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Thu Sep 04, 2014 at 03:54 AM PDT

Bernard Baran, 1965-2014

by RamblinDave

Many's the hour I've lain by my window
And thought of the people who carried the burden
Who marched in the strange fields in search of an answer
And ended their journeys an unwilling hero

-Phil Ochs, “A Toast to Those who are Gone”

Bernard Baran, who died earlier this week, was most definitely an unwilling hero. He was only 49. Officially the cause of death was apparently either a heart attack or stroke (the autopsy wasn’t complete as I was writing this). But really, hate killed him. Anyone who knows his story knows that. And they also know it’s no surprise that it took 30 years for hate to defeat “Bee” Baran. For 22 of those 30 years, he endured a living hell most of us couldn’t imagine in our worst nightmares, and which I doubt too many of us would have survived with our spirits intact.

But he did.

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’re probably familiar with the “Women Against Feminism” meme that has been taking social media by storm. There have been several excellent rebuttals, but all too predictably, a fair bit of “both sides do it” as well. Perhaps you’ve seen the one on TIME Magazine’s website, dated July 24. I’m not going to link to it here, for two reasons: 1) it doesn’t deserve the attention that might draw to it, and 2) I have done my best not to have anything to do with TIME ever since that Ann Coulter cover story in 2005. But a friend of a friend of mine on Facebook did post a link to it today, which I have to confess I clicked on out of morbid curiosity.

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I live in Singapore. This has its advantages, such as the fact that the miserable winter most of the US just shivered through was only a rumor over here (sorry!), or how when I forget an American friend’s birthday, I can post a “happy birthday” on their Facebook page the next day and it will still be on time. But it also has its disadvantages, and I suffered through one of those this morning when I read this diary. It left me with a number of things I’d have liked to add, and which I didn’t see in the comments. My apologies to anyone who did touch on what follows; I read the comments in a bit of a hurry and I may have missed a few.

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Harold is a Vietnam vet who loves our country very much, though he does have a very different view of it than I (and most other Kossacks) do. I always keep that in mind when he starts mouthing off about how anyone who voted for Obama isn't a real American, and when he expresses disgust at the progress we've made in gay rights, and when he rhapsodizes about how wonderful Ann Coulter is even if she is a tad too liberal, and so forth. You probably know the type, and maybe you have a Facebook friend or two like him as well.

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Sun Feb 03, 2013 at 09:52 AM PST

The Promise of Buddy Holly

by RamblinDave

December 1995: I was seven months out of college, and rather the worse for wear after a couple of rough introductions to the real world. But I did have a car, and that was what mattered on that snowy morning when my best friend needed a ride to the Des Moines airport. He was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, off to Minneapolis for his interview – if the snow allowed it. That was looking like a big if, though. Even our drive to the airport almost didn’t happen, not because of the snow (you can’t scare a guy who learned to drive in Northern New England in winter, and then lived in Iowa for five years besides), but because my friend was in a foul mood. I’d known him for three years, and it had always been the same – when he got stressed out, he got real nasty real fast. Exactly what he said that morning has been lost to history, but I do recall being more than a bit aggravated before we even got out of his dorm.

After one too many snotty remarks while I waited for him to finish packing, I lost my cool and told him I would be just as happy to go back to bed, and cooled my heels out in the hallway. Only a hug from his girlfriend (who explained to me that he’d been “so nervous he’s shaking” all morning) and a reluctant apology from him mollified me. Even then, the first few minutes of our drive passed in stony silence except for the oldies station on the radio. As is so often the case, music soothed the savage beast, though in an off the wall way on this occasion. When “Peggy Sue” came bursting forth from the speakers, I quickly changed the station. Sardonically I announced, “No. We are not going to listen to Buddy Holly on the way to the airport in a blizzard in Iowa.” A morbid joke, and yes, a rather tasteless one, but it got the job done: we shared an uneasy laugh that slowly turned into a somewhat easier one, and the earlier tension was forgotten as we made our way into Des Moines.

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Following on MinistryOfTruth’s diary on whether or not this is a matter of chess, it occurs to me that even if it were that, there would be some very serious problems with Obama trying to play that game with this Congress. (Or any Congress, but especially this one.)  The problem with eleven-dimensional chess is this: even if you can outsmart your enemies, people who are nominally on your side tend to miss your point and play against you inadvertently. Especially in DC, where as we all know, some truly dumb and mean people tend to become very, very powerful.

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Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 08:32 AM PDT

Dear Virginia...

by RamblinDave

I wasn't going to write a diary for Loving Day. For one thing, it's the sort of thing where in this day and age, it ought to go without saying that it was just and right, just like women's suffrage and the end of slavery. For another, it was a bit too personal, or so I thought. But after reading Teacherken's excellent-as-usual diary and adding my own experience in a comment there, I find I have a lot to say about it whether I really want to say it or not. So here goes nothing...

Dear State of Virginia,

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Rick Santorum had reached his limit. It was now late December, which meant he had been running for president for more than two years. Two years, and all he had to show were an asterisk in the polls and a very embarrassing Google problem.  True, when he’d bought the house in Virginia and moved his family from Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, he had trusted the Family Values crowd to hail him as a hero. They would thrill to the red-meat speeches of Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich occasionally, but merely as amusement. They would stand by the man who had sacrificed his Senate seat on the altar of homophobia.

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As a sometime-Pennsylvanian, all the recent publicity about Ex-Sen. Santorum (how I love typing the “Ex” part of that!) has dredged up a lot of memories. Most are fairly nasty. A few are wonderful, notably the day I woke up and saw he’d been defeated for re-election. One was, above all, very educational. I owe it to an ex-staffer of his that I am aware of the challenge we face in building a Democratic majority: convincing those who agree with us on social issues to get over their naïve and selfish opinions on economic policy.

Yes, I know “naïve and selfish” is harsh. But this diary is about the night I learned why harshness is sometimes necessary. Read on, I think you’ll see what I mean.

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I started this as a comment on the diary about the guy in California who killed himself after being laid off. But after I got everything down that I felt needed to be said, I realized it stands better as a diary. While I can't imagine what that man's family is going through right now, I think I do know what he might have been feeling.

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It will happen soon enough, sure as the night follows the day. With the onslaught of Republican candidates for president that we can expect in the next several months, we’re going to be treated to the latest example of what is becoming a tradition. Some right-winger will try to use a song by a rock star whose politics are decidedly liberal as his or her (yeah, Sarah Palin will run) campaign song. Either the song’s writer will demand that the candidate stop using it (see “Barracuda,” “More Than a Feeling,” etc.) or it will emerge that the meaning of the song is the exact opposite of what the candidate assumed it was (i.e. “Born in the USA”), or both.

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It happens to the best of us some years, maybe even to most of us most years. I couldn’t tell you for sure, but I know it’s happened to me enough times for me to be confident that I’m not alone. Maybe it comes before Thanksgiving when you realize you’re already hearing Christmas songs on the radio when you haven’t even bought your turkey yet. Maybe it comes when the big tree goes up at the local mall and you realize you’re in for another season of be-happy-or-else. More likely, though, it comes somewhat later and for more personal reasons. Maybe some stranger on the street who knows nothing about your situation tells you to cheer up because it’s Christmas. Maybe it’s the office holiday party where you’ve been roped into buying a gift for someone you don’t even like. If you’re anything like me, it probably involves being expected to spend the holidays with your family, forcing you to choose between being cooped up with relatives you can’t stand or having friends pitying you because you "can’t" (read won’t, but it’s none of their business) go home for Christmas. Or maybe you’re Jewish and the token-mention of Hanukkah here and there wears out more and more quickly every year.

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