out later.

At the end of the season, I think we won first or second place in the league. The parents got together and presented the coach with a bonus check of a hundred dollars, unimaginable wealth to someone like me accustomed to a dollar-fifty a week allowance. I quit tee-ball after the first season because I found it boring, although I liked the coach. I probably would have liked him even more about ten years later.

How to Disable the File Properties Window in ACDSee

A bug afflicts earlier versions of ACDSee, although I went for years without its cropping up on my install. About a year ago, something went amiss with the configuration of the full screen view. When clicking on a thumbnail to view the full image, a File Properties window pops up for no apparent reason. File properties informs me of the EXIF data and other minor details while obscuring a large portion of the screen. I am very pleased that ACDSee knows these things, but I don't want to see them with every single image! This annoying behavior persists every time the application is loaded, and there is no obvious way to stop it in the Options menu.

After much searching, I finally found a solution here, which is to press Alt-Enter while in view mode. The File Properties goes away and stays away forever. This is far from intuitive, but is the only known method that really works. I went so far as to install Irfanview in order to replace ACDSee before I found the solution. I learned enough to write a capsule review about Irfanview, though not a favorable one.

I was unimpressed with Irfanview, which demands that the user learn a new method of navigation much different from the Windows standard. Common tasks such as selecting, copying, and pasting files do not work in the expected manner. At one point, a single file was highlighted. I pressed the delete key, expecting that file to be deleted. Instead, Irfanview deleted the entire subdirectory containing the file. Another unnecessary annoyance is that Irfanview begins with a dark screen, rather than displaying all the thumbnails in the default directory, which would seem the obvious thing to do. Irfanview does not offer any navigation to change the sorting order, an option I grew accustomed to in ACDSee. Instead, Irfanview alphabetizes. What about sorting by modified-date, file-size, width, height, and so on? These options are not on the screen where they belong. I consider these options to be essential, so I uninstalled Irfanview. My last experiment with it a few years ago went the same way. ACDSee is expensive, but even the older versions seem superior to its competitors.

I blog about issues like this as a way to save the information for future reference for myself. If other people find these notes helpful, so much the better.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memories of my Father

  1. No, I can't play ball with you. No, I can't take you anywhere. No, I don't want to go for a walk. No, I don't want to go to the park. I want to watch a TV show. I want to take a nap. I want to read my books. Go find someone else your own age to play with.

  2. I don't approve of your friends. They seem low-class to me. Vulgar and ignorant. I don't want them in this house anymore.

  3. I don't care whether you love me. I just want your respect. Respect is all that matters. One day you'll understand. One day you'll thank me. You may not think so now, but you will later.

  4. Homosexuals are perverted. They hate women. And they get bitter when they get older. I know all about it, because there's one in our department. He's that way. No, I never talk to him, because he's homosexual. They are different from us. We're normal. They're not. No, I never plan to invite him over. Why do you ask?

  5. If you were a homosexual, that would be a terrible thing. Yes, worse than death! You would have to go to a psychiatrist. It is a sickness! That's a medical fact. If you have any homosexual thoughts, try to nip them in the bud. Don't think that way. You want to grow up to be normal, don't you? I would be terribly ashamed of you if you were homosexual.

  6. I wrote a poem dedicated to the "Afghan Freedom Fighters" and am going to post it on the bulletin board outside my office door! Here, take a look. I'm rather proud of it. It rhymes, too.

  7. Don't write poetry or fiction. You're not creative enough. You just don't have any talent for it. Stick to technical writing. You seem to do okay with that.

  8. I can't really tell you what's wrong with your writing. It's just not good enough. I don't have time to explain why. Just focus on your schoolwork. That's what's important.

  9. Come read this new poem that I wrote, dedicated to our brave allies, the Freedom Fighters of Aghanistan! No, this is a different version from the last. A new and improved version. I'm going to try and get it published. Give me some feedback on it.

  10. Marijuana is a terrible drug, much worse than alcohol. It leads to hard drugs like heroin. The government says so, and the government wouldn't lie about a thing like that. If it's illegal, it is illegal for a good reason. Has to be! Do you think you're smarter than the government? Well, you're not!

  11. I have to spy on you, search your room from top to bottom when you're not there, and eavesdrop on all of your conversations, in part to make sure you're not using marijuana. Otherwise, I wouldn't be a good parent. You should be thanking me for it. Believe me, I don't enjoy doing it. It's not one of my pleasures, and I don't like it when you accuse me of enjoying it.

  12. Guess what? I found a roach, or a roach clip, or a lighter, or ashes, or a plastic bag, or traces of marijuana! Don't deny it! You're lying! I'm going to call the police! You're grounded for six months! I took all of your money! I took away your computer! No more television for you! You're worthless! You're a drug addict! You're lazy! You're addicted to marijuana!

  13. No, I don't care if you drink, because that's legal. I used to drink. People drink. It's a normal thing to do.

  14. You're not really gay. You only think you're gay because you're trying to emulate Wordsworth.

  15. Did I make you gay? No? Whew, that's a relief. I was worried about that. You weren't attracted to me, were you?

  16. Did you steal a $5 teacup from my bookshelf? It went missing. I think you stole it! I'm not going to speak to you again!

  17. He's in town visiting? I don't care. I'm not going to see him. No, don't put him on the phone. I don't want to talk to him. He stole a $5 teacup from me. I know he did. He's just lying when he says he didn't.

  18. How come you didn't write a thank-you card for the $30 I sent you for Christmas?

The Death Toll of Prohibition

Government thugs in Jamaica burn bodies to cover up their crimes. The death toll is "73 civilians, two police officers and one soldier." The authorities are killing people left and right in their attempts to catch a so-called "marijuana and cocaine kingpin" who has handed out food, sent children to school and built medical centers.

Marijuana itself causes no deaths at all, alleviates the symptoms of several diseases, and is incapable of causing physical addiction, unlike tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln would be puzzled by the modern era's hysteria over a plant they themselves consumed. Many other historical figures would take issue with Prohibition. No rational person, presented with the facts and an accurate history of Prohibition and its impact upon the world, could continue to support it in good conscience.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dogs and Pigs

I'm flattered to read that the tyrant Mugabe of Zimbabwe believes gays like me are "lower than dogs and pigs". To be insulted by such scum is an honor. To be praised by scum would be the real insult. Former Gov. Campbell of South Carolina (R) made a similar remark long ago. I felt the same about the governor's remark.

Humble animals such as a dog or a pig never conceive of doing evil on the scale of a human villain like Mugabe. I would much rather be a dog or a pig than be Mugabe and be responsible for the many deaths and tortures that have marked his bloody reign.

If the Christians are right, and God punishes the wicked, then Mugabe should dread his approaching death. But I think it is not so. The justice of Hell is only an imagined consolation, sweet to the oppressed but false. Mugabe has succeeded in marring his world a little bit. He may never encounter the hand of justice. All the same, I would not want to be him. He has created a hell of his own making. To be feared by all, loved by none, and always watching one's back does not sound like a good life.

What is the difference between Mugabe and the HIV virus? Both cause death. Neither has a conscience. They are both problems that need solutions, but solutions are in short supply in a world that is always creating new problems. Of the two, the HIV virus has wreaked more havoc and poses the greater danger to the human race. The sole virtue of Mugabe is that he is a self-correcting problem, because he is destined to die. His death will be an occasion for rejoicing among millions of people. I will drink a glass of Merlot to his death.

Death is the great equalizer, worthy of praise, though he takes all without prejudice, good and bad, great and small. I worry about the future when scientists do find an answer to the problem of human mortality. They are working day and night on a solution, but it seems a premature goal, unwise at this stage of human development. The rich and the powerful will monopolize any technology designed to prolong life. Throughout history, death has freed many people that languished under the rule of a paranoid despot. Remember Stalin, whose death was a cause of rejoicing throughout the world. Death should not be defeated until the problem of evil is resolved. While powerful men remain wicked, let there be a death to lay them low. When powerful men become good, and their actions are tempered by compassion, then let an answer be found for mortality.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Best Friends, Chapter 4: Postscript

This is a continuation of an earlier story, "Best Friends, Chapter 3: The End."


A few years passed before Brian and I saw each other again. At the time, we were both sixteen. My mother and I were walking in the mall. I recall many details that are irrelevant, such as what we were wearing, the time, the date, and why we were at the mall. I remember the feeling I had that something was about to happen.

He was seated at a table in the Orange Julius, drinking a soda. Seated by him was a boy I recognized named Chris, who ranked high on the list of boys I found attractive. He was our age, athletic, and handsome. He’d sat in front of me in my sophomore English class, before I had changed schools. I’d studied his excellent posterior the better part of a school year. I felt a suspicion that Brian shared my taste.

Chris and I could never be rivals, not over Brian or anyone else. We’d got on well. I’d made him laugh once by pointing out an amusing spectacle during class. The teacher, annoyed by my whispering, demanded I share my observation with everyone. She thought I was talking about her. I wasn’t. I liked her, despite her suspicion to the contrary. I directed her attention to an adjacent chair, which was unoccupied. Seeing nothing, she repeated her demand. I said, “On that chair are a pair of fornicating flies.” One boy asked what fornicating meant. Coloring, she said, “You’re lying!” I said, “No, I’m not. We’ve got Romeo and Juliet back here.” She said, “Flies don’t do that.” I said, “These do. Come back here and see for yourself.” She declined. I received a detention or a suspension. All that mattered to me was that Chris thought it was amusing.

When they saw me, they whispered together. Should Brian ignore me or say hello? I stopped, unsure of what to say or do. Brian’s eyes met mine. I waved hello, expecting to be ignored by both of them, but I underestimated Brian. He disregarded the whispered counsel of Chris, who tried to stop him, and walked toward my mother and me. He greeted my mom, who had always liked him. Towards my mom, he felt a certain regard. Towards me, he felt contempt. The feeling filled all the space around him. I couldn’t prevail against it. He said how glad he was to see my mother and me, but his words sounded false. He studied my face for a reaction, smiling, expecting me to be annoyed, but I wasn't.

At that moment, my thoughts drifted back four years, when I watched from a second floor window as Brian’s mother pulled into our driveway in her small economy car. This was just a month into our friendship, when all was fresh and new between us. Brian opened the car door and stepped out. He was handsome, a dashing hero, a worthy friend. He looked up and noted the admiration in my expression. He smiled, gratified. I waved, but he only nodded, too cool to wave. In the next moment, his expression changed to one of alarm. He’d almost forgotten his Dungeons & Dragons books and dice! Had seeing me distracted him? I laughed. He darted back into the car, picked them up, and shut the door. We were going to play all day long and have a wonderful time. I raced down the stairs to greet him.

As I looked at my ex-friend, that memory seemed strange, as though from another life not my own. The corpse of our friendship was in an advanced stage of decomposition. I was persona non grata. He had already told me just what he thought of me. The time for words was long past, which is why I was silent.

He offered his hand, and I shook it. His grip was soft, not his familiar firm handshake. We parted on as good terms as can be expected. Later when I was alone at home, I wanted to call him. I picked up the phone, only to listen to the dial tone before placing it back. I knew all too well what his response would be.

He sometimes saw me at school. If I said hello, he might turn for an instant, but upon realizing the source, would turn away, and thereafter ignore me. It was as though I no longer existed in his reality. He had sworn that we would be friends forever, but I discovered the worth of his words.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Just Not Fast Enough

One of the things I have noticed as I've gotten older is that my reaction time has gone downhill. I am just not fast enough. An example of my slowness occurred in my Anatomy class today. Over the course of two weeks, I had studied about twenty hours for a test on the bones of the human body, including not just the bones but the parts of the bones, such as the tibial tuberosity on the tibia or the intertrochanteric crest on the femur. I can name and spell these parts without much difficulty. I also know the general locations at least according to the illustrations in my lab workbook. But if the same parts are presented to me out of context, without my familiar landmarks, I am liable to be lost. In particular, if I am shown a closeup photograph of an actual bone, depending upon its alignment (medial, lateral, anterior, posterior), I may be lost.

We had a test today in which we were allotted fifteen seconds per question to identify a Powerpoint presentation of bone parts based upon closeup photographs. After fifteen seconds, the photograph was gone forever, with no review possible. I had a difficult time. I fear that I performed poorly, despite all my studying. On some questions, I was unable to decide within the allotted time and wound up guessing, although I endeavored to make educated guesses whenever possible. The test was multiple choice, which meant I could eliminate answers that were obviously out of context. However, I am most doubtful I made an "A". This distresses me, because I invested much time in studying. I could sit down and draw several diagrams of the human body with most of the bones and bone parts correctly labeled. I know the material. But I am not quite good enough or fast enough to make a decision within fifteen seconds based upon snapshots of closeups of actual bones. Maybe it is because I am old and my brain has lost its reaction time. Maybe I did not study in the proper manner. I relied too much upon the lab book, when I should have spent more time in lab handling actual bones. The professor had warned us ahead of time that the test would be based upon photographs and closeups, so it is my fault, and my fault alone, if I did not heed the warning and spend more time in the lab handling bones.

This is par for the course as far as I am concerned, because I always do things the hard way, never the easy way. In so doing, sometimes I make observations that other people do not make, because they are traveling at high speed along a paved highway, whereas I am trudging by foot along a dirt road. Other times, I get waylaid by bandits, knocked senseless and robbed of all my possessions.

I am scared to check my actual score on the bones test. The professor said she would post them immediately and she usually does whenever we use the scantron form, which can be graded by a machine. However, my courage has been fortified by a 24 ounce serving of "Olde English 800 Malt Liquor," which has become my new favorite beer. Let me just take a little peek at my grade.


Hmm! Not as bad as I feared. My other A's should pull it up. Everyone had said that this was the toughest test of all anyway. My other scores on lab tests are 98 and 95. Word on the street is that the next lab test is a cinch, so I will shoot for 100.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

—"The New Colossus," by Emma Lazarus, 1883

I am Reminded that China is an Evil Nation

Whenever I am in any doubt, another bold example serves to remind me of China's moral alignment. "The Chinese are very negative about the prospect of a democratic, united Korea on their border. They want to keep North Korea alive." - a quote from this article in the Washington Post. Few would dispute that North Korea has one of the worst governments in the world. In that blighted nation, a tyrant stands upon a mountain of human skulls, throwing darts at his neighbors while enjoying the protection of China.

What can be said about the corporate executive officers in the U.S. who have been praised by the business press for slashing costs by removing U.S. jobs overseas to China? These "brave cost-cutters," the darlings of the media, are the reason more products say "Made in China" than "Made in USA".

Monday, May 24, 2010

Repeal Don't Ask / Don't Tell

If Obama accomplishes nothing else in the area of gay rights during his term, the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," would be good enough for me*.

I understand that progress is being made on this front. This could be a historic win for both gays and the country as a whole. Gay Americans should have the right to serve their country in the armed forces without having to fear blackmail and betrayal from troublemakers.

Straights have common cause with gays in many areas, although Republicans pretend otherwise, portraying issues like DADT as a "gay issue." When a good soldier is discharged, military readiness suffers as a result. Plenty of armies around the world, including Israel, have no problem with gay servicemen. It is only in the U.S. that Republicans pretend that it is a big deal.

Another change I would like to see is a substantial revision of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to remove imagined sex crimes from the books, such as oral sex. What consenting adults do in their bedrooms in not an issue for the military courts of justice. These so-called crimes have resulted in the ouster of heterosexual servicemen. In order to see change, voters are going to have to elect more liberals. Conservatives have long been in the habit of manufacturing imaginary crimes or misdemeanors out of sexual matters.

Some people vote for Republicans based upon the notion that Republicans are fiscal conservatives, which proves illusory when exposed to scrutiny. Republican Presidents have outspent Democratic Presidents on a consistent basis. Here is an informative graph of the U.S. national debt, taken from this site:

[*] In contrast with Obama, Clinton did nothing for us, but proved a fair-weather friend. That nervous poll-watcher signed the misnamed "Defense of Marriage Act" and approved "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I used to defend Clinton to any listener and probably have done so in this blog, but have reconsidered. Between a Bush and a Clinton, go with a Clinton of either gender, but if a better choice is available, go with that.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Texas Board of Education Rewrites History

I see a positive potential arising from the Texas Board of Education rewriting history from the social conservative point of view. Perhaps more people will bother to vote in future elections in Texas, which has long been a Republican stronghold. Sometimes strong medicine is required to cure a patient of delusions. There are many things that may be overlooked by the electorate, but rewriting history in a brazen manner should succeed in attracting the attention of parents. It will be interesting to observe what will follow.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Drug Dealer

When I lived in a low-income apartment complex back in the day, a man and his wife moved into the apartment directly above ours. They played their stereo far too loud, which is the number one complaint in apartment buildings the world over. People have the right to peace and quiet in their own home. It's not much to ask. If someone needs their loud music, why not use headphones? No need to subject everyone else to the same stuff. What some people think of as music, others interpret as noise.

The man who lived above us had a friend that would be locked out from time to time. I think the wife did not like this "friend" and wanted to keep him out. The "friend" would shimmy up the pole from our apartment patio to their apartment patio. Once he hopped onto their patio, he jimmied open their back door to let himself in. For my part, it was disturbing to look out the window and see a pair of legs dangling in mid-air. I interrogated him one afternoon to find out what he was up to. I ordered him to leave, because he seemed like a burglar to me. He left, but later the neighbor explained, in a polite fashion, that he was a friend and asked if it would be all right if he jimmied up the pole once in a while. I agreed, but specified that there should be no littering on our potted plants, because we had found cigarette butts on more than one occasion, which is a token of disrespect. He and his friends were also in the habit of leaving empty beer cans everywhere, including the parking lot where I parked my car.

On several occasions, I went up to knock on their door and complain because of the loud music. The man was polite on those occasions and did turn the music down, but there would be repeat provocations later, particularly during the day if they assumed that no one was at home below. They seemed to be home all of the time.

We overheard a violent fight late one night. The wife took off and never came back. She probably made the right decision. The man began to unravel. Loud music became an everyday occurrence. I thumped a broom handle on the ceiling whenever it became too much, and sometimes he would turn it down, but sometimes he wouldn't.

He began to deal drugs. It was obvious. People would drop by at all hours of the day and night. We saw headlights in our window and then heard voices, followed by knocking on his door. Two or three minutes later, the same people would leave. We overheard his footsteps creaking on the floor boards all night long on most nights. But the constant in and out traffic was disturbing. These customers littered the parking lot with their beer cans, cigarette butts and candy wrappers. Their music was loud and wretched. I was pretty sure about my hunch, because the length of visits was no greater than a few minutes apiece. These were not social calls, but drive-through shopping. There were about a half-dozen to a dozen visits most nights.

If someone decides to deal drugs, the very least they should do is make sure that their neighbors are not inconvenienced in any way. Good relations with neighbors is essential no matter what, but in an illegal profession, they are paramount. Fear will not serve to ensure silence.

I did something I never thought I would do in my entire life. I called the cops to report a drug dealer. Granted, I am opposed to Prohibition. I do not believe drugs should be illegal--any drugs, for that matter. No drugs were illegal in 1776, and none need to be illegal today either. But this guy was running a twenty-four hour, seven-day a week business right above my home. Between the loud music and the noise and the commotion in the dead of night, I was having difficulty sleeping, and I worked a full-time corporate job from 7 AM to 4 PM. It was either him or me.

To my surprise, the police officer I spoke with on the phone sounded disinterested. He took down my name, phone number, and address, and then asked me a few questions, but I got the feeling he did not take me seriously. Nothing whatsoever came of this phone call. The neighbor continued dealing drugs in the middle of the night. I did not notice any police presence. There were no follow-up calls made to me. Only later did I understand the reason why. In our town, there are a great many busybodies in the habit of calling the police whenever they see someone suspicious walking through the neighborhood. To them, anyone unfamiliar is suspicious. I am sure the narcotics detective I spoke with fields calls every day from "concerned citizens."

I solved the problem of my bad neighbor in a different manner. I was on amicable terms with the home owner who lived across the street. She disliked the litter that drifted into her yard from the apartment complex. She had no idea where it was coming from. I let her know it was our neighbor and his drug customers that were dumping their trash in the parking lot. She knew the owner of the apartment complex--I believe he was a relative. I urged her to let him know her feelings about the situation. She made a phone call, and the neighbor was evicted within a matter of weeks.

Repercussions were minor. I was then in the habit of walking everywhere to save fuel and get exercise. I thought it was a good habit, and it was, but it was not safe. Nothing brings out the cowardice of a jackal than an automobile, the getaway vehicle that prevents reprisals. My partner and I were walking from the grocery store one night when someone in a car threw a large cup of iced soda, striking me in the back of the head. They screamed obscenities. Then they sped off into the night. I never got a good look at my assailant or his license plate number, although it seems likely it was the drug dealer or one of his customers, because he had been evicted just a month prior to that incident.

Rand Paul

From what I gather, Rand Paul, the Republican Senate candidate from Kentucky, has views similar to his father, Ron Paul. I find much to praise in his father's views. Ron Paul has expressed disapproval over both the foreign wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the domestic Drug War.

Where I differ from the Pauls is their defending the rights of businesses over the rights of individuals. A common libertarian belief is that business owners should have the right to do basically whatever they please, without regard to how it effects individuals or society as a whole. It derives from Ayn Rand, whose last name is Rand Paul's first. Objectivism is alive and well and riding upon the shoulders of the Tea Party.

Noam Chomsky pointed out that government is the only thing that can counter the power and influence of large corporations, something that Ayn Rand never accepted. She believed government was always in the position of tyrant, perhaps because she fled a communist society, where that was indeed the case. In the situation of a capitalist economy, such as that of the U.S., sometimes private power can grow to have such a pervasive amount of power and influence that it becomes tyrannical.

The influence of business interests over government policy has for a long time been of concern to our leaders, dating back as far as the time of Thomas Jefferson. The owners bribe and coerce government officials, one way or the other, to do their bidding, even in cases where business interests conflict with the greater interests of society. This was true in the past and remains true today. Businesses can threaten to remove their operations to neighboring states, causing unemployment and loss of tax revenue in a state or local community. Placed in the position of competing with neighboring states for the jobs and tax base, many states grant generous tax incentives, land grants and other favors even to foreign corporations such as Honda or Mitsubishi. Only the federal government has sufficient power and influence to curb that of corporations.

It troubles me that Rand Paul believes criticism of British Petroleum is "un-American." It also troubles me that Rand Paul believes restaurants have a right to refuse to serve minorities. If restaurants have that right, then by extension, so would gas stations and hotels, and entire spans of our country could become inhospitable to minorities. Imagine driving for hundreds of miles without the ability to purchase gas, eat a meal, or sleep in an inn, only because of the color of one's skin. This is the kind of future Rand Paul envisions? I believe Martin Luther King, Jr., would have begged to differ.

I like Rand Paul when he talks about legalizing medical marijuana, though. I wish he'd support legalizing marijuana for everyone. Perhaps he should talk about the Drug War more, and the Civil Rights Act less. I also like him when he points out the wastefulness of foreign wars. He's got some good ideas, certainly better ones than other conservative Republicans. I'm glad the Republican Party is starting to have ideological diversity, if no other kind. However, I have the feeling Paul is selling out when it comes to businesses. Taking the position that businesses are always right, and government is always wrong may please some of the rich, but where does that leave the poor and the middle classes?

I do not believe Thomas Jefferson would have supported this idea that corporations should be permitted to do whatever they want, and should not be criticized by public officials, such as President Obama. If that ever becomes the situation, then all of us will be owned by companies like British Petroleum. It is bad enough BP's product is entering our food chain at the moment. I don't want them telling me whether I can buy gas based upon my physical characteristics. Government regulation is about the only thing protecting consumers from arbitrary hardships, fraud, and pollution. Government regulation is the only way workers are protected from their employers. It is why many people work an eight hour day rather than a twelve hour day, like my grandfather, who worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week, with a half-day off on Sundays for church.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Best Friends, Chapter 3: The End

This is a continuation of an earlier story, "The Rivalry."


Brian and I were standing in his front yard one day when a big dog approached. Brian had a natural rapport with dogs and immediately bonded with it. As for me, I succeeded in petting it, and then it knocked me down and began humping me, as if I were a female dog. I can still remember its member striking my belly. Brian could not help laughing. I thought I could break free on my own, but the dog was surprisingly strong for its size. “Pull him off me!” I shouted. Brian slapped it on the back and shouted, “Bad dog! Bad dog!” and chased it off. Under the circumstances, I could not blame Brian laughing. The danger having passed, I was inclined to smile at it myself.

By the seventh grade, Brian and I had become inseparable. At school, if you saw one of us, the other was not far behind. We always knew what the other was doing. Our constant companionship aroused suspicion. One day in the school cafeteria, an older mulatto boy, a foot taller than either of us, asked Brian a question in a whisper. Brian replied by shaking his head, and looked embarrassed. I walked up and asked what was being said. Before Brian could reply, the older boy turned to me and asked if we were “bonky buddies.” I stammered and said no. He was twice my size, and could have picked me up and thrown me across the room. He said nothing more, however, but let us be. Brian and I never talked about sex, and especially not about homosexuality. Though well aware of being close friends, best friends, we avoided thinking about, much less discussing, other possibilities, which we considered disturbing. That which is not discussed sometimes assumes greater importance than issues that are out in the open.

To compensate for lack of strength, I was inclined to show off, whether it was in chess, which I insisted upon playing once I realized that I was the stronger player, or the fact that I was accepted into the gifted program based upon an I.Q. test, while he missed the cut by a few percentage points.

Brian liked to wrestle with me in his front yard. He was the better fighter. Once he hit me hard in the stomach, and I had to quit. He put his arm around me and kept saying, "I'm sorry. I feel low. I feel like a snake." I put my hand on his shoulder and told him it was all right. He was my best friend, and we would be friends forever. Nothing could come between us. After his arm rested on my shoulder, I had recovered immediately! I felt very happy and warm inside. I wanted to get closer and express what I felt without words. Of course, this seemed impossible, and it was considered wrong by everyone we knew, and most importantly, by Brian, and the fear of crossing a boundary stopped me. My own feelings bewildered me. Were they right? They certainly felt right to me. My feelings disturbed me because of what others might say about them. They were genuine and occurred very naturally to me. I worried that others would think I was bad and hate me. Most of all, I foresaw that Brian would turn against me if I touched him in any way.

We were close anyway and knew each others mind. The trust between us was as strong as steel. There were those who tried to get one of us to say ill about the other or indulge in some petty treachery, but they failed. We remained true to each other, through all adversity, while our friendship survived. Sometimes a boy would approach to retaliate for something offensive that I had said. I had a reckless, caustic wit as a youngster and made enemies. To this day, I still make enemies when I get bored and careless with words. Brian made my enemies back off. It became known that I was under his protection. Bullies backed off.

Two years passed in the manner that I have described. For the young, always developing and maturing, two years encompass many profound changes. For me, the changes were profound indeed.

We spent the night over at each other's house as often as we could, which gave Brian’s mother concern. She thought we spent too much time together and tried to discourage it, suggesting vaguely that it might be better to find other friends, with the obvious implication, but this threat never amounted to anything. Brian’s mother was fundamentalist Christian. I perceived her anxiety that our friendship might have a homosexual dimension. His mother’s good opinion was paramount to him.

I remember his mother well, a fair-skinned woman with short wavy brown hair, no more than an inch taller than I was, wearing glasses over cold gray eyes. She was a hard-working single mother, with stress a-plenty, and worked long hours, and there was not much joy in her life other than the delight she took in her son and her church. Brian loved her like no son ever loved a mother. He saved up money from doing yard work around the neighborhood to buy her a 14K gold necklace, which cost over three hundred dollars.

In the beginning, she approved of me over the neighborhood boys who had a penchant for misbehavior and foul language, but over time, she came to disapprove of me as well, at first due to my lack of religion, and secondly, the emerging specter of homosexuality, for my dual nature became clear to any astute observer over time. I wish that she and I could have become friends. I was forever trying to please her, but she remained cold and distant. She seldom smiled at me, but looked rather suspicious and analytical. I recall her exchanging looks with Brian that hinted at her real feelings toward me.


In my seventh grade yearbook was stored the only remaining artifact of Brian. I remember the day that he signed it. I didn’t want him too, but he insisted. He was a stickler for formalities. My reason for avoiding his signature was that I reasoned we’d be friends forever. Signing my yearbook seemed like a jinx to me. I submitted to his demand however.

He wrote in printed letters, not cursive. His writing is bold and clear. Confidence drips from every letter. When he writes the pronoun “I”, he gives it two horizontal lines at each end. Those who have studied graphology know what I am talking about. I liked his handwriting. I used to put my hand over his name and imagine that I could transmit a thought from my mind to his. He didn’t sign his name, but printed it. Maybe that spoiled the magic. He wrote: “To the best friend I’ve ever had. Good luck.” Underneath that was his name. The “good luck” part puzzled me. I asked him immediately, “What do you mean, ‘good luck?’ As if we’re never going to see each other again.” He shrugged and said, “It just sounded like the type of thing you’re supposed to say in a yearbook.” I accepted his explanation. Later, I perceived that he was already reevaluating our friendship, and "Good Luck," meant exactly what I had thought it meant.

One day, as I was talking to him in the hall at school, he pushed me without any provocation. I lost my balance and fell against the wall. Thickly painted concrete blocks, where hundreds of students passed daily, offered no traction for my grasping hands. I slid down to the floor. I thought Brian would help me up or apologize, but he did neither. Brian thought this was the funniest thing he had ever seen. Though he apologized halfheartedly, I saw that he despised me for being weak. In the world of boys, strength matters. My body was a disappointment to me in this respect. My muscles lost conditioning rapidly in the absence of daily exercise, and I tended to be thinner than I should be. Even my mother said so. But to my knowledge there isn’t any place to return a body for a refund, save the grave.


Dad had been acting strange, eccentric, and jovial for weeks, and his arguments with Mom had become more frequent. He also grew distant from me and less like his old self, which hurt. This was all I knew, and I had no explanation.

One day, Mother asked me to follow her in the garage, a strange request. Once there, she hesitated, considering how to go about telling me something of grave importance. This annoyed me. I said impatiently, “Why did you bring me here?”

“Because it is the one place in the house where he won’t hear us.”

“Who? Andy?” Andy was the usual troublemaker in our house, the one who was always talked about.

“No, your father.”

I was shocked. “Why?”

She hesitated. She looked so serious. I sensed this was Big. I knew there was trouble in their marriage. “Is he having an affair?”

She laughed nervously. “No. Your father is having a nervous breakdown.”

She then proceeded to list his words and actions that had led her to this conclusion. I laughed at the bizarre list, agreed that the behavior was eccentric, but dismissed the notion of madness in my father. Heresy! Beware the machinations of a woman! I loved my father!

“Wait right here. Don’t leave. I am going to get your brother, and he can tell you himself.”

Alone in the garage, I stood waiting, anxious. Could this be true?

Andy appeared and reluctantly backed Mother. Together they told me that my Father was manic-depressive, had been taking Lithium since I was born, had suffered breakdowns previously and was now in the midst of a manic phase, after which he would cycle to the inevitable depression. This secret had been kept from me all along. Now, at the age of thirteen, I knew.

Our family endured Father’s antics for many months, because he could not legally be committed for eccentric behavior that was completely discordant with the father we had known all our lives. To get the edge off, or whatever rationalization you prefer, I started smoking cigarettes, followed by marijuana.

Father’s condition steadily dissolved. When Father stopped taking his Lithium, his trajectory invariably landed him in the funny farm. He became hostile and acted increasingly erratic. When he made threats against us, Mother asked Andy and me for our opinions, and we concurred that the time had come to approach the authorities. Father was arrested and taken in a squad car to be evaluated at the hospital.

The timing of Mother’s move was important. His illness had to have progressed to the point that he could be deemed by a “jury” of three psychiatrists to be a danger to himself or others, the legal criterion for being committed against one’s will. To my recollection, he impressed the shrinks during his interview and would have been released. When he was told his wife had initiated the proceedings, out of love and respect for her or maybe an awareness of his sickness, he voluntarily committed himself to the custody of the hospital.

Upon his release, he resumed normalcy, behaving much as he always had. Mother stood by him through this, for our sake, for the stability of the family, and in loyalty to her husband, who she was to remain with for over thirty years. Dad was not any different after his return to our household, just wounded, humbled, and saddened as we all were. I cannot say that my brother and I played the saints, because we taunted him at times, with the cruelty of rebellious children. For the most part, however, he regained his former stature. It could have been hoped that he might have switched from lithium to a better medicine, but there were not many alternatives in those days. He suffered often and terribly from gastrointestinal complaints owing to daily lithium use.

Mother confided in Brian’s mother, who told Brian. On being told that Brian knew, I calculated the crisis earned me sympathy from him and, hopefully one of the forbidden displays of affection. Such was not the case. Brian never said anything to me uncharitable, but I felt he looked at me in a different light after being invested with the knowledge. I was no longer just a bright boy with a college professor for a father. I was the son of a madman. Add to that the troublesome thought that the disease, as everyone knew, was hereditary. Who knows, maybe I was a little nutty too. Manic depression runs in families and afflicts a surprising percentage of people. The incurable disease typically manifests in males in adolescence or their twenties. A devilish new question confronted Andy and me and would enter the thoughts of our parents as well, whenever we acted peculiar. Could one of us have inherited the disease? I was always ready to doubt myself, to abandon ship.

Brian was uneasy talking about my father. His own father had abandoned his mother and him, and he judged me luckier overall. I tended to dwell upon my misfortune. He preferred to change the subject. The unspoken thought in his mind was, I should be tough and keep a stiff upper lip. That is how he responded to adversity. The classical stoicism of the Romans and the Spartans was his ideal, which I envied as an unattainable virtue. I was not that tough.

Brian began to view me increasingly as a liability, because I was unpopular, while he enjoyed a degree of popularity. He found other friends, and I became his old guard, a familiar old thing he liked, but spent less time with as time went on.
I began hanging out with the outsiders, the boys who failed at school, the juvenile delinquents, the druggies. Brian associated with those destined to succeed in this world, call them preppies if you like, or straight-A students. He joined the track team in his freshman year and grew physically strong. At the time, I was dissolute, while he was hardworking and ambitious.

Smoking led to bouts with brochitis. One bout lasted over three months, which persuaded my doctor to send me to the hospital in order to monitor the situation and test for pneumonia. Brian surprised me by coming to visit. I was touched, because we were not as close as we used to be. He wore blue jeans and a blue and red coat. I had not seen the red coat before, but that was because I had not seen him in weeks. We did not visit each other anymore. “How did you know to come?” I asked.

“Your mom called my mom.”


He took his coat off and smiled. He was performing a Christian duty, not so much, perhaps, out of friendship, but it didn't matter to me. I was so happy to see him. I said, “I’m sorry for being a burden.”

“Aw, shut up. It’s not a big deal. I wanted to see you.”

A nurse came in while he was there and scolded me for keeping the Atari game system for so long. I was addicted to the video games. “There are other children in the ward who are far worse off than you, and they haven’t been able to play these games at all!” She carted the system away, and I never asked for it again. I was embarrassed.

Brian said, “Do you want me to go get it back? I’ll tell her supervisor just how she spoke to you. She was rude and offensive! It’s not your responsibility to manage the game system, it is the staff’s!”

I shook my head. “Nah. She’s right. Let the sicker ones have it. They need it more than I do.”

“Alright, if you say so.” He seemed disappointed.

I grinned. “You’re feisty.”


“It’s good to see you, Brian. I didn’t expect you to come.”

“Why not? I’m your friend, aren’t I?”

“I guess. But I mean it’s not like it was before, is it?”

“What do you mean?”

“We don’t spend as much time together. You know, we used to talk on the phone every day after school.”

“Ah, well. We’re getting older. You know. It happens. We're interested in different things now.”

“I guess so.”

“You want me to go and let you sleep?”

“You’ve put in enough time. You’re a trooper. You know that? A great friend.”

“Thanks.” He came up and held out his hand. We shook. He left. I looked at the clock. He had been with me ten minutes, just enough time for appearance's sake.

Place on penicillin, or some other powerful antibiotic, or combination of antibiotics, I recovered. I came back from the hospital after a few days, and was finally cured of brochitis after a few more weeks. I remember spitting up so much gunk, having difficulty breathing. I must have had brochitis a dozen times in my youth.

Brian was developing many different interests. He signed up for track. He won academic awards, and instead of congratulating him, I felt envy, because I was supposed to be smarter. He joined after-school clubs that I viewed as meaningless. He exhorted me to join the track team. Such a move might have been my salvation. I sense this now with the advantage of hindsight. Ironically, later in life I took to jogging and loved it. But at fourteen, to me joining any kind of extracurricular activity seemed insane. More time spent at school? Forget it! Brian’s optimism proved no match for my endless capacity for manufacturing excuses.

“But I don’t know anyone on the track team!” I said.

“You know me.” Brian was calm and confident, and what is more, at some level, I knew he was right, but I was a thousand miles away from him. I do not know how to explain.

“Well, the other guys will pick on me!”

“No, they won’t, not if I am around. Besides, they're not that bad.”

“You can’t be around all time. What are you, Superman? I don’t think so. Besides, I don’t like running or jogging.”

“It’s good for you. You’ll catch on, if you just start doing it.”

“It’s too much work!”

“It’s fun. You’ll like it.”

“Look, I’m not like you and don’t want to be like you! You go be a stupid jock! I don’t care about that crap! Just leave me alone about the track team, okay?”

A leaden expression came over his face. He said nothing, but I sensed that I had gone too far. As I watched him walk away, I knew I had made a mistake, but felt strangely helpless to do anything about it. A chill crept over me. I felt dizzy and nauseated.

The last time he came over to spend the night at my house, the distance between us had grown vast. We were both fourteen years old. He had suggested coming over, which puzzled me.

He kept his thoughts to himself, with the stoicism of a Roman soldier, while I rattled on, acting amused, which succeeded in irritating him. When he came up to my room, coins were lying all over my desk and several shelves. Knickknacks littered the floor.

I asked, giggling, “Do you disapprove of the condition of my room?”

He nodded. I know he would have kept this to himself if I had not asked, because he was polite.

I snapped, "I don't care what you think! Neatness is not important! I don’t give a damn!" I laughed.

I did other little things, petty remarks designed to provoke him. I do not know why. Maybe I wanted to break his stoic demeanor and see his temper. “I can see you disapprove of me, Brian. So tell me. Why did you even come over here?”

“Your mother asked me to.” He did not smile, taking no pleasure in the truth.

I was shocked into silence. She had asked him, with much praise and flattery, as a personal favor to her, because she knew that Brian was a good influence upon me. He found it difficult to refuse a woman that he admired. Now, surely, he regretted it.

When night came, we lay down in the same bed, not because I wanted that, only because my mother insisted on this, because she did not want Brian to lie on the floor or resort to using the sofa. It seemed unaccountable to me that my mother suggested we share a bed, at fourteen. She was opposed to homosexuality. I can only assume that she was naive, but we were not, and both of us felt awkward at the unfamiliar intimacy.

Though I usually repressed my homosexual feelings, I felt frisky with Brian in my bed, only two feet away. I rubbed my foot up against his leg in my most brazen provocation yet. He kicked my foot away and told me angrily, “If you touch me again, I’m going to hit you!”

I laid still, in silence. I felt shocked by my own behavior. “I’m sorry, Brian. I was only been playing around.”

He adopted a softer, apologetic note. “Yeah, sure. Whatever. Don’t worry about it.”

“No, it’s not alright. Look, it wasn’t my idea for us to sleep together. I know you feel uncomfortable in the same bed with me.”

“No, I’m okay. Look, I’m sorry. I take back what I said about hitting you. Just don’t touch me, alright? Now go to sleep and forget about it.”

That was Brian's solution to everything: don't talk about it, shut up, focus on what is supposed to be important, and damn the details. I prefer to analyze matters, get to the heart of things, understand the reasons, and try to understand what is going on. That was the difference between him and me. He was a soldier. I was a scholar.

I remained silent, staring up at the ceiling. I got up, taking my pillow with me. “I’m going to sleep downstairs. I don’t think I can sleep up here. We’ll both feel more comfortable that way.”

He argued with me, told me not to go, repeated his apology, and said I didn't have to be afraid of him. He was mistaken. I did not fear him. I perceived that he intended to endure this unpleasant visit, not cause any scene, nor hurt me, because he was after all a guest in my house and he did have manners. I did not like the implication that I was taking advantage of him, forcing him to sleep with me.

I went downstairs and slept on the sofa. The next morning, my mother saw me in the living room and asked where Brian was. I told her he was upstairs sleeping, and she said, “Why didn’t you two sleep together?”

“Because, Mom, he didn’t want that. It was a bad idea. It’s kind of gay, you know. He thinks it’s wrong.”

“Well, my friends and I slept together when I was your age. There was nothing gay about it. Nothing sexual at all about it.”

“But you’re a girl, Mom. It’s different for guys. Especially at our age. We’re teenagers now.”

When he arose from bed, Brian said nothing at all to me other than what was required for civility. He was unfailingly polite to my mother and me, pretending nothing was wrong, even though everything was wrong, as far as I was concerned. After breakfast, when my mother had departed to the kitchen to clean, I said, “Brian, can we go up to my room and talk?”

“Sure. What for?”

“There’s something I wanted to tell you.”

“Let’s go.”

We went up to my room, and I closed the door. He picked up one of my books, “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. He started humming a song, tuning me out.

I paused, listening to him hum the same song as when we first met, when we played chess for the first time. I said, “Listen. I know we’re not going to be friends anymore. We’re too different now. It’s just not possible.”

He did not look at me. He was looking at the furniture, the window, the door. “Oh, that’s not true. I’m here, aren’t I? I wouldn’t have come if I wasn’t a friend.”

I smiled. “Brian, you would rather be doing anything than spending your day with me. I understand the reasons why. After we finish talking, I want you to call your mother and ask her to pick you up. You can go on home. I won’t keep you here any longer. I know that you just came because you feel sorry for me. Because of my father’s illness.”

Brian stared at the floor. He knew very well that what I said was true. In his own way he was brave, but in my own way, I was brave too, because I could say things that were true without any hesitation. “Don’t say that. You’re still a friend. I don’t feel sorry for you. Why should I? You have a nice house and nice parents. I think you have a good life. Your parents give you a lot of nice things. You should be thankful for what you have.” He put the book down, glanced at me, then looked away.

We were silent for a time. He went to the window, looked out. His expression changed. "Are you serious? I can leave? There is a party. A bunch of guys are getting together. There will be girls there too. I want to go. Can I call my mom and have her come pick me up?"

"Go and make your call.” I waited. He looked at me, saw I was sincere, turned and went downstairs, as I knew he would, and picked up the phone. He was gone within an hour.


In the ninth grade, a sadistic juvenile criminal was placed behind in the seating order in Physical Education, due to the unlucky alphabetical order of my name. Deviating from the seating order was strictly prohibited, though it would have saved me countless beatings and humiliation. My frequent complaints to the Physical Education teacher were ignored, or if anything, he would tell me to shut up and sit where I was supposed to sit. He had an authoritarian personality. One did as one was told, and that was that. The instructor was a redneck and thought it virtuous and manly to be unconcerned about anyone else other than oneself.

Every day the bully hit me in the back with his fists, quite hard, torturing me and calling me names in the presence of the entire gym class, silent accomplices who looked on at the spectacle not with amusement, because they recognized him for a criminal and hated and feared him also, but with indifference. It is easy to watch others suffer and not care. Occasionally, a white boy would sympathize with me due to our shared skin color, since the bully was Hispanic. I would be advised to fight back. Several times, I did so, but the bully always retaliated and was stronger and tougher than me. I seethed with hate but worse than that, self-hate, but physically was puny, while mentally enthralled to depression.

I feared punishment by the school authorities if I did anything to the bully. I feared being arrested. I feared my gym teacher. I feared the bully most of all. I thought he might hurt me or even kill me. It seemed entirely possible. He perceived enough of my fear to know that he could torture me with impunity. I skipped the maximum amount of days in that class. I hated myself, hated school, and withdrew more. When I came home, I went directly to bed and cried. I hated the bully and fantasized of bringing a gun to school and killing him, followed by myself. My fantasies were all centered around suicide, of ending everything at the age of fourteen, putting an end to shame, an end to humiliation, an end to feelings of worthlessness, cowardice, and inferiority.

My parents had a large library of books. I pulled the ones on psychology down from the shelves, the only section that interested me being the one on suicide, for life had no more allure for me. It was dogeared from frequent use. The chapter on suicide made me feel hopeful, like there was an end to pain and misery, and here it was, easy and effective. I could leave this world, and not many people would care, and it would be as though I had never existed. Brian would never feel contempt for me again. Instead, he would feel pity, if he were human at all. If he forgot me altogether, then that was alright too.

One day, our high school counselor appeared at my locker, no doubt referred by an unknown teacher of mine, who had perceived, correctly, that I was a kid in trouble. I asked him why he had chosen to talk to me. He hemmed and hawed, unwilling to divulge his source, which made me distrust him and feel like others were conspiring against me. My energies were set to deducing which of my teachers had betrayed me, instead of evaluating his proposal in good faith. I remember little of the words he said. I was suspicious. My only dealings with adults in this school had been unpleasant, usually involving punishment in the form of detention, suspension, or lost recess. Adults were the enemy. They never helped. They only punished. They were to be feared and hated. I stared into his face. He wore a professional smile and seemed phony. He tried to persuade me to see him and talk about my problems. What else could he do? He couldn't force me to see him, as far as I know, though that might have been the ideal maneuver--indeed, it may have turned my life around, if he possessed skill. But he did not.

I felt I had many things to hide, principally my sexuality, of course, though I was not completely aware of that. I felt he could not understand me, not in a million years. Under the guise of helping me, he might hurt me by telling my awful secret to my parents or to the principal (because, I reasoned, he was duty-bound, if not legally required, to do so). I turned him down. In hindsight, I know this was a mistake. He shrugged his shoulders. He was only trying to help. If I didn't want help, fine. I watched him walk away in much the same way I had watched Brian walk away, wanting to stop him from leaving, wanting to receive help, but not being able to, paralyzed by I know not what.


The last memory I have of a D&D meeting is dark. I don’t remember any words that were spoken, but only feelings and images, which is a mercy. By this time, many changes had happened in my life. All of my foundations had crumbled. Increasing awareness of my sexuality loomed like a threatening and alien force. I did not know what homosexuality meant or what would happen to me. There were no examples of any gay people besides the most flamboyant stereotypes in movies and television, who were usually portrayed as villains or victims. My parents were homophobic. The God that I had worshiped since boyhood was dead to me, slain by Reason, and all my old beliefs seemed like evidence of my own gullibility. My family seemed surreal, with a mad father, a hell-raising brother, queer me, and a normal mother who endured just for our sakes. We seemed quite humble and powerless in a vast and hostile world. The entire world was against me, because I was queer, and happiness was impossible. I foresaw that my friendship with Brian would die. He could not respect anyone as different as me. Knowledge of our friendship’s doom filled me with dread. I foresaw also that all of my other friendships would also be severed. Nothing would last.

I felt determined to show creative genius, which I wanted to hold up as compensation for my physical weakness and queerness. I designed an adventure campaign for our D&D group. I stole ideas from Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” mapping out the terrain of a fantasy world upon graph paper, with each square representing five miles. In the North, a witch-lord held sway over armies of orcs, goblins and other creatures. Sound familiar? His symbol was not far different from the white hand representing the forces of Saruman. The evil lord rested secure in a deep underground fortress, well-protected by traps, monsters and magic. In short, I stole all my ideas. I envisioned a long campaign that would span many meetings and endure for several years. The evil lord would eventually, after a long struggle, be overcome by the wit and resources of a little band of player-characters, played by my friends. In reality, my designs inspired no one. Mine was but a pale imitation of “The Lord of the Rings” and without beauty. After this one meeting, everyone lost interest, not only in my adventure, but in the D&D group itself, which disbanded.

In defiance of their rejection, I submitted the work to TSR, the role-playing corporation that published Dragon Magazine, in the hopes that I might be published and prove all my friends wrong. The kind editor took time out of his day to write me a personal letter of rejection, but only out of regard for my age of thirteen. Thus encouraged, I sent other letters, other submissions, time-wasters which were ignored. I suspect the editor regretted even responding to me in the first place. I took the hint and stopped wasting postage.

Picture us seated around a table: Alice, Brian, Chris, David, and me. Brian is seated by my side, as always, strong and firm. What I feel for him must never be spoken of, and instead I must keep my mind upon the game. To my recollection, there was no one fatal utterance I made, no one moment of weakness, but rather a general feeling of unquiet filled our meeting. I was not myself, but like one possessed. In my heart was grief, because of the things that I felt and that I perceived, but on my face was a mask.

I have absorbed a vast array of details. I have lost myself in the game. The entire rulebook is committed to memory. My knowledge of the game encompasses minutia such as the hit dice, armor class, attack and movement rate of every monster, the damage rating of every weapon, the effects of every spell and magical item, and more. I know all the details in all the books verbatim, which I was proud of at the time. Even to this day, I can quote the hit dice of certain monsters, the attributes of certain character races and classes.

My friends and I were changing into adolescents. An unspoken thread ran through everyone's mind. Why should we care for role-playing adventures? We could go and make our own adventures. Of course I became aware of this too, especially after everyone quit playing. After a month of playing by myself, I cast my D&D books aside. All my labors and my games seemed like folly to me, of no use, a waste of time and effort.

As through a haze of smoke, I can see once again my old friends’ eyes looking at me with disapproval. Glances flicker between them--observations shared about me that need not be spoken aloud. A certain regard still remained for me, for old times' sake--and perhaps Brian had told them my secrets. The spirit of Brian was far away from me. Cold thoughts were in his mind. I was quite alone with my papers, dice, and pen. He wore a mask when he looked at me. The pupils in his eyes were tiny dots. I saw that all that had once been was unwoven.

Best Friends, Chapter 2: The Rivalry

This is a continuation of an earlier story, "Mate."

I asked Brian why he liked me, not quite as confident with people as I am with chess. He told me that I was the smartest friend he had and that he liked me better than anyone else. His single mother was not well off. I remember her and Brian always being concerned about money and living in a neighborhood not quite as nice as mine. None of his neighborhood friends read books or had any interests besides sports. They posed as young toughs, cursing, boasting, insulting each other and everyone else, and spitting, or in other words, accentuating their vulgarity rather than showing any refinement. They bored and disgusted him. He could predict all their opinions and ideas. While they accepted him, because he was strong, he did not more than tolerate them.

Brian and I both did well in school. None of our classes challenged us until we began Eighth grade Algebra, at which time I had difficulty while Brian, who had much better study habits, succeeded. We read the excellent Lord of the Rings trilogy, the definitive fantasy classic, and often discussed each chapter. During recess, we played war games over imaginary continents drawn in the dirt on the playground. We played chess, though less often as time went by. My father and brother played me at home, sharpening my skills. Within a few months, I could beat Brian every game. Consequently, his interest in the game declined drastically until it was nonexistent.

The advent of my friendship with Brian threatened Mick, who learned of it through me, asking why I had not returned his calls. He demanded guarantees that I did not like Brian better than him. Being an honest soul, I could not provide such assurances. Brian told me that he already knew Mick and did not like him at all. Brian was contemptuous of him, but had consented to sleepovers at Mick’s house for the same reasons I had, namely Mick’s excellent library of video games. Brian wished only to have admirable friends and saw little to admire in Mick. He quit returning Mick’s phone calls and just dropped him.

I was flattered by the attentions of both boys, and their obvious jealousy and dislike of each other, and though on the surface I tried to make peace between them, secretly I delighted in their mutual hostility, for it was flattering to be the one that both liked and wished to keep. When Mick realized that he could not dislodge Brian from me, he attempted to make peace with Brian so that his friendship with me could proceed without any complications. Poor old Mick did the very best he could, even going so far as to invite Brian and me both for a sleepover one night which we both attended. He was as friendly and polite as he could possibly be to Brian.

Brian returned his civility, but an underlying coldness was palpable. Brian and I would exchange glances, and when Mick left the room, we would whisper to one another shared observations of his faults. We were horrible, just as young people often are. Mick deserved better. I wish he had made other friends and never even met us. I am not proud of the way that we treated him. However, his persistent pursuit of me and lack of judgment rather aggravated the difficult situation.

I remained friends with both Brian and Mick for about a month further, but Brian’s dislike of Mick only grew in intensity, exactly as I had foreseen. He never relented. Brian’s demands upon my time were enormous, leaving me little time or energy remaining for Mick or anyone else. He would call me up almost every day after school and we would talk until my ear was red. Then I would switch the phone over to my other ear and talk until that too was red. My throat would go hoarse from talking so much. He often complimented me and let me know in countless ways how much he enjoyed talking and being with me. It was not long before he told me I was his best friend. He was never in doubt where my feelings stood. My loyalty to him was unquestionable.

When before I used to spend much time with Mick, I was now spending my time with Brian, sleeping over at his house, where we would typically play board games together. Our favorites were Monopoly, chess, Stratego, and Parcheesi. We went out to the movies, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder and arm to arm deep in our chairs watching popular action-oriented films like “Star Wars” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, our favorites. There was always plausible deniability in our friendship. Brian despised anything that was perceived as homosexual or effeminate. I never suspected he might feel the same feelings that I felt, and I never spoke of those things which I knew must not be talked about.

The summer of our eleventh year, Brian and I began playing Dungeons & Dragons with our circle of friends, initially including Mick, because we had to out of common decency, still being his friend nominally if not in fact. Mick had not known the existence of the game until he discovered that I was playing it with Brian, at which point, he ordered his mother to buy him all the books and dice. He learned the bare minimum required. He owned more official D&D merchandise than anyone else, amounting to a hundred dollars’ worth at least.

David and Alice were both founding members also, though David seldom attended, finding the game tedious, an observation I have come to share in later life. Prior to the advent of elaborate role-playing video games, D&D was a fun social occasion. We often invited new friends who sometimes attended for several months before they tired of it. Our bi-weekly meetings, punctuated by incessant talking, arguing and giggling, sounded like a gaggle of geese, a picture reinforced by our being thin, white, and silly. Alice was the sole female in our group. She attended about forty times, which in a bi-weekly group covers the better part of a year, and even hosted meetings at her house on occasion, because we rotated from house to house for variety’s sake and to spare any one mother from having to play host all the time.

Mick’s attempt at popularity was cloying and similar to his mother’s, in that he attempted to buy affection. When he played as Dungeon Master, his dungeons featured powder-puff monsters that fell at the flick of a finger, and our player characters received vast hoards of gold pieces and the most powerful magic items. No player character ever died in Mick’s dungeons. While this was pleasant initially, it disrupted the balance of the game, eliminating the element of risk and challenge, and we expressed our disapproval, eventually proposed banning Mick from being Dungeon Master, which won a popular vote with Brian and me voting against Mick and carrying the others. Alice abstained from voting, not wishing to make an enemy. I believe she tolerated Mick’s approach, because she did not take the game as seriously as Brian and me.

I am confounded at reconstructing the dialogue of a D & D meeting today, because my memories of them are sketchy at best. I fear the proceedings would prove tedious to any reader not already immersed in fantasy role-playing games. RPGs, as they are still termed, were judged abstruse by most people, particularly in the 1980s, when all the rules had to be memorized and interpreted by human players, which resulted in lawyerly debates. Our parents, when they occasionally walked through a room where our meeting was being held, seldom paused to listen, and never elected to participate. The meetings were technical and game-oriented in nature, hence imminently forgettable. Upon my memory, the onslaught of years have performed their appointed tasks.

My competitive nature led me to try to build the strongest and most powerful player character. I spent hours toiling over my player character pages, where attributes were recorded. By rolling the dice numerous times, in effect cheating, I formulated the best, yet still plausible, combination of the six attributes, Strength, Wisdom, Intelligence, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma.

Out of curiosity, wishing to learn how others perceived me, I asked Brian once to write down what he believed were the scores for me (not my player character). He prudently declined at first, but when I persisted, he told me he would write my scores down that evening and hand it to me the next day at school. I made him swear to be honest and not flatter me, and he took me at my word. The next day at recess, I reminded him of this promise. He had hoped I would forget. Reluctantly, he handed me a paper, on which he had written my attributes. I had a below average score in Strength and Wisdom, and only average scores in Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma. My only standout score was Intelligence, which was above average. My low score in Strength had not surprised me, but I had hoped he would think me wise or charismatic. Instead, he was saying I lacked wisdom and was not especially skilled at handling people in social situations. As my instructions had been clear, he could not be reproached, and I had to accept this evaluation in silence.

I remember being quite an infamous rulebook lawyer, frequently arguing against the Dungeon Master’s interpretation of the rules. Whenever the rulebook would be checked, nine times out of ten, I was proven correct, and the Dungeon Master had to reverse himself, red-faced. Not all Dungeon Masters were vulnerable. Of our group, Brian knew the rules just about as well as I did, so I usually accepted his decisions without question. Alice knew the rules less well, and I embarrassed her a couple of times. It was a grave social miscalculation on my part. She quit being D.M. after one of those occasions and forever after was a player-character only. The other two, Mick and Chris, had a very poor knowledge of the rules, and I could frequently find mistakes in their conduct as Dungeon Master. The result was that Brian and I were usually elected D.M.

In my thirteenth year, Brian bought me the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook for my birthday. The generously illustrated hardback book cost $15, a fortune to a kid, especially a poor kid like Brian. His mother worked in a profession making not very much money and struggled to make ends meet. She did not give Brian an allowance or anything of the sort. I asked him how he could possibly afford it. He said that he had worked extra chores for his neighbors, over and above his already enormous amount of chores for his mother, to earn the money.

I had long coveted the book, but lacking the funds, had put off buying it. Adults may find it difficult to understand the importance of a fifteen-dollar book, but it was the rulebook for our games, and without it, one was handicapped in playing these games. Words failed me in expressing my gratitude. I felt honored to receive this gift. In the inside cover, he had written his dedication, "To the best friend I've ever had. May your hit points be eternal!” One of my guilty pleasures, when alone, was to pick up this book, open it and read this inscription, a proof of his affection. A year later, when our friendship ceased to exist, the words became a haunting reminder of my loss. A chill crept up my spine even to lay eyes upon the book, let alone his words rendered obsolete by events. I hid the book behind a shelf, never wishing to see it again. But I never threw it away.

My friendship with Brian assumed supreme importance. On Brian’s suggestion, I stopped hanging around Mick and even stopped talking to him. We decided to exclude him from our D&D meetings by neglecting to tell him the time and place of the next meeting. We informed the other players of our move, namely Alice, David, and a boy named Chris, and cajoled them into going along, and because we were more popular than Mick, it was an easy task. We were incredibly cruel, as young people often are. We completely cut Mick off from our company, ignoring his questions and comments, pretending like he did not exist. In the past, we had spent nights over at his house, playing games on his computer and smiling little fake smiles. Now, he was nothing. As might be expected, he was beside himself with grief, anger, and jealousy. He could not believe that I had betrayed him. He decided Brian was the villain, and that he had to work to open my eyes to Brian’s wicked ways. Perhaps his wisdom score was even lower than my own.

Every day after lunch at school Brian and I and one or two other kids would go off to play War, a schoolyard game akin to RISK played with imaginary continents scratched into the ground with a stick. Mick stood alone in the distance, watching us mournfully, every day, a ghastly apparition. Though we felt pity, we felt annoyed by the skulking presence of “Gollum,” our new nickname for Mick, taken from the sad and lonely creature from The Hobbit. He was always watching our faces, gauging how we were getting along, whether our friendship was still healthy. He was deeply jealous. I felt flattered but also annoyed.

Brian would say, "Just ignore him, maybe he'll go away." We cracked jokes about him, invariably cruel ones, while he watched, knowing that we were talking about him. He often approached just to yell something hateful, usually a reference to homosexuality, which is ironic. I can still recall his runs, when he would charge at us, screech a silly insult such as “you guys are a bunch of queers!” and then flap his arms around like a chicken, and run away before Brian could seize and throttle him. It was both humorous and sad, because we had come to despise him. His true motivation, which I saw clearly, though Brian assumed it mere malice, was actually hope, the hope that Brian and I would have a falling out, and that I would come back to him. On one of these runs, he came close to me and whispered in my ear, "Brian will turn on you just like he did me!" Those were prophetic words, though not in the way he believed.

For several weeks, or it may even have been months, Mick devised pitiful ploys with the objective of changing my mind or at least making me feel guilty, which I did, at times. However, what Brian and I shared seemed so strong and good that in the final analysis, I did not care what Mick thought, and did not care if we were cruel. He needed to learn how to adapt. He was not my responsibility.

After he realized his schemes were fruitless, he turned bitter and tried to make us as miserable as he was, or at least, since that was not possible, give us a small taste of it. He watched us carefully and would howl with glee like a madman if one of us looked angry or disturbed. He would run by to throw pinecones, rocks and sticks at us, darting away before we could return fire. Brian could aim well and throw a stick very hard, as Mick soon learned!

All three of us wrote and distributed cartoons about each other, Brian's and mine expressing mutual admiration, but only contempt for Mick's intelligence and character. Mick's cartoons insulted both of us, but sometimes favored me while insulting Brian, in a vain attempt to sow discord. Mick's cartoons were crude and poorly drawn. When it attacked me in some way, Brian replied with his own comic strip, contrasting what he saw as Mick's idiocy and sniveling with the good qualities he saw in me. Brian’s cartoons usually referred to the Spartans, a people whose ethos he admired. His favorite saying was “death before dishonor.”

I wish we had kept those cartoons, because they were funny, if cruel. I have read that most humor requires a lack of sympathy with another’s misfortune. I believe Brian’s Mother discovered and confiscated the bulk of our cartoons, which may even have been for the best. I am of the opinion we were evil. When a person’s affection is spurned, how good is it to rub salt in their wounds? Sure, if Mick had been wiser he would have taken leave of us. Eventually as I recall, he did just that. He took about six months to do so, however, and a month to a youth is like a year to a grown man. Time moves extremely slowly for the young. Be not nostalgic about your childhood. If you remember truly, it was hell. For my part, I am glad to be old. It is a calmer and more pleasant state of existence.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Best Friends, Chapter 1: Mate

Welcome once again to the vault of my memory. I am opening another chest and moving some of its contents to my blog. This is the story of how I met my best friend in middle school for the first time. I call this story, "Mate."


I found a dozen boys gathered in a classroom, an unusual event for recess, when most would be out playing tag or another improvised sport. The chess club membership was exclusively male. There was only one chessboard available. All boys deferred to one player who was regarded as an authority on the game. To apprehend the name of this premier player, I approached Mark, an acquaintance who cheated off me on tests in exchange for occasional favors, like the loan of a pen or paper. Mark informed me that the premier player was named Brian, and that he defeated all the boys that he played.

I had studied the games of the old masters: Reti, Alekhine, and Lasker. I knew the openings and was accustomed to crushing both kids and grown-ups with impunity. The idea of a boy my age even thinking that he could beat me was outrageous. I declared, "I don't care if he beats every damn kid in this school, I know he can't beat me!" Mark replied, "Oh yeah? Come on and try him, then."

I viewed Brian as an upstart. Nevertheless, as I watched him play, I could not help being impressed. Brian was a cut above every other boy in the room, utterly unlike them, poised, more controlled and mature, the natural leader of them all, with the possible exception, I allowed, of myself. He had straight black hair parted neatly to the side, wore glasses that gave him an intellectual appearance, was two inches shorter than me, but of better build, and had his shirt tucked in, unlike all the other boys, including myself. While considering his next move, he whistled a tune I had never heard before, and each note sounded true. I did like him right from the start. Soon my purpose changed, and I wondered not just whether I would beat him, but whether he would like me.

He crushed his opponent in a lightning blitz combining the queen and both knights that I watched with admiration. I seized my opportunity to challenge him to a game. Since we had never met before, he stood up and shook my hand like a proper gentleman, impressing me further, and told me his name, which I already knew. I was overcome by shyness and in awe of him. I said little, but when prompted by him, did say my name. He asked, politely, if I even knew how to play! He even offered to teach me! Such a gentleman he was! I smiled, for he had underestimated me and would therefore be careless, but on further thought, I disdained winning through his carelessness. I wanted to encounter his full strength and crush him. No other kind of victory would have meaning to me. Therefore, I revealed that I had played since the age of four. He shrugged his shoulders and explained that many boys were ignorant of chess. He was right, of course. That is a deplorable state of affairs for this country.

Brian brought out his queen early, an unsound tactic seldom encountered from the more seasoned, adult players that usually played me. Unwilling, due to my pride, to let him seize the initiative and to set the tone of the game, I paid little attention to his moves, which I judged rash. My excessive confidence was exposed when he actually captured material. With the instinct of a seasoned general, he pressed the offensive relentlessly until, to my astonishment, he won!

Brian was magnanimous, confessing that I had given him more of a battle than any of the others, a compliment I accepted reluctantly, because I had fully expected to win. Was I really defeated? Was I standing up to let the next boy play the winner? I felt even more in awe of him than I had before. Was I upset or angry at losing a chess game? No, I was happy to find at last my equal, someone worthy that I could learn from and admire.

The other boy who replaced me played a game not worth watching. I became bored and tempted by the thought of leaving. Though my feet wished to walk away, my mind forbade any movement. I could not leave until I had talked with Brian alone. The thought filled me with dismay, because I was a shy boy, most reluctant to approach strangers. No one on Earth impressed me like he did. I had to know if he would be my friend.

Everyone wanted to play him, and so I had to wait until the lunch period ended. The bell finally rang, a million years late as far as I was concerned. I approached him, but could not get through the crowd. Somehow, he noticed me over the noise and commotion of others, seized me by the elbow, took me aside and listened. He seemed friendly. The noise was so great that I had to cup my hand over his ear and speak, an unanticipated intimacy that made me blush. I did not bother with any preliminary small talk. “Would you like to come over to my house sometime to play chess?”

My breathing paused. To my delight, he said, "Sure," like it was the most natural thing in the world. He took charge of all the rest, removing every remaining obstacle by volunteering his phone number and then asking for mine.

The rest of the day, I was elated. My loss in chess had transformed into a great victory. Brian was my friend! We would play chess at my house. Maybe we would become best friends! My only desire was for the end of the school day to arrive and for me to get home, so that I could call him up. Watching the clock ticking ever so gradually toward 2:20 P.M. was torture. There were butterflies in my stomach when the last bell finally rang. When I came home, I told Mother that I had made a new friend who was smart. That is the word I used to describe him, because I knew she would approve of that. Mother sensed my happiness and shared in it, as she always did. When l asked if he could come over, she immediately said yes. Brian told me when I called him that he had liked me from the start. I could not have been happier.


Intelligence is a slippery virtue. Take a savant out of his comfort zone and place him in an unfamiliar intellectual arena, and he may seem mediocre or worse.

I have been humbled myself. Although people tell me that I'm smart, from time to time, their words bounce right off me. I know that in certain areas, I am not smart at all, but middling or worse. Chemistry mystifies me. Biology eats me up and converts me into adenosine tri-phosphate. Physics makes me sick. Calculus makes me cuss.

When someone tells you that you are intelligent, bear in mind that human intelligence tends to specialize. Taken out of your niche, would you still be at the top or would you be another amateur?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Good Riddance to a Prohibitionist

Republican U.S. Representative Mark Souder, a self-proclaimed evangelical Christian, pushed for tougher drug laws and argued that Republican policies weren't conservative enough.

It's funny how these sadistic and pompous prohibitionists set one standard for the lower classes and then do whatever they want to do until such time that they get caught.

I think Souder should spend time with the families of Americans whose father or mother is behind bars right now as a result of U.S. marijuana laws. He should speak with them and learn about their suffering. That will help him to put his own tiny problems into perspective and understand the harms he inflicted upon this country during his time in office.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Experience with Private Health Care

This was my experience with private health care. Bear in mind I am a middle-class working stiff.

When I suffered a herniated disc, I was told by the clinic to just walk on in! It was like Jesus telling the cripple to get up and walk. The clinic lacked the mojo of Jesus. I had a better chance of sprouting wings and flying to Russia than standing up, let alone walk anywhere. You know there is something wrong with a clinic that does not understand the ramifications of severe lower back pain. To tell a patient, get up and walk, when he says he cannot get up, shows a lack of competence with communication, language, medicine, anatomy, and physics.

It was not possible to get up and research on the Internet to diagnose my condition myself. I was only able to do that much later, and in my opinion I have made a 100% accurate diagnosis--after the fact. Herniated disc, generic variety, nothing special, and simple to treat--if only the doctor had bothered to treat it or at a minimum, told me how.

There was no advice, no counseling, nobody came to see me, and I suffered alone in agony all night long. Sleeping was impossible. Like clockwork, every ten to twenty minutes, my lower back muscles would spasm. Waves of agony would radiate from my lower back to every cell of my body. The pain was like an insane monkey beating a drum right next to my ears all night long. There was no end to it in sight. This is when the air conditioning decided to fail in my house as well, so the temperature climbed up to 99 F.

After several days of intense suffering, when I was well enough to inch my way to the clinic, taking tiny steps and walking like the cripple I was, the doctor saw me for two minutes, gave me a prescription for Naproxin and offered to write me a script for opiates so that I could forget about the experience. I turned her down, because I'd rather blog about my suffering than forget about it.

I'm reminded of my experience as I read articles about the so-called teabagger movement. They claim to be concerned about the national deficit. Why were these vampires silent while the wars drained hundreds of billions from our nation's treasury? National deficit, my foot. They just don't like having a black man lead the country. That's the long and short of it. For my part, I could care less what skin color Obama has. I just want him to do a good job. I want him to succeed. That is the definition of patriotism. A traitor is someone who says he wants our President to fail. If our President fails, the whole country fails. You can guess where this logic places Rush Limbaugh.

The only reason I can see that people would oppose socialized medicine is a desire to see some people suffer, particularly people of a different race. Our neighbors, Mexico, Canada and Cuba all have socialized medicine and they love it. In France, the doctors come to you when you have a medical condition. I don't know why the mainstream media tries to cover up all the good things that happen in other countries. I watched Michael Moore's film, "Sicko," and it made up my mind that socialized medicine is the way to go. Some people have made up their mind to refuse to admit to any problems in society. They stick their head in the sand like an ostrich. They call themselves patriots. That is not the definition of patriotism. That is the definition of intellectual laziness. Real patriots like Benjamin Franklin were not lazy. "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" was his proverb. He established the nation's first paper mill manufacturing paper out of marijuana, which fools of the modern era have banned for no particular reason.

I am aware of England's recent regime change. The Conservative Party over there has swept into power through a strange alliance with the Liberal Democrats. I wonder how many Republicans in the U.S. realize that English conservatives have absolutely no intention of eliminating socialized medicine, that they indeed love their country's socialized medicine. Around the world, socialized medicine is not a football thrown between political parties of left and right. Instead, both sides embrace it, and why? Because it is good for everyone and to oppose it would be political suicide.
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