Somewhere in northern Spain, November 29, 2011 –- I’m still waiting for Godot – er, I mean Sasha. I got an e-mail from him saying “I am trying very hard to come. I very much want to be with you.”
A few days before that, he wrote asking about the sleeping situation. “Will we be sleeping in the same bed?”
“Yes,” I replied, “I want to hold you all night long.”
And then I began thinking: Oh shit, maybe he doesn’t want to sleep with me!
So I wrote a P.S.: “If you want, we can buy a separate bed for you.”
“No, we can sleep together in the same bed,” he replied, “if you will hold me all night long.”
Okay, that settles that. I think he really does love me. Now if I can just get him here!
In the meantime, from former student and fantasy, beautiful Max, came another e-mail:
“Hello, Dane, how are you? Sorry for didn’t write so long. I have a good news for you. I plan visit Spain during my vacations which begin on 11th of June!!! I booked this days in graph of vacations on the work!! With best wishes, Max.”
Of course I was overjoyed: Max, beautiful Max, early 20s and still no girlfriend. Very religious, but so was I. Could he be gay? It’s tempting to hope so. He and I were very close back in Moscow, and I often let my hand fall on his leg while we were having private lessons in Moscow. He never moved away or attempted in any way to discourage me.
Why would he be coming to visit me if he didn’t feel something special? June is a long ways away and what happens between now and then will certainly guide me: e.g., will Sasha be here? Will Sasha and I have become a matched set by that time?
Still, it’s very tempting, and, as my late buddy Dave Wagner used to say, “entertaining” to consider the possibilities.
I immediately wrote him back:
Dear Max, that’s terrific news. :-) When time gets nearer, tell me how you’re coming, what airline, what time, etc., and I will meet you and bring you to my apartment in northern Spain by bus. That’s very exciting news.
It will soon be New Year’s. Do you have any special plans for it?
He also immediately replied, responding to the “dear” and “love” cues from my letter to him:
“Dear Dane,” he wrote.
I planning to rent a car and travel to your town from the airport directly to there. :-) For New Year’s I’m gonna be with my parents in Tatarstan, so that they allow me in summer to visit you. :-) Hope that I will have enough money for that :-) What’s your plans for New Year’s?
Again, I responded immediately:
I think they will be able to speak English at the car rental place, but it’s probably the last time you will find English speakers until you get to my apartment, so you will need to ask all your questions there: How to get to the highway to Ourense, how much will the gasoline cost, etc. They speak no Russian here and not much English :-(
They use only the euro for money here in Spain – no rubles, no dollars. But they will also be able to change money at the airport. There are also lots of ATMs (automatic teller machines) here in Spain, so you can take money from your account if you have a debit or credit card.
I will worry about you, and if you want, I can meet you at the airport and ride back with you to Ourense and help translate for you. That way we could spend some time in Madrid, visiting famous art museums, etc., if you want.
You will of course fly to the airport in Madrid, which is called the Barajas Airport. Barajas is a small town near Madrid where the airport is actually located.
Okay, honey, I am very excited that you are coming. We will stay in touch. I fly Iberia airlines, which I think is better and more comfortable than Aeroflot and just as cheap – maybe cheaper. I think it costs around $ 600-$ 700 for an Iberian round trip ticket from Moscow to Madrid. I don't know what it costs to rent a car. Bus fare from here to Madrid is about 35 euros -- about $ 50.
Have a good time with your parents in Tatarstan, and of course tell Alex hello for me. I haven’t made any special plans for New Year’s.
Till later, and keep in touch.
I sent that on Nov. 24, and I haven’t heard back from him. But it’s exciting news, especially if for some reason Sasha isn’t able to come.
Druzhka arrived on schedule Nov. 7 and it was great to see him again, though he’s dug a hole for himself, I’m afraid. Although he’s gay, he wanted to have a baby and become a father “in the worst way, and so he did,” as Washington comedian Art Buchwald said of Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern after he was trounced by “I-am-not-a-crook?” Nixon in nearly all 50 states.
So Druzhka married Lena when they went to Dubrovnik last year and she became pregnant. Now he doesn’t want to be married to her any longer – she’s a shrew -- but guess what! He’s her husband and the father of her child, and she has turned his parents – and of course her own – against him.
He went back to Moscow to try to straighten things out, planning to return again in a few days. That was two weeks ago. I haven’t heard from him since, although I have written him an e-mail.
It reminds me of what friend and housemate Sydly Brown told me when I was bemoaning Andrei Tioufline’s arrival in Seattle – a couple of years before Tioufline stole my Moscow apartment: “Be careful what you pray for – you might get it.”
So Druzhka got what he prayed for: He’s now a father and a perfectly miserable husband.
In the meantime, I loaned him $ 500 for investment purposes, which he promised to return when he gets his money for teaching at the Diplomatic Academy on Dec. 1.
He is absolutely reliable when it comes to money, so I’m sure it will be here on schedule. In the meantime, I rather desperately need it, as you can imagine, and am waiting “with ’bated breath.”
Occupy Wall Street is still the big news in the States, and even bigger news is the 1% reaction to it – tragic violence from the cops who are paid by the 1% to protect their interests.
Michael Moore, who in documentaries has for decades been chronicling the injustice rampant in the U.S., and whom ex-Pres. George Bush once heckled to “get a real job,” has outlined 10 things he will ask the OWS movement to go after:
1. Eradicate the Bush tax cuts for the rich and institute new taxes on the wealthiest Americans and on corporations, including a tax on all trading on Wall Street (where they currently pay 0%).
2. Assess a penalty tax on any corporation that moves American jobs to other countries when that company is already making profits in America. Our jobs are the most important national treasure and they cannot be removed from the country simply because someone wants to make more money.
3. Require that all Americans pay the same Social Security tax on all of their earnings (normally, the middle class pays about 6% of their income to Social Security; someone making $ 1 million a year pays about 0.6% (or 90% less than the average person). This law would simply make the rich pay what everyone else pays.
4. Reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, placing serious regulations on how business is conducted by Wall Street and the banks.
5. Investigate the Crash of 2008, and bring to justice those who committed any crimes.
6. Reorder our nation's spending priorities (including the ending of all foreign wars and their cost of over $ 2 billion a week). This will re-open libraries, reinstate band and art and civics classes in our schools, fix our roads and bridges and infrastructure, wire the entire country for 21st century internet, and support scientific research that improves our lives.
7. Join the rest of the free world and create a single-payer, free and universal health care system that covers all Americans all of the time.
8. Immediately reduce carbon emissions that are destroying the planet and discover ways to live without the oil that will be depleted and gone by the end of this century.
9. Require corporations with more than 10,000 employees to restructure their board of directors so that 50% of its members are elected by the company’s workers. We can never have a real democracy as long as most people have no say in what happens at the place they spend most of their time: their job. (For any U.S. businesspeople freaking out at this idea because you think workers can't run a successful company: Germany has a law like this and it has helped to make Germany the world’s leading manufacturing exporter.)
10. We, the people, must pass three constitutional amendments that will go a long way toward fixing the core problems we now have. These include:
a) A constitutional amendment that fixes our broken electoral system by 1) completely removing campaign contributions from the political process; 2) requiring all elections to be publicly financed; 3) moving election day to the weekend to increase voter turnout; 4) making all Americans registered voters at the moment of their birth; 5) banning computerized voting and requiring that all elections take place on paper ballots.
b) A constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people and do not have the constitutional rights of citizens. This amendment should also state that the interests of the general public and society must always come before the interests of corporations.
c) A constitutional amendment that will act as a "second bill of rights" as proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt: that every American has a human right to employment, to health care, to a free and full education, to breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat safe food, and to be cared for with dignity and respect in their old age.
The ruling 1% may have overplayed their hand in New York City, where billionaire Bloomberg bought his way to the mayor’s office and whose bullying cops have tried to intimidate what’s left of the free press in America.
So we read on Yahoo News that “A cross-section of 13 news organizations in New York City (have lodged complaints) about the New York Police Department’s treatment of journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“Separately, 10 press clubs, unions and other groups that represent journalists called for an investigation and said they had formed a coalition to monitor police behavior going forward.”
When the press, which used to be free but is now often merely an apologist for the ruling 1%, get their hackles up, it’s time to take a second look.
One observer writing for Internet non-corporate “Truthout” news noted with dismay the pepper-spraying by the cops of peaceful, seated, American college students at Univ. of California Davis.
“…there are undeniable conclusions one can draw from this incident. The main thing is that the frenzied dissolution of due process and individual rights that took place under George Bush’s watch, and continued uncorrected even when supposed liberal constitutional lawyer Barack Obama took office, has now come full circle and become an important element to the newer political controversy involving domestic/financial corruption and economic injustice.
“…when we militarized our society in response to the global terrorist threat, we created a new psychological atmosphere in which the use of force and military technology became a favored method for dealing with dissent of any kind. As (Glenn Greenwald in his ‘post’ at ‘Salon’) writes:
“The U.S. Government — in the name of Terrorism — has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics, and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil… It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters.
“Why did that step turn out to be so small? Because of the countless decisions we made in years past to undermine our own attitudes toward the rule of law and individual rights. Every time we looked the other way when the president asked for the right to detain people without trials, to engage in warrantless searches, to eavesdrop on private citizens without even a judge knowing about it, we made it harder to answer the question: What is it we’re actually defending?
“In another time, maybe, we might have been able to argue that we were using force to defend the principles of modern Western civilization, that we were ‘spreading democracy.’
“Instead, we completely shat upon every principle we ever stood for, stooping to torture and assassination and extrajudicial detention.
“From the very start we unleashed those despotic practices on foreigners, whom large pluralities of the population agreed had no rights at all. But then as time went on we started to hear about rendition and extralegal detention cases involving American citizens, too, though a lot of those Americans turned out to be Muslims or Muslim-sympathizers, people with funny names.
“And people mostly shrugged at that, of course, just as they shrugged for years at the insane erosion of due process in the world of drug enforcement. People yawned at the no-knock warrants and the devastating parade of new consequences for people with drug convictions (depending on the state, losing the right to vote, to receive educational aid, to live in public housing, to use food stamps, and so on).
“They didn’t even care much about the too-innocuously-named new practice of ‘civil asset forfeiture,’ in which the state can legally seize the property of anyone, guilty or innocent, who is implicated in a drug investigation – a law that permits the state to unilaterally deem property to be guilty of a crime.
“The population mostly blew off these developments, thinking that these issues only concerned the guilty, terrorists, drug dealers, etc. And they didn’t seem to worry very much when word leaked out that the state had struck an astonishingly far-reaching series of new cooperative arrangements with the various private telecommunications industries. Nobody blinked when word came out that the government was now cheerfully pairing up with companies like AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth to monitor our phone and Internet activities.
“Who cared? If you don’t have anything to hide, the thinking went, it shouldn’t bother you that the government might be checking your phone records, seeing what sites you’ve been visiting, or quietly distributing armored cars and submachine guns to every ass-end suburban and beyond-suburban police force in America.
“We had all of these arguments in the Bush years and it’s nothing new to assert that much of our population made a huge mistake in giving up so many of our basic rights to due process. What’s new is that we’re now seeing the political consequences of those decisions.
“Again, when we abandoned our principles in order to use force against terrorists and drug dealers, the answer to the question, What are we defending? started to change.
“The original answer, ostensibly, was, ‘We are defending the peaceful and law-abiding citizens of the United States, their principles, and everything America stands for.’
“Then after a while it became, ‘We’re defending the current population of the country, but we can’t defend the principles so much anymore, because they weigh us down in the fight against a ruthless enemy who must be stopped at all costs.’
“Then finally it became this: ‘We are defending ourselves, against the citizens who insist on keeping their rights and their principles.’
“What happened at UC Davis was the inevitable result of our failure to make sure our government stayed in the business of defending our principles. When we stopped insisting on that relationship with our government, they became something separate from us.
“And we are stuck now with this fundamental conflict, whereby most of us are insisting that the law should apply equally to everyone, while the people running this country for years now have been operating according to the completely opposite principle that different people have different rights, and who deserves what protections is a completely subjective matter, determined by those in power, on a case-by-case basis.
“Not to belabor the point, but the person who commits fraud to obtain food stamps goes to jail, while the banker who commits fraud for a million-dollar bonus does not. Or if you accept aid in the form of Section-8 housing, the state may insist on its right to conduct warrantless ‘compliance check’ searches of your home at any time – but if you take billions in bailout aid, you do not even have to open your books to the taxpayer who is the de facto owner of your company.
“The state wants to retain the power to make these subjective decisions, because being allowed to selectively enforce the law effectively means they have despotic power. And who wants to lose that?
“The UC Davis incident crystallized all of this in one horrifying image. Anyone who commits violence against a defenseless person is lost. And the powers that be in this country are lost. They’ve been going down this road for years now, and they no longer stand for anything.
“All that tricked-up military gear, with that corny, faux-menacing, over-the-top Spaceballs stormtrooper look that police everywhere seem to favor more and more – all of this is symbolic of the increasingly total lack of ideas behind all that force.
“It was bad enough when we made police defend the use of torture and extrajudicial detention. Now they’re being asked to defend mass theft, Lloyd Blankfein’s bailout-paid bonus, the principle of Angelo Mozilo not doing jail time, and 28% credit card interest rates.
“How strong can anyone defending those causes be? These people are weak and pathetic, and they’re getting weaker. And boy, are they showing it. Way to gear up with combat helmets and the the full body armor, fellas, to take on a bunch of co-eds sitting Indian-style on a campus quad. Maybe after work you can go break up a game of duck-duck-goose at the local Chuck E Cheese. I’d bring the APC for that one.
“Bravo to those kids who hung in there and took it. And bravo for standing up and showing everyone what real strength is. There is no strength without principle. You have it. They lost it. It’s as simple as that.
Another journalist writing for the Guardian News and Media Limited notes that “I was…deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.
“That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.
“The mainstream media was declaring continually ‘OWS has no message’.
Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online ‘What is it
you want?’ answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100
answers. These were truly eye-opening.
“The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited
was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which
lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the
banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most
frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act -- the
Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates
investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the
conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take
risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe
out the commercial and savings banks.
“No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known
loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation
affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are
“When I saw this list -- and especially the last agenda item -- the
scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be
having the shit kicked out of them.
For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of
Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown
is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own
initiative, ‘we are going after these scruffy hippies.’ Rather, ‘DHS is
answerable up a chain of command:’ first, to New York
Representative Peter King, head of the House Homeland Security
Subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and
women's wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King,
to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).
“In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of
its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional
overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to
authorize mayors to order their police forces -- pumped up with millions
of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS -- to make war on
“But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarized
reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is
straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started
entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle
class) -- but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we
see from the ‘scandal’ of presidential contender Newt Gingrich's having
been paid $ 1.8m for a few hours' ‘consulting’ to special interests. The
inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but
the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own
companies' profits is less widely known -- and if the books were to be
opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum.
Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting
from trading on non-public information
they have on companies about which they are legislating -- a form of
insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.
“Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that
the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what
its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away
lobbyists' privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the
legislative process, reforming the banks so they can't suck money out of
fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a
system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally -- and
immensely -- from their own legislation, are two beats away from the
grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement
call out the troops on stopping that advance.
“So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this
week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now,
only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of
Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent,
organized suppression against the people they are supposed to represent.
Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits
streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications
of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams
of reform are not.
“Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true
brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our
own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under
threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.”
Jan Lnndborg is a scion of the family that -- when I was an energy writer in Wash., D.C., a few decades ago -- used to write the Lundborg letter, often called the Bible of the petroleum industry.
However, Lundburg became an outspoken critic of the oil culture and a staunch defender of the environment in the 1980s and, as current author of the “Culture Change” newsletter, is usually an outspoken critic of the status quo because of what it is contributing to climate change, peak oil, water impotability, ocean pollution, excessive population growth, and overshoot in general.
So I was a little surprised to see Lundborg’s less than enthusiastic response to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
It turns out he has good reason. The OSWers are basically urging re-cutting the economic pie, he notes, so that the top 1%, or the top 1% of the top 1%, don’t get more than their fair share while working people lose jobs, families have homes re-possessed, and young graduates go to low-paying jobs with huge college debts hanging over them.
Lundborg’s position is that with capitalism in rigor mortis and the economy in shambles, we are left with a shrinking pie. So we’re wasting our efforts trying to re-arrange deck chairs on the Titanic.
While I wholeheartedly agree with Lundborg’s position, god knows how long the deniers will be able to keep the world as we know it patched up. In the meantime, I’d like to see a little justice done.
So I say, OSW, keep up the good work. It’s too late to save the world, but we may see a smidgeon of justice before it all comes to a screeching halt.
And let the Sturm Troopers of Amerika do their work. It will show the American voter, who still wields enormous power, what is really happening to their “democracy.”
See also related pages:
Chapt. #323 - Groundhog’s day in the Land of the Big PX
Chapt. #321 - Occupy Wall Street -- world-wide support, including Walesa