Monday, February 27, 2006

living in the age of the robber barons redux

Income disparity and inequality of influence over public policies are getting worse than they've been in decades in this increasingly possession-status conscious and arrogant country. Here's some stats to illustrate (from Paul Krugman's NYTimes column dated 2/27/06):

A new research paper by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, Where Did the Productivity Growth Go?, gives the details. Between 1972 and 2001 the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution rose only 34 percent, or about 1 percent per year. So being in the top 10 percent of the income distribution, like being a college graduate, wasn't a ticket to big income gains.
But income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that's not a misprint.
Just to give you a sense of who we're talking about: the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that this year the 99th percentile will correspond to an income of $402,306, and the 99.9th percentile to an income of $1,672,726. The center doesn't give a number for the 99.99th percentile, but it's probably well over $6 million a year.

Between our current administration's tax cuts aimed at rich individuals and corporations, their strong anti-union and anti-dissent stances, and their proclivity for keeping the business of the people's government a secret, this country is looking more and more like it was in the 19th century: dominated by a tiny, elite cadre of wealthy interests who use all the tools at their disposal to maintain the delicate balance between national economic and social policies that keep the money and power in their own hands and appeasing the shorter-term, individual needs of the masses. They have mastered the art of mass communication and message control to promote a culture of blind consumerism, individualism, and instant gratification of desires. If you do not have boatloads of money or belong to a well-funded or large majority group, you are almost completely disenfranchised in today's political structure.

So rather than people struggling for the advancement of their own needs through the collective advancement of everyone via the political process, they only see 2 options to getting ahead or being heard: 1) advancing their own needs by taking away from "others" around them or 2) advancing their own needs with the blind, short-sighted assumption that natural and social resources are endless and so their personal gain does not have any impact on those around them or their natural or social surroundings.

Just like the environment, saving our collected heritage of freedom and democracy and equality for all will require some drastic steps to change things around and loosen the tight grip that money has on our system of governance. I don't know what those changes should encompass any more than the next person, but I know we need to figure it out soon. Growing corruption, greed, arrogance to others and extravagance at home, and growing resentment and groupings of enemies abroad has been the earmark of the downfall of almost every great empire in history...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

letting go of a fondly remembered and formative past

I recently came to the hard realization that the person who I had considered my dearest, closest friend for the past 15 years is no longer my friend and in fact, maybe hadn't been my friend for quite sometime. The wakeup call came to me in the form of a heartfelt letter outlining his increasingly general negative impression of me and a set of grievances, one large and most others of lesser consequence, but most of which I concede were true in whole or part at one time or another. Whether my transition played any central role in this decision on his part I could not definitively say, but I doubt it. He was the very first person who knew my former male self that I shared my secret with and he was, to my mind, completely supportive.

But I had finally noticed this slowly accumulated decline in the friendship recently and a letter on my part inquiring about this circumstance resulted in the said response from my friend described above. I cried harder and longer than I ever have before in my life and then went through an accelerated grieving process where I moped about my house in a daze for several days. But I finally came out of this fog and truth be told, feel a little stronger because of it.

I was of course extremely hurt that this friend kept his silence and did not broach his growing dissatisfaction with me until things were beyond repair. Instead he increasingly declined my offers for get togethers and cooled his once warm interactions with me ever so subtly. I naively persevered in the hope that things hadn't changed and told myself that these slights were just the result of him being a successful, busy, self-employed guy. His silence still stings me when I let myself think of it, although I think that perhaps he did not think how such inaction had been affecting me.

At first, I felt that the whole thing was entirely my fault and that the friendship could be saved by a complete mea culpa on my part. And certainly I bear at least half the blame for this state of affairs. On reflection though, I think a good portion of my interactions with this friend, especially the last few years, consisted of me trying to prove myself to him; that I was worthy of his friendship and time. He never asked for this reaction on my part, but I did sometimes feel like he viewed my company as a persistent backup plan; someone who would join him in his own endeavors when no one else was available, but who increasingly begged off when asked to join mine. Perhaps even then I subconsciously sensed his pull-back and tried to make up for it in my own gangly, misguided and socially-inept way, even though such thoughts never entered my conscious mind. I've since come to the conclusion that it really is over; that the best thing for both of us would be for me to let these fondly remembered and formative years of friendship go and part ways as amicably as possible given current circumstances.

It is not an easy thing to accept that such a large portion of my past has somehow, and to no one's blame in the end but mine, been tarnished. Some may read this and say I am obviously harboring some bitterness over these events - they may be right. It's not easy being summarily rejected by those you love, especially someone as rejection-conscious as me. But I've been blessed compared to most transgendered individuals in that I have the strong support of my family and a small group of close friends. And for those people in my life who continue to put up with me I am everyday thankful.

Let me just finish by stating that my reason for posting about these obviously still open wounds is in an effort to heal myself; to come to grips with my conflicted feelings and to move on with my life. So I ask that if you comment on this post, please refrain from denigrating my former friend any more than I already justly or unjustly have.


Been in a bit of a funk last couple weeks so haven't been posting too much. I'll post soon though with an explanation, as much of it as I can fairly describe, of this funkadelic state...

Monday, February 13, 2006

our feckless leader, the snake-oil salesman...

Reason #278 for doubting the veracity of anything that comes out of the mouths of the current U.S. administration talking heads and it's titular leader, Bush junior:

The federal government is on the verge of one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in American history, worth an estimated $7 billion over five years...
Moreover, the projected largess could be just the start. Last week, Kerr-McGee Exploration and Development, a major industry player, began a brash but utterly serious court challenge that could, if it succeeds, cost the government another $28 billion in royalties over the next five years...
Administration officials say the issue is out of their hands, adding that they opposed provisions in last year's energy bill that added new royalty relief for deep drilling in shallow waters...
But the Bush administration...strongly supported the overall energy bill, and merely noted its opposition to additional royalty relief in its official statement on the bill.
By contrast, the White House bluntly promised to veto the Senate's $60 billion tax cut bill because it contained a one-year tax of $5 billion on profits of major oil companies...

If that view prevails, the government said it would lose a total of nearly $35 billion in royalties to taxpayers by 2011 — about the same amount that Mr. Bush is proposing to cut from Medicare, Medicaid and child support enforcement programs over the same period.
[from the 2/14/06 NY Times:]

What can you do? Contact your local and state representatives (, write letters to the editor of your local newspapers, and just discuss this issue with those around you - get the word out!


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Jersey junket and Brooklyn babes

Last weekend my fantastically kind, beautiful and smart friend Aelis hosted me for a roadtrip down to the NYC metro area (she lives about 30-40 min outside NYC proper) to help celebrate her upcoming birthday and do a little partying to boot. So I took a half day friday and made the short hop down to her place (c. 2.5-3 hrs).

The original plan was to hit a club in Manhattan called the Bowery Ballroom, where an all-girl cover band called Lez Zeppelin was playing. Evidently this band is big, because the show sold out that afternoon. So we had to scramble for another fun activity (thankfully there is never a shortage of that in the city!) and settled on going to a local band competition (that is evidently being held at locations around the country and world) called Emergenza at the legendary Arlene's Grocery in Soho. After hitting a tasty little Soho burrito place for dinner and a few brews, we headed over there. The place was small and dark - the entrance led into a long and thin bar area with a fireplace and couches and chairs in the back. Halfway back was a side hallway to the music room - another equally small and dimly lit cavern with a spacious bar on the right and small stage in the back.

Beer was reasonable there (for the city) and so I quickly and heartily worked myself into a nice buzz before even the second band came on. Since I don't drink that much anymore, this level of consciousness is becoming increasingly easier to achieve! The bands consisted of a wide variety of styles, skill and entertainment levels. The first band was a thoroughly and perhaps purposefully disorganized and rowdy punk band. The lead singer careened about the tiny stage in a drunken swagger-stumble and mooned the audience (which consisted at this point of about 20 people, with Aelis and I sitting as close to the stage as possible while still having bar stools) several times and knocked down several pieces of equipment as well. He was cute and had a mischievous look about him, but he couldn't sing for shit. The backing band started slow but built up to a fast-paced, crunching crescendo but was still limited in skill and originality. To be honest tho, these guys were the most entertaining band of the night. I was laughing the entire time they were on stage! The rest of the bands consisted of several tolerable metal bands, and one each of bluesy christian folk, pathetic synth-heavy prog-rock, wildly off-key jam music, and fun but soul-empty funk.

But my fave band was called Quitter - a trio of cute, talented guys who can also write decent blisteringly-fast metal songs. And the lead singer had an awesome voice - distinctive and clear and dripping with irony. After each band played, people were asked to raise their hands if they liked the band and so the top 5 bands got to move onto the next round. As you can imagine, half the audience for most of the bands consisted of friends and family members so talent did not always win out. My newly-adopted fave band Quitter didn't have a lot of that, but Aelis and I both voted for them as did a bevy of other converts following their set.

Needless to say I was a bit tipsy by about the 7th band and Aelis was getting tired so we took our leave, but not before I bumped into the Quitter lead singer, mumbled something nervously about how I loved their set and asked him about getting a CD, which he promptly handed me. A good night!

Saturday found Aelis and I both sleeping late. The day was gorgeous and warm so we took a leisurely stroll through a nearby park that surrounded a little pond and then hit a diner for some cheap lunch. As is my wont when vacationing, Aelis and I spent the rest of the day lounging around, listening to music, trying to get a girly crew together for the evenings' festivities and catching up since we hadn't seen each other in a couple months. Unfortunately, several online friends in the area were otherwise occupied and could not make it out, but one friend, Jenn, could. A couple of Aelis' friends (who were in fact the cutest couple you can imagine) would meet us at the destination as well.

Our destination was Brooklyn and a little dive bar called Vegas Bar. Every once in a while they have a queer, mostly lez punk-indie party there and my aforementioned friend Jenn (herself a cute as a button lesbian) had alerted me to this party a couple days before. The price was right ($5) and the party looked fun so we went.

The Vegas Bar is a little one room place - low-key and with a minimalist decor. Drinks were again reasonably priced, but since I was driving this evening I did take it slow. When we got there, it was about a dozen or so pierced and tattoo-laden lesbians, a cute male bartender, and us. But right away the bartender and the woman organizing the party came over and introduced themselves and made us feel right at home. The music was awesome - lots of heavy punk and industrial music at the beginning - NIN and similar and of course right up my alley.

A little while later the place was getting packed and Aelis' friends, Phoenix and Nicki, arrived. These are two intelligent, fun, gorgeous women (they made the hottest couple there). Phoenix is an F2M and looks amazing. All during this I was trying to keep an eye out for my friend Jenn, who I had actually never met in person. I only knew she had short spiky bleach-blonde hair and had a general idea of her face from her MySpace pics. About an hour later I still hadn't located her and had just about given up when I started talking to this girl next to me who had a purposefully crude (I would hope!) but interesting looking turtle tattoo on her arm and I asked her about it. When I introduced myself she mentioned that her friend was looking for someone named Dana. Lo and behold I turned around and there Jenn was! So after introductions and when I had finished my beer, we headed to the dance floor for a spell. I still can't dance, but the floor was dark and crowded so I felt ok engaging in a little dirty dancing with Jenn - hahaha.

Next we started talking to this sweet ts (and maybe the only other one in the place!) named Bobbi. As chance would have it she was also on my MySpace friends list and just happened to hear about the party from a girl named Kaia who I had tried to get to come out (but she was not feeling well). It's a tiny world sometimes!

So in the end I got to spend some quality time with my good friend Aelis (and her adorable, huggable cats) and meet a good amount of fun and interesting people. No doubt a fantastic roadtrip - I can't wait to go back. Special props to Aelis for making the whole thing happen and for being my tireless tourguide! You rock girl!