Saturday, March 21, 2020

Social Distancing (Trying to Control WHEN....Not If)

This was originally a Facebook post on my public page but I've reproduced it here. It's gone past a number of healthcare workers with thumbs up. A few folks had things they wanted to add (in the comments if you're interested) but all of them said the post itself checked out.


When I post on FB, I try to keep my Covid-19 posts to jokes and (reliable) news links, and stay well away from trying to speak to things I know little about, but I've seen a misconception more than a couple of times floating around on social media that seems worth speaking to.

As much as I don't want you to get CV-19, I really don't want your nana to get it, and even as much as I (someone with a childhood illness that has already led me to a slightly reduced lung capacity) do not want to get it myself, we are not social distancing so that we stay healthy forever. We are distancing so we do not all end up in the hospital AT THE SAME TIME.

The sobering statistics that I've seen by epidemiologists working for the WHO (like Marc Lipsitch) are that 40%-70% of all of humanity (everyone on EARTH) will have this before we have a good vaccine up and running. And a vaccine may be a year from now, there are likely to be issues, it won’t come out all at once, some people won't vaccinate......

But when hospitals get overwhelmed and start running out of masks and drugs and are full of doctors and nurses who are themselves infected and don't have beds and are out of ventilators..... That's when the death rate spikes and goes WAY higher than that number some folks are still out there charmingly saying "it's ONLY X percent...." What we are trying to do isn't NOT get it. We're trying to flatten the curve of how many of us have it at once.

This is why the administration's criminal dereliction of duty early on will have such massive repercussions very soon.

Because if you are one of those edge cases who can't just tough it out at home (and none of us knows now if we are or not--a lot of hospitalizations are young people), social distancing now might be the difference between getting a bed in the ICU with a respirator and an attentive nurse in August or September or dying in a triage tent that's been set up in the hospital parking lot in mid-April.

Friday, March 13, 2020

A Covid-19 Adjacent Personal Story

I'm really trying hard not to write about CV-19 for the simple reason that almost anything I write could be WRONG. And usually is by the time the ink is dry (er….the pixels are formed?). Besides which, I swim in the waters of people who do deep nuance, assume the very best faith, and have contrarian streaks, so seeing one bemused post after another about the lack of something the CDC hasn’t recommended we stock up on usually leads to a testy push-back about how they can easily see a scenario in which WE’RE really being the assholes to remark that it doesn’t make a lot of sense that we haven’t seen a paper towel on the shelves in a month. Honestly, it is a testament to their kindness of spirit and generosity that they do not assume that it is mostly selfish prepares hoarding, but it isn't a debate I much care to stroll into because neither point is wrong, per se.

But what I can do is tell my story. So let me do that instead......

I saw a guy at the store yesterday grab the last three sixteen-packs of TP like he had seen three $100 bills on the ground. But also like everyone around him was just noticing them too and he had to get to them first. He lunged at them. His eyes were on fire. He hunched over them once they were in his cart like he was protecting them. The person next to him, who watched this, had been reaching for one before it was snatched, and instead contented themselves with five of the six-packs.

Once that fierce moment faded, the first guy almost sauntered away, his spoils now safely HIS within his cart. He glared back at a woman, who was giving him a disgusted look, with his intense eyes that told a different story than his nonchalant shrug.

Because it's me, my mind immediately made up a story. One where his stricken neighbor (with CV-19) was going from door to door begging for a roll or two of toilet paper because when they'd tried to stock up (before they got sick), there was none left. And of course TP guy ended up sick from this encounter.

I also bought another four-pack myself. Yep. I can't really judge anyone because I fell right in to that mental space. Not because I needed any. (It's just ME in this place and last I checked I could probably go a few months.) I bought it because I didn't know if, by the time I ran out, these devastated shelves would still be the norm.

I don't know this guy. I refuse to judge one person without much more information. Maybe he absolutely needs 48 rolls of toilet paper. Maybe he has a family of eight. Maybe he’s on a mission to make sure his neighbors have enough too. I just worry that collectively we're not threading some important needles between the kind of stockpiling that leaves others without and the justified act of taking reasonable precautions.

Still, yesterday frightened me.

About half the people I saw were ordering fast food, getting handsy, and tra-la-la-ing like nothing was amiss. They would run their fingers up and down the counters while they waited for a worker––one who can't afford to take time off if they’re not simply bedridden––to slide their burger and fries across to them, trying desperately to avoid the contact that the customer clearly didn’t care about. Most of these people looked like exactly the types that would be fine if they got it themselves.

The other half (well maybe not HALF, but the other contingent I noticed) were panic-buying everything in a way I felt myself instinctively WANT to recoil from. A deep primordial urge to back away from these people (more than the three feet I already was) and I actually had to struggle to be in their presence. One guy shoveled twelve or fifteen premade salads into his cart with a wild-eyed look, began to move on to the next thing, stopped, slumped his shoulders and took a deep breath, and then carefully returned all but two.

While I've seen these extremes mirrored online, it was intense to see them playing out in live-body form around me. I think somewhere between our disdain for medical professionals who tell us anything we don't particularly want to hear and many folks’ convictions that a well-informed Internet researcher can be on par with a professional expert, even in a situation where new information is coming out almost hourly, this is going to be very hard on us. Not just because we thought we knew better about our own personal risk assessments, but because some of us are forgetting that we could be out there making things a LOT worse for everyone else.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Be Insufferable or Win an Election (Part 2 The Very Reasonable Debaters)

We're jumping in straight from Part 1, so if you need an introduction, head over there. As a reminder, this is the last thing I'm writing TO Sanders supporters before I BECOME a Sanders supporter, and I hope it is taken as the loving advice it is:
  • You cannot dismiss the existence of people who are so mean (particularly online) that they have been mentioned ALL. THE. TIME.....by everyone.....all over the Internet. Everyone has a story about them. Some people are afraid to post articles or their opinions because of them. I've blocked six people in the last week––all of them supporters of Sanders who have cheerfully River-Danced with their clompiest shoes on a few of these bullet points. THEY EXIST.   
  • My friend is done.
    No, my friend is not a centrist.
    My friend is a pro-revolutionary socialist.
    You are just not being QUITE as reasonable as you think.
  • You cannot dismiss the experience of encountering the people above as merely the bad luck of meeting "the worst of you." That's just a complete dismissal of a genuine problem. It's straight up #notALLSandersSupporters. I don't know what percentage are out there being shitheads and making people feel miserable about saying anything other than "Hail Bernie," but it is either enough in numbers or vociferousness that even Internet veterans (who KNOW goddamn well what the difference between the occasional taintwaffle and a non-trivial chunk of a movement looks like) have noticed, have several stories, have complained about it and mentioned it as literally the reason they are soured on Sanders, and are not fooled by being Jedi Mind Tricked with "You don't think this is actually a big deal!" It's more than a few. It's enough.
  • If it's not you, great! Wonderful. But....it's not so few you get to ignore it or dismiss it. 
  • Understand what the consequences are if you blow off criticism.... If you don't acknowledge it.... If you refuse to listen..... You can do ALL those things, but don't stand there like the surprised Pikachu meme when you lose.
    "But we told them how wrong they were so hard, and so many times, and on every single post we could find!!!!"
  • If you want to convince more folks to vote for your guy (and better yet, donate their time, money, and energy), deal with this instead of getting mad at people who bring it up. Getting mad at people who bring up their mistreatment falls into an ugly pattern of abusive behavior, and I really don't think that's the look you are going for.
  • You cannot erase people who complain about these encounters by making it all about you and how you've had some rough experiences too....especially (and hear me on this) if you try to say that it was THEIR first choice and THOSE followers who were actually out there being mean to YOU. This is just desperately close to something called DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse victim and offender). I'm not saying you're lying that you took it on the chin from the followers of that person's first choice––maybe even from one of their friends or something––and you can't exactly really DARVO in a situation with thousands of people and groups, but it's a really bad time to make it about you. Read the room. It is a time to commiserate or offer condolences. It's a time for sympathy. It's a time to make them feel heard. It's a time to say, "I hate those Bros out there giving us a bad name. I'm so sorry that happened." It's a time for "I feel your pain." and "Yes, we can." Not a time for you to tell them "Actually you're the problem, bucko." Also, these situations often have a lot of mitigating factors (who's in whose space, who is using "I statements" and who isn't, who is being a jerk, who is taking criticism as "persecution"). They can't be broken down so easily into "Yeah, well, your people did it to me too, so I guess you should just shut up." This is enormously derailing energy. 
  • Try some empathy or sympathy. Or even better, try not standing for that shit any time you see it and making sure that people you want to woo have a real sense that you understand how frustrating it can be to have their political calculus and difficult decision reduced to "corporate shill as bad as Trump" or to be told that if Sanders doesn't win, violence is the next step. (Again....think about who else [and his followers] says that sort of thing.) Make them feel like you're on their side. Like, you know, maybe you actually care about them and their life and don't just want to suck up their vote to feed the "revolution machine" and move on with a barbaric yawp. 
  • If (notice I've said "if") these bellicose Sanders supporters are running around on your social media comments without pushback or getting conspicuous silence (or maybe even love reacts?) to their most incendiary rhetoric, or if you are kind of letting them dogpile someone who wanders into your space to share an alternative perspective, then you don't get to turn around and say that they don't speak for you and who are we to judge you by the worst of you, "for SHAME, you hasty generalizers!" Those aren't rogue bad actors who you can't possibly be responsible for. That's a trend you are allowing. That's an atmosphere you've fostered. That's like saying that we can't consider white supremacy posting boards and 4chan culture when someone shoots up a church. We absolutely can and should, and lone wolves who haven't noticed they are soaking their paw in the Palmolive of incendiary rhetoric aren't as lone um....the other.....uh.....wolf packs.....of one. If you've allowed this, possibly fostered it, then you have to deal with the fact that it's not just a couple of bad actors. You can either tackle that inconvenient truth, or you can see how well your primary goes with....what looks to be, pretty consistently, about 30% of the Democrats' electorate behind you. But what you can't do is tell everyone who brings it up that they're full of shit and their lived experience is not real or that it's just a couple of you (when it's a LOT more than that and when it happens all the time). While hasty generalizations are definitely a problem when stereotyping demographics, a group that refuses to denounce and SPANK its worst members isn't actually fooling anyone: maybe they're sort of okay with what's going on. Maybe in places they don't talk about at parties, they sort of like those threads and agree with those comments. And then it becomes really tough to say "They don't represent me." Cause actually they kinda do. Folks do have bullshit detectors for this sort of thing.
  • Be ready to police your own. (Or get someone of comparable privilege to do it if you feel like the power differential means you can't.) Call them in if they need it gentle and private. Be ready to denounce people who go too far. Be ready to make your movement the change you want to see in the world. If you don't, all these people you want to bring over to your side (and who you absolutely NEED) are just going to go find nicer people to talk politics with. They will exchange ideas with moderates and still think socialist revolution is a radical idea on voting day. Remember, even if you chase them off and "win," (RAWR!) and even they avoid you online because you made them regret every conversation, they still get a vote.
  • You really need to stop unfriending/unfollowing/blocking people who have some criticism of Sanders (or his supporters). I mean, that's a good way to no longer feel bad. (And I pause here only to tell you that self-care is important and you should make your boundaries reflect that.) And in a social movement the marginalized community has no obligation to lean in. But again, this is a political movement. And again, what this doesn't do is court their votes. Actually it kind of makes you look cult-like in your inability to handle criticism the way most political movements are at least a little better at. The more insular and self-referential and all or nothing your world becomes, the bigger the surprise is going to be when you can't get your numbers up over low to mid 30%. It feels good when you're in it, but when you realize you're out of touch, you're going to have to face the facts that your cloistered discourse is the reason why.
  • You cannot completely exculpate a leader from the behavior of their followers, especially if that leader talks about others in the party he means to lead as if they are the enemy and embraces a we/they narrative around the folks whose support he desperately needs. That fosters an atmosphere in which moral imperative causes any means to justify the end. If it was one or two yahoos out there being epic shitheels, maybe, but Sanders hasn't done enough to tell his followers to knock it the fuck off. I don't know if he doesn't see the problem, thinks it's overblown, or just kind of likes it when people go feral on his behalf. But he has offered little more than the "Stop that" we have seen from someone ELSE when "very fine people" were out doing their white supremacy thing. As one of his supporters, you have to own that. And the reason why is because it's going to cause people to question either how much Sanders really wants them to actually stop, OR how well Sanders can lead if he can't even get control of the people who apparently think he is infallible. Saying that he has NO control over his zealot followers is actually.....a little scary. (Edit: Sanders has gone on record as being opposed to this behavior even as recently as a few hours after I first wrote this. Unfortunately, I noticed that the reaction to this was that things have gotten worse in the last 24 hours or so. Maybe the memo is still being distributed?) 
  • You know that way you feel? Like you KNOW how to make things better? You just KNOW and if people would just....fucking.....LISTEN to you, so much would be better? Well almost everyone else actively in politics feels that same way too. So you need to get out there and have some conversations with a little humility and see what happens. You can't court someone's vote by letting your allies treat them like shit and then getting MAD at them if they dare to mention it.
  • As I said before, congratulations. It's basically a two-person race now between Biden and Sanders and I'm even hearing rumors as of this writing that Warren will drop out. [Edit: This morning, to my renewed sadness even though I saw it coming.] Unfortunately, I'm sorry to say, you're up against a VERY savvy politician. Time to be ambassadors. And time to deal with the people who are out there being ANTI-ambassadors. You want your cause to sweep the nation, not leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Time to start acting like diplomats. Time to sell this revolution.

This is the only way you.......**AHEM**.......this is the only way WE can win.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Be Insufferable or Win an Election. Pick One.


[EDIT: Boy it sure is going to be ironic when the reactions to this post (being exactly what I'm talking about) make me toss my support behind Biden.]


Welp.

The worst part of democracy is the losing part.

And Warren lost pretty hard last night. (Edit: And has suspended her presidential bid as of this morning.)

However.....while I know that everyone who wants Sanders to go all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. so badly that they're wetting themselves is going to get a real itchy head from this, I would ask you to consider it loving advice from someone who wants us progressives to do a lot better against Biden than I think we're going to. And just let me say this ONE last thing to the Sanders supporters out there before I pop backstage for a costume change and become one of them:
  • You are not gonna win if you don't win more people to your side. Probably regardless (because the vast majority have not been convinced of the merits of a "socialist revolution," and are super nervous about taking anything they perceive as a chance on such a high-stakes election), but if you're filled with hope and bluster, you better change your tack from chasing down people who are "wrong on the Internet" and arguing with them until one of you unfriends/unfollows/blocks the other and switch to a much more compelling timbre. It's time to CONVINCE people. You do NOT have the numbers to win right now, so acting like Thanos ("I am inevitable.") is just going to go about the same way for you––no time travel needed. 
  • You have to realize you're trying to win PEOPLE over, not just win ARGUMENTS. Treat people like they're stupid. Treat people like they're ignorant. Treat people like they're insufficiently revolutionary if they haven't come to the same conclusions about the same things as you have. Call them bootlicking class traitors if it makes you feel better. But then you lose. Because that's not how to get votes.
  • "My way or the highway" is not how to govern a pluralistic society. It is how to govern a dictatorship. If you're going to play purity politics and drag anyone who disagrees, but you still want to be in charge, you need to win a coup. Bring guns. Don't lose.
  • You have to understand that messaging and message are different things. It's possible to tell people that everyone is getting a peggycorn pony and a rainbow gun that will make them orgasm with every trigger-pull (and not only will there be no need for taxes to pay for it but taxes will be abolished completely for everyone), but then to be SUCH an asshole that you turn people off completely from wanting that because it's you trying to give it to them. You can be selling free health care and college and jobs for everyone, but if the way you're doing it is to tell them that they are the evil establishment that is as bad as Trump, you might as well be trying to sell a box with a corn-laden turd in it. 
  • You're going to have to deal with electability arguments now. (Ironic, right?) Trust me when I tell you that people will ABSOLUTELY NOTICE if you are a flaming hypocrite about dismissing the same arguments you were MAKING about others, like....three days ago. You're going to want a more cogent, salient point in defense of not taking the safer road to defeat the worst president liberal values have ever seen.
  • You cannot just get mad at everyone you don't persuade. That's called intimidation, and it doesn't work in free and fair elections (which we kind of still have....sort of....I hope). There is another politician out there (and his followers) who gets mad at everyone he fails to persuade. Don't be like him (and them).
  • You might want to learn your candidate's platform and give him support beyond the stuff that––I gotta be honest––looks a little cult-of-personality-ish. People are going to ask questions like how how Sanders plans to pay for things. It would be really great for you to care enough about the candidate you want to govern you and everyone else that maybe you know the answers beyond "He just WILL." 
  • While you're at it, you should learn your candidate's voting record before you attack others for things Sanders has also done. It makes you look focused on him as a person instead of politics, platforms, and policy. Bernie voted for that crime bill you're trying to hang as a millstone over Biden's neck. He voted for Fosta/Sesta. You need to stop giving ONLY him the benefit of the doubt for having some complex calculus when it comes to complicated nuance or even just outright shitty votes.
  • You cannot speak matter-of-factly about how wrong someone is on a matter of political opinion without them having a negative reaction to that. You have to use "I" statements. You have to say things like "I feel" or "I hope" or "I think."  If you use statements like "Full stop," "Period," or "That's just how it is," every psychologist on Earth is going to tell you that (statistically speaking) the person you are talking to will walk away with a MORE ENTRENCHED opinion. This is not a social movement where you need to ostracize people for as long as it takes for the social repudiation to sink in and them (or more likely their children) to realize that they're the asshole. This is a partisan political movement in which you need to build a coalition who has your back (effectively, in about the next eight weeks).
  • You cannot confuse no one wanting to talk to you (because you're so unpleasant) with no one disagreeing with you. The fact that no one is on your wall picking a fight with all your pro-Sanders posts doesn't mean everyone agrees with you. It might just mean that everyone who would have done so has unfollowed you until 2021 when they hope you'll have calmed down.
  • You cannot discuss the outcome of the general election like you have anointed yourself the arbiter of What Will Be™. Talk about polls. Talk about your feelings. Talk about past elections that were similar. But every time you say "Only Bernie Can Beat Trump" without A) Evidence or B) The Slightest Acknowledgement That You Aren't Actually A Prophet, someone on the fence says something like "Sanders is a lot like Jesus. I like him more than his followers," and then goes and spends their $18.50 on a nice meal at Olive Garden.
  • Ditch the sexist double standards right. fucking. NOW. And while you're at it, stop dismissing the effect they have on the outcomes. Yes, I know that you didn't personally say "I could never vote for a WOMAN!" as you cast your ballot. You personally believed NONE of your reasons for hating her had anything to do with misogyny. I get that! But, see, that's not how double standards work. And that's not how modern-day scripts of supremacy and marginalization work. They're more subtle, more insidious, harder to recognize. Do you really believe a man of such competence would have done so poorly? (And if you think you would, perhaps ask yourself why you thought Sanders was being so REASONABLE when he suggested that a woman would have a harder time winning.) A huge number of polled folks said they would have her if they could have waved a magic wand. So what happened? Stick to policies and platforms if you didn't like Warren (or Klobuchar or Harris...), but be careful how you speak of her (them) and do the same due diligence you would for Sanders if he did something (like, say, signal that he was willing to negotiate on the abortion hard line) that the left considers "bad." Those same progressives you want to court and even fire up to donate and canvass are DEFINITELY going to notice if you are out there swinging around your huge throbbing D.....ouble standard.
  • Don't blame Warren for the loss of votes you feel you were entitled to. I realize the field is now mostly down to dudes duking it out (if Biden has his way, perhaps literally), but you know as well as I do that if there's a way to blame Warren for Sanders' performance going forward, a subset of supporters are going to cling to that like a lamprey on steroids. 
You have to realize you're trying to win people over, not just win arguments.
  • You must be open to the idea that, even if you feel your own personal motivations are pure and free from some sort of systematic double standard (like sexism), it is possible that a very sizeable number of your fellow supporters are adding enough bigotry to their attacks to change the perception of your entire group. That perhaps your meme pages, your friends, your media, your chat groups, the arguments you're hearing and repeating, or a thousand other sources up the "food chain" from you may be affected by motivations not so unsullied as you know your own thought process to be, including––we absolutely KNOW FOR A FACT––Russian psyops intended to divide the left so that Trump wins again. If someone calls something out that they think is harmful, you can roll your eyes and tell them they're simply wrong if you want, but it's probably not going to win you their vote. 
  • You have to stop nursing that persecution complex. Have people been unfair to Bernie? You bet. Politics is hell. Have they been unfair to The Left? That's the side that it's always okay to bash. Have they been unfair to YOU? All evidence suggests that if you give a shit about something on the internet, you've probably gotten unfair pain for it more than once. Has the MEDIA been unfair to Bernie? More than he deserves, for certain. But crawl down off that goddamn cross or walk away from mainstream politics. If you dismiss it all because "'they' hate us", you also dismiss people with thoughtful criticism. People with suggestions that, if implemented, would IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES. People who are literally telling you what the obstacle is to earning their vote. (Which you WANT.) You can't just ARGUE with them and try to Jedi Mind Trick them all into the fact that their concerns don't matter because sometimes people are mean to Sanders too. You know who else (along with his supporters) just complains and complains and complains about how everyone is persecuting him all the time and they are terribly unfair and fake-news witch-hunting him? (Okay, that last clue made it too easy.)
  • Watch out for that cult drift. Watch it, and be ready to hip check others going down this road. Because anyone who is not already stanning hard for Team Bernie is going to get super fucking nervous with every person they see acting like this.
Text version at the end of the article.
You're looking at #3 and #9 right? Super hard?
  • You cannot gloat, and you cannot shit on people's first choices. Just don't. You know that feeling you had when you realized (I mean really realized) that Secretary Clinton was going to be the nominee in 2016? Well, they're (we're) going through that now. Try to muster some fucking compassion unless you want them Bidening out of spite. But then, Sanders supporters wouldn't know ANYTHING about doing stuff out of spite or....oh wait....
  • And you triple dog dare don't want to turn around and retroactively blame their already-lost-candidate for how badly Sanders is doing now. You pretty much won't get me to go NeverSanders because I've seen what Trump can, and will do, to the people I love, but every time I hear some baseless we vs. them attack on Warren out of the mouth of a Sanders supporter, like "corporate whore" (particularly if it includes a misogynistic gendered slur), or I see someone saying that she should have dropped out sooner because Sanders was entitled to the votes she took (because of course every SINGLE Warren voter would have gone Bernie otherwise), I will get that much closer to leaning back, doing nothing until July 14th, and just watching Biden cinch it without a peep. I won't like him (Biden) any more than I already don't, but the giveashit will just drain right out of me. My five dollars a month and occasional blog post might not matter for much, but I'll donate to flipping the senate and write about voter re-enfranchisement. Hell, I'll buy a box of Girl Scout Cookies and eat them while I write an editorial about the beauty of non-comma appositive phrases before I'll stand for that bullshit. And I am not alone. So curb the worst devils of your nature. (And help the person next to you curb theirs.)
  • Except Bloomberg. You can probably do Bloomberg. Anyone who thought he was awesome isn't coming around to your side of the "soul of the Democrat party" anyway. What a landfill inferno that was. (Way too big to just be a trash can fire.)  **changes the words to Disco Inferno** "♫Burning burning....♪"
  • According to polling, Sanders pulled in fewer "Bernicrat" voters (those who won't vote in the general if it's not Sanders on the ticket) than in 2016, so you are not the infusion of young blood that's going to save the Democratic party. You might want to consider this when you attempt to persuade (instead of badger, remember?) the bigger, better-funded, more civically engaged, has-been-here-the-whole-time-not-just-every-four-years wing of the party you mean to lead.
  • That's right! You are attempting to elect the leader of the Democratic party and you're doing so by turning to DEMOCRATS and asking them to join you in a movement that is to the left of most of them. And risky. And particularly scary when the stakes are so high that they want to play it safe. You might want to think about not treating them like they're the enemy. 
  • This is a political movement with social dynamics, not a social movement with political dynamics. The platform you want may have a lot to do with financial equality and inequality, but this isn't a situation in which civility politics are a derailment. This is a situation in which you actually very much can "do yourself no favors." A non-trivial number of people have left Sanders or been turned off by him because of the way they have been treated by his supporters. You DO have to think about your tone. 
  • You are not the one who gets to decide if you are being friendly, reasonable, "just debating," "just asking questions," "just bringing up some concerns." If someone tells you that you're being insufferable, you can't just insist that no, you're not. In an eight-week race to persuade others to your cause, other people's perceptions of your jackholery is all that matters. (Yes, I know the primary may not really be over until July 13th. I'm thinking about when things get pretty gosh dang locked in.) You have to listen to people who tell you that you're coming off as combative, being vitriolic, jumping in with knee-jerk defense so aggressively that it feels truculent. Remember, you can't just BEAT these people in some online contest of who-gets-in-the-last-word. You want them to go into a voting booth and AGREE WITH YOU, so "winning" your debate doesn't just mean getting someone to quit the field only to betray you later. ("The Warrenisters send their regards!")
  • You absolutely, positively, unequivocally CANNOT brazenly hold the fate of the country hostage by saying that the Dems better come around to Sanders because, by God, you will not vote for Biden. You may think that. You may even plan on doing that. And I'm not here to tell you anyone is entitled to your vote or malign a political calculus that causes deeply marginalized folks to abstain from voting altogether (though I would hope the last election has been evidence that even though things can't get better at non-glacial speeds, they can always get WORSE). But if you want to entice anyone to your cause, you better shut the fuck up with the "Do this, or else!" narrative. As a threat, it will absolutely have the opposite effect you intend. 
  • You HAVE to stop with the conspiracy stuff. The DNC bylaws absolutely suck, Superdelegates are anti-democratic. (We can talk about how they do provide a block against populist tyranny, but maybe another time.) Democrats are to the right of center and would be the conservative party in most other developed nations. The establishment will work to protect their own power. And watching the D triple C try to keep their centrist dinosaurs from being primaried was breathtakingly out of touch. But even STILL....there's a difference between the DNC outright rigging an election and some other politician outmaneuvering Sanders. There's a difference between the DNC rigging an election and making political alliances. There's a difference between the DNC rigging an election and Sanders not getting the votes he needs in a fair democratic process. This is a contest where coalitions matter. Where bringing people to your way of thinking matters. Where you want to earn and call in favors. And frankly, where not being a member of the party probably has some downsides. It's a contest in which you can't just repeat the word "revolution" and "corruption" so many times that you come to believe anyone who moves against you is obviously playing dirty pool. Sometimes they're just playing pool, but they know how to make the trick bank shot. And sometimes you lose in democracy because you didn't convince enough folks. It's not actually a conspiracy. 
  • You better shut up with the "both sides are just as bad" shit comparing moderates to Republicans. You need those moderates, and egregiously insulting them is a pretty good way to get them to go online and buy some Biden signs for their front lawn. You may have a point of view from which both parties share certain harmful ideologies like capitalism or imperialism, and there is room to talk about that in the wide umbrella the Democrats cast in what is unfortunately a two-party system.... Certainly the moderate wing of the democratic party is at odds with the progressive wing on a number of issues....  But the kids in cages, the people in danger of losing health care, the women who stand to lose control of their own bodies, the folks who are terrified about their physical safety should Trump win again, they are simply ERASED completely by such a reductive, facile political bit of bumper sticker* wisdom. (*It's not even nuanced enough to be a sound bite.)
  • You cannot preemptively say that the only result you will consider valid is if you win. That if you lose, the game was clearly rigged all along. (I mean if you're polling at 75 points maybe, but....that's not what's going on here.)  That is the tactic shared by.....well, by now I hope you know. 
  • You have to stop treating Democrats to the right of you like they're worse than Trump. Look, I get it: the DNC is a shart in a hot tub and the moderates among them are fighting your every progressive policy. But here's the pisser of it, and there's no getting around it: If Bernie becomes the President of the United States but Dems lose so many down-ticket races because he acts like they're the bad guys, then none of this sweet revolution will ever actually happen. You won't have the votes! Presidents have different powers than Congress and doing what they want requires a Congress that won't stop them. You have to be ready to grudgingly deal with legislators in purple states who've made some decisions you aren't happy with. If Congress goes red, it won't matter who the President is. If you become uncompromising purity politickers, you lose it ALL. 
  • Congratulations. It's basically a two person race now between Biden and Sanders and I'm even hearing rumors as of this writing that Warren will drop out. [Edit: This morning, to my renewed sadness even though I saw it coming.] Unfortunately, I'm sorry to say, you're up against a VERY savvy politician. Time to be ambassadors. Time to deal with the people who are out there basically being anti-ambassadors for the cause you mean to have sweep the nation. Time to start acting like like the diplomats you are going to have to be to your cause. Time to sell this revolution.
This is the only way you.......**AHEM**.......this is the only way WE can win.

This got a little long, so I'm going to make a separate post about a certain subset of Sanders supporters who are particularly difficult online. You know the ones.

PART 2



  • Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.

    1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
    2. Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
    3. Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".
    4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
    5. Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
    6. Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.
    7. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
    8. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
    9. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
    10. Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.

Monday, March 2, 2020

I'm Voting For....

In 2016 a group of Sanders supporters whose existence I have been assured was thoroughly debunked somehow, despite this lack of existence, still managed to be a part of my lived experience when I discussed politics on social media, and made that SO unpleasant for me that I found I had a mild PTSD reaction heading into the 2020 primaries. Knowing that Russian psyops hadn't been addressed and would be exacerbating (legitimate) divisions on the left, and that everything would be the same or worse, I just wasn't ready to burn bridges and friendships again.

I couldn't deal. I wouldn't deal. I refused to name names––especially months early. I called out sexist double standards, pointed to some bad behavior (usually in the vaguest of terms though that was not always possible), and most people paying attention probably know where my vote is going, but I have been remarkably tight lipped....for me.

But now we're here. Tomorrow is my primary. So I'm going to talk about it for just a moment.

Tomorrow, after I have lunch with a friend and they give me a massage (as their contribution to my move since they're no good at lifting heavy things), I will go back to Lafayette (as switching my registration wasn't an option for this election), and cast my vote for Elizabeth Warren.

[Also yes on 13!]


She's smart. She's capable. And she has a plan.

(Dear god....she might be a cylon. Well, if so, I for one welcome our new cylon overlords.)



She's not perfect. She's not aligned with my progressiveness. She's to the right of me, honestly. But when I look at the "supply/demand" curve of liberalism and pragmatism, she is the vote I can cast without a major moral objection and without thinking that it's just an idealistic protest vote against a corrupt system with little or no actual praxis.

I like Sanders' idealism more, and my politics align more closely with his vision, but he has a number of issues (which drive his supporters to rage when I mention, but today's the day). He boils every social problem down to financial inequality, and frankly sexism, racism, and transantagonism are their own issues and must be dealt with in their own ways. Warren gets a lot of key endorsements from these groups or ranks higher on their ratings (almost always because she has outlined something more pragmatic than "We're going to fix it! Starting with jobs.....") Sanders isn't particularly clear on matters of policy. I agree with where he wants to go, but he's a little vague on how we would get there. Warren has less lofty ambitions, but everything she wants to do is planned out, paid for, signed, sealed, and delivered. She wants universal childcare, student loan debt forgiveness, free education, but unlike Sanders, she has already laid out policy plans for how she's going to pay for these things.

Sanders seems to think that only insurance companies and banks oppose his vision of European Democratic Socialism [and I want to make it 178% crystal clear that I would FUCKING LOVE Democratic Socialism] but I think he's vastly overestimating how the effort to win hearts and minds is going. It's fine to get mad at everyone who doesn't already agree with you and call them "bootlickers" or whatever, but you can't govern if you don't win. If the labor class in the US hasn't been won over to your way of thinking, your "revolution" is going to look a lot like 30% of the Democratic party (which is about 10% of the voting electorate, bee tee dubs) getting really salty on social media.

Save your guillotine money for chips and dip. What we really need is a few more mixers.

We don't have the kind of government where we get to say, "I'm going to do this TO you, and trust me that you'll end up liking it." (I mean we DO, but we're not supposed to, and in today's landscape, it's never going to be the left who gets away with that.) Besides, anyone who gets that job in 2021 is going to spend 3/4 of their first term just cleaning up messes. Warren seems like she would be fucking GREAT at repairing what has been intentionally broken!

I think Sanders would make a fabulous V.P. Just spectacular!!! He would be out there doing what he does best––uncompromising grumpy yelling in support of a left-moving policy and convincing people that an even LEFTer agenda will make their lives better. He would be a great support whipper-upper! I don't want Sanders hunched over some impossible decision that no one should have to make and realizing that he can't just MAKE the country be Democratic Socialists. I don't want him quagmired in the minutiae of a budget that HAS to have appropriations or it won't get passed. And I don't really feel like he would do much to undo the rhetorical divide of Trump. I feel like he's just the uncompromising populist on OUR side. Warren, I can see out there selling her ideas with some "I feel your pain"/"Yes we can!" mojo, a bit of give and take to Get Er' Done, and the hard numbers that could even bring some of those swing voters around.

And do I need to talk about the ways in which Sanders has demonstrated lack of robust leadership with his inability to curb certain......behaviors in his followers, that––while I have been assured they were debunked and do not exist––have caused every single other candidate's supporters to single his supporters out by name as being particularly awful? Including me. No? Good. I swear I voted for Sanders in 2016, and the behavior of his supporters made me have a bad taste in my mouth about it by the end. Particularly the sexist double standards which have continued into the current primary.

Now that the field is down to a progressive, a left-leaning moderate, and a "centrist" (which in this country means a very right-leaning moderate), the narrative has shifted to the idea that Warren should drop out and let the war of DNC ideologies duke it out. (PS- Centrists would win that one, I'm afraid, if for no other reason than they will donate and will show up more than every four years.) But it sure is hard not to notice that a WHOLE lot of Bernie supporters are making suggestions to Warren that they did not like being made to Bernie in 2016.


I suspect Warren is far too smart to drop out before Super Tuesday. Bernie needs 1933 delegates to win. Biden needs 1937. Warren needs 1983. This is not a two-person race. 46 states have yet to vote (or roughly 92% of the country), and I think unless she were getting single digits, she would stick around on the principle of democracy.  If progressives seize the soul of the Democratic party, I think she's just the tiniest bit more agreeable to both the establishment Dems (and, in the general, to the country) than a guy who says he's a socialist (except when he's assuring people that Democratic socialism isn't *REALLY* socialism), is prideful that he's not a Democrat (except every four years when he is), and says some things about communism and a few world leaders that (while I don't necessarily completely disagree with the ACTUAL point being made) are big no-no's in the world of US politics.

If Sanders takes the nomination, I will fight hard for him (he'll need it). But not tomorrow, my friends.

Not tomorrow.

I have a very hard time imagining that Warren can't see a clear shot to the nomination from just where she is. And since I lack a sword, a bow, or an axe, tomorrow, she'll have my quill.

Because I'm pretty sure......she has a plan.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Abusive Billionaire Crap (The ABC's of the Modern Political Landscape)

CN: Abuse dynamics

Jokes about Warren "killing him" aside, let me do some real talk. I can't tell you what Michael Bloomberg does when he's not on camera (though an awful lot of people seem to imply that it isn't savory), but when he is on camera....in a national debate, he acts like an abuser.

Bloomberg got up on stage last night and lied. He lied in exactly the same way Trump did way back when he (Trump) still worried that his base might be scared off by fact-checkers.

He lied in exactly the same way in the way abusers do...at least when they're in public.

"My taxes are too complicated," Bloomberg said.

Let me refresh your memory of the exact words of Trump: “It is big. And it is complex. And it is probably feet high. It is a very complex instrument. And I think that people would not understand it.”

But more to the point, even if he DOES release them next week in his right-before-Super-Tuesday surprise to convince worried moderate boomers that he's better than Trump (after all, he probably IS [actually] a billionaire and not a bloated hundred-thousandaire in massive debt to the Russian mafia oligarchs), telling people that you can't be forthright with them because they wouldn't GET it––they wouldn't UNDERSTAND what they were looking at––that’s abuser talk. How many times have you heard that in the mouths of abusers? “Look, I'm not going to justify myself to you. You don't have all the facts." (Unsaid: And I'm not GOING to give all the facts to you. I just expect you to doubt yourself––and I shall live underneath the umbra of that doubt.)

The real one, though, was about the NDAs on women he'd harassed. I don't know what he did, but I can tell you with the marrow in my bones that it was worse than tell a joke that "they just couldn't take." (Women can't take a joke, amirite? JFC!)

That shit where you swing the silencing tactic back around and blame the victim? That's classic abuser.

"Oh...THEY want to keep their stories private," he said.

Michael, do you know what they would have to do if you released them from their NDAs in order to keep their stories private?

Nothing.

That's it. They would just have to go on about their day. They would have to buy some tasty carbonated beverage from Safeway and sit down to sip it while watching The Witcher. That's it. Their stories would remain hidden. If some savvy reporter could even figure out who they were without them actually coming forward, they would simply have to change their response from “Sorry, NDA,” to, “Sorry. Don’t want to talk about it.” NDAs don't protect those women IN ANY WAY. Those NDAs don't protect anyone but MICHAEL BLOOMBERG.

But framing the isolation of victims from their ability to recount their stories as "for their own good" is classic abuser tactics. Telling people "It's private...WE don't want to air our dirty laundry" when someone is trying to hold them accountable for their actions is classic abuser tactics. And Bloomberg was on his "first-date" behavior last night.

I get that some people see a politician willing to switch their party to run for mayor (and then back again) as literally "as centrist as you can get" but I strongly suggest anyone who thinks that’ he is going to be anything but Trump with a shorter and bluer tie (and a far more Machiavellian mind) to consider the things it says about opportunism, manipulation, and rudderless self-absorption with his own political gain at any cost. We've already seen what the price of those things will be when (not so) deep down in places one doesn't talk about at parties (well, except for the fact that both Trump and Bloomberg DO talk about them.....even to reporters), there is a wanton bigotry displayed for women, BIPOC, trans folk, and anyone with the temerity to "choose" poverty.

Abuse has a social analogue in oppression and marginalization dynamics (complete with its own social forms of gaslighting, honeymoon cycles, and victim blaming) and while there are plenty of people who don't realize what they're doing or are enablers, obscenely rich, cishet white men who think they should be in charge are most likely to fill in the role of the unapologetic abusive partner: "You shouldn't have made me so angry. If you would just do what I tell you, these things wouldn't happen."

My Blue No Matter Who has limits, but frankly that's next season's debate. For now, let me just beg and plead that the generation who looked the other way when abuse was happening across the apartment complex and said nothing during awkward hallway encounters not do the same thing to the whole fucking country. Let's not even GO there, and then we won't have to even have the debate over which asshole could theoretically destroy democracy, marginalized communities, and pluralism more quickly.

Let's not make our decision between two unapologetic abusers.

Monday, February 3, 2020

It's Bigger Than "A Simple Geography Mistake"

Chris's Pass/Agg theater of the day (today with very little "Pass"):

Of course, everyone makes mistakes. Of course not everyone is fully versed in U.S. geography. Of course I'VE "ever made a factual error on social media." But before you dive in like Dean trying to take a bullet for Sam and run the "liberals are mean and just look for any excuse to be mean" play right off of page two of your playbook, I'm going to remind you of the Tan Suit News Cycle That Wouldn't Die™ so sit there for a second and shut your fucking hypocritical waffleslurper.

Do I care that someone doesn't know where a football team comes from? I have a pretty active imagination. I make my money by being creative. And I still have a difficult time picturing myself caring any LESS. I didn't even know who was playing until yesterday, and the only reason I know where one of the teams is from is because I could spit and hit the stadium.

But I do care that this is emblematic. I care that the President of the United States just pops off whatever is on his fucking mind and it is the official communication of the office. Today it might be a low-stakes error about where Kansas City is (or where the team is from if you believe the first "wave" of defenders that of course Trump knew there was a Kansas City in Kansas), but tomorrow it might cause a foreign policy disaster. He doesn't even lean over to someone (anyone!) and say "Hey, does that look good to you?" He doesn't double-check things. He doesn't make sure he's right...or even that he's spelled hamburger correctly. Because he's been alive for over seven decades and still hasn't realized that he has the capacity to be wrong. He's playing fast and loose with his fucking cell phone like he STILL hasn't realized there are consequences.

(Partially because there never are.)

I care that he's a constant national fucking embarrassment. This isn't like my friend making a mistake and me being an asshole that says "Haha! You don't know U.S. geography!" (You have my permission to smack me with a trout if I ever do this.) These aren’t off-the-cuff remarks. This is the President of the United States on official communications who regularly doesn't bother to fact check, get a second opinion, or even proofread. He doesn't treat his job with any sort of veneration or respect. (He only demands these things for himself personally.) In ANY other job, that sort of behavior from an outward-facing representative of the entire company would be considered egregiously unprofessional. CEOs have gotten fired by their boards for not being careful with their PERSONAL social media, never mind the company's official accounts. But you want me to LOWER the bar if it's POTUS?

I care that he makes mistakes like this all the time, but still fucking thinks he knows everything about everything. If this were the first boner, I'd be in line to defend him. But he doesn't grow and develop. He doesn't evolve. When I misposted a couple of articles in a one-week period (they were both over two years old, not current), I was mortified. Now I check the date EVERY time. He HAS no such shame. He just gets pissed off at the people who tell him he's wrong. Which means he goes on being wrong and making mistakes and not learning......and that, I very much DO care about. He should have a social media team, but he doesn't care that he makes factual errors, retweets Nazis, or undermines years of policy when does it all himself.

I care that he literally cannot admit error. The man wrote a tweet with a meaningless collection of letters that is now an international joke, and instead of saying "Yeah, I need to stop going to bed with my phone," or something that literally every human being would relate to, he tried to play it off like he would later reveal the super secret meaning of his "absolutely intended" gibberish. He uses sharpies on weather maps rather than admit he was using hours-old data and should have double-checked. He has no ability to admit that he is a human being capable of error. He only knows how to double down. That's not a LITTLE problem.

I care because he's NOT going to admit he was wrong about this. (He deleted the tweet. That's about as close as you ever get.) And whether he influences them or was simply chosen as their paragon avatar for his powers of truthbending, he now sits on the throne of a group that will defend his absurdities to the last. Even now––even after he deleted the posts––they are out there saying that the team is "basically" from Kansas. This behavior came from a place that can't admit fault or error. An entire political movement exists with whom FACTS DON'T MATTER. They would rather insist on "alternative facts" and defend what would have been perfectly-understandable mistakes as "not actually mistakes at all" by twisting themselves into pretzels

I care that he is a fucking buffoon. Not that he makes mistakes so much as he thinks he doesn't. Not just that he doesn't think he makes them, but he doesn't believe he ever WILL make them either because he truly, ardently believes that it is impossible he ever could. Ignorance is not a moral failing or a crime or even by itself a judgement of value. Clinging to ignorance and defending it IS. And while I might be a little nervous about a world leader who clearly didn't know some pretty basic stuff, even still I could be comforted if they had the humility to know that, and surrounded themselves with expert advisors who they respected and listened to. THAT AIN'T TRUMP. Not only does Trump embarrassingly not know basic things but he THINKS he does. Not only does he not know things, but he doesn't check in with the people who do––nor would he listen to them if they said something he didn't like. Not only does he not know things, but he regularly ACTIVELY MOCKS the very institutions that try to keep people informed and ATTACKS the individuals who point out that he is in error.

So you go ahead and climb up on that cross and tell us that we're all a bunch of look-for-anything-to-complain-about meanie mean heads being elitist about geography. Frankly, not knowing what the real issue is, but THINKING you do, fits in pretty nicely with the motif.

Covfefe!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

No More Speed Limits for Trump (The GOP's Moral Failure)

I learned to drive in Santa Clarita Valley—specifically Canyon Country, its south-easternmost town. These days, you can find it on a map just north of Los Angeles, but back when I lived there, even the main drags had huge swaths of undeveloped land between a peppering of strip malls and housing tracts, and I had to explain it to most people by saying "it's near Magic Mountain." Learning to drive in Canyon Country was a swift lesson in Things Law Enforcement Didn’t Really Care About™.

They didn’t care if you sped on Soledad between Sand Canyon and the McDonald’s unless you were clearly doing over 75.

They would almost never enforce rolling stops except for on Whites Canyon, Soledad, or near this chunk of the town where all three schools were within spitting distance of each other. (You might have to really wind up to hit the middle school.

And if you were on Bouquet Canyon Road or Sierra Highway between Santa Clarita Valley and Palmdale, you could go as fast as you wanted. There was a posted speed limit of 55. But it didn’t matter. They never gave out tickets in the stretch between cities. And everyone KNEW they never gave out tickets. So drive as fast as you want. It may as well have been an autobahn.

Because laws that aren’t enforced don’t really matter. Something can be "technically" illegal, but if it is never enforced, it doesn't matter.

Trump’s acquittal, while absolutely the most predictable thing since Shutter Island, is now a lesson that there is no consequence to a sitting President using their power and authority to withhold congressional foreign aid at gunpoint in order to coerce other nations to interfere in U.S. elections. Further, it is okay for the executive branch to arbitrate whether or not the constitutionally mandated powers of the legislative branch are “valid,” and to completely disregard them if they wish.

Not “okay” of course. Everyone agrees that Trump did something wrong. But there will be no consequences.

It’s piss-obvious what happened. Trump withheld foreign aid from Ukraine in order to get them to announce an investigation into a thoroughly debunked theory in the hopes that the mere hint of impropriety would change his personal political fortunes against a rival he was losing to in the polls. (Naturally the “perfect” phone call the White House was a lie. This President lies. He lies a lot. He lies about shit that has been proven wrong on camera. But why should that stop the party of family values from treating him, from a sociological standard, more like a cult leader than a politician.)  In fact, it was SO obvious what happened that the Republicans essentially had to change their strategy in mid-stream. They had started by claiming it was about a deep and abiding concern for corruption (a claim betrayed by the timing, the conditions put on the money, and not to put too fine a point on it, but the fact is that this administration has yet to meet a corruption it didn’t like), but by the time Bolton was confirming the entire story and that it was actually even more corrupt than the initial investigation revealed, and GOP senators were breaking ranks to get to the truth, suddenly the entire argument shifted to “Okay, okay. What he did was wrong, but doesn’t meet the standard of an impeachable offense.”



Literally “He did it and we all know he did it. And he lied about it repeatedly. And it was wrong….and totally illegal. And he knew it was wrong when he was doing it. But since the Constitution is vague, we can pretend that it wasn’t so bad he should be removed from office.”



Lawyers even said that anything Trump did in an attempt to get reelected wasn’t impeachable because Trump thought it was in the country’s best interest. Give that a moment’s thought if you haven’t already. Have you EVER met a politician who thought that their election was NOT in the best interests of their constituents? This is literally arguing that ANYTHING a sitting President does—bribery, extortion….treason––is all okay so long as it furthers a reelection they “really” believe in.

Republicans have had a little “ends justify the means” problem with what they claim are their moral principles for quite some time now, but that sound you heard was millions of eyes going wide as it is still apparently possible to shock the rest of the country by just coming right out and making it your official defense.

Marco Rubio took it even a step further: ”Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office….”

If you unpack that, it’s basically, “Yeah, Trump broke the law and it was ethically bad enough to remove him, and we probably ought to, but I’ve decided not to." (Curiously, this might be the only stance that wouldn’t be reprehensibly hypocritical should a Democrat turn around and do the same thing in four years.

Of course there was never any doubt that this would happen. The Republican leadership was transparent about how impartial they WEREN’T going to be. When Trump was impeached, Mitch McConnell said he was going to do everything he could to help the President (until he realized those optics really sucked and then got all solemn and promised to do his impartial duty…..which just happened to involve doing everything he could to help the President).

The only moment that wasn’t utter, farcical Kabuki theater was when three senators broke ranks in wanting to hear from witnesses. Two were whipped back into line, probably with the threat of losing RNC funds (and if you’re slightly conspiratorial, both may have been putting on a “show” that McConnell agreed to ahead of time because they need to be seen as somewhat open-minded in their battleground states). The only holdout (Romney) was uninvited from CPAC. He’s being “punished.”

Republicans with the SLIGHTEST interest in finding the truth, never mind doing their job, are being “punished."

So the message is crystal clear, now Trump knows he can go as fast as he wants.

The legislative branch has essentially said that it’s okay if the President abuses their authority and holds up the funding CONGRESS allocated to fetter it to political favors. They’ve said it’s okay to enlist the aid of foreign countries to interfere in our elections. They’ve said that it’s okay for the President to ignore the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution and “decide” if a given congressional investigation is worth cooperating with. And if that President decides that it’s politically inconvenient or they don’t like where it’s going, they can just tweet “witch hunt” enough and ignore subpoenas en masse.  Far from mere “executive privilege” on a case-by-case basis decided by the courts, it is okay if the President deems something Congress was given the power to do as unimportant, it’s okay to just ignore their authority.



Well….not OKAY, but there won’t be any consequences for it.



Not a raised voice. Not a “Shame on you, Mr. President.” Not a non-binding resolution of censure. Not one finger wagged.

We all know what kind of frenzy we’d be looking at if a President with a “(D)” after their name had done half of this with an opposition Congress. We would be seeing an assiduous understanding of the “DUTY” of Congress, a keen grasp of the separation of powers, and a clear, lucid articulation of how ignoring subpoenas en masse was an irreverent mockery of legislative authority. Republicans bringing fidget spinners into chambers and railing with their grandstanding time that they can’t even GRASP what Democrats are on about is the worst sort of bad-faith partisan hypocrisy imaginable….which might matter if today’s GOP had shame.

Those who are worried about what happens now are not being hyperbolic. It is as bad as they’re worried it is. The Senate GOP closed ranks and sold out the interests of the American people to protect its party leader. In doing so, they were derelict in their duty to protect the legislature from executive attacks on the Constitution and that document's mandated separation of powers ("checks and balances"). They handed the keys to the President to ignore the rule of law because their political fortunes are all linked and among them they don’t have enough vertebra to form a single entire spine.

There are no adults in the room and the temperance we were assured Trump had behind his bluster never manifested.

Will Russia’s help be directly enlisted now? No more games. No more red-faced, flying spittle insistences that there was no collusion. Just a transparent series of strategy meetings in exchange for sanction lifting that no one will even bother to try too hard to hide. What about if Trump just starts granting political favors to Republican US state governors who will promise to close a few key polling stations, scrub some registrations, or pull some strings? (Swing states are won and lost by fractions of a percentage. It wouldn’t take more than one voter out of 200 being affected to make a difference.) What if he agrees to trade deals in exchange for campaign funding? What if he just decides to go with the play that works and suddenly it’s pay to play on US foreign aid? (You want that humanitarian aid that Congress has allocated to you? Pick the Democrat you’re going to be announcing a corruption investigation into.) Every nation could be secretly investigating a different democrat. And what if he decides to skip subverting democracy and goes straight for attacking it. ("I have decided it's in 'the best interests of the country' if we postpone the 2020 election until this contentious time has passed.") It’s not like it’s even terribly difficult to imagine Trump tangled up in any of these scenarios.

And perhaps more to the point, now the President can do any of these things so long as the opposition Senate isn’t anywhere close to a 2/3 majority.

It’s illegal, but it’s not like there’re any REAL consequences.



Trump can go as fast as he wants.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Splash Damage: A Play in Three Acts

NOT Writing About Writing now presents a medieval-themed allegory play called Splash Damage


Act One  


Scene 1


Somewhere in Cyberspace. Modern Day. Pierce and Norm are chatting.


PIERCE

I'm trying to come up with a joke about our current administration. Particularly the leader of the Republican party.
NORM


Well, he's put kids in cages. Memos leaked that the treatment of asylum-seekers was intentionally cruel to act as a deterrent. He has congratulated dictators, held back military aid in exchange for personal political gain, he is so insecure that he attacks his political allies who don't fellate him, sixteen-year-olds, and dead people on Twitter. He has abandoned our allies. He is behaving so exactly like Moscow would like him to that it's there's actually a pretty good case for him being a Russian asset––including doing absolutely nothing about the fact that they interfered in our elections. He obstructs congress, can't go a week without a constitutional crisis––to say nothing of just plain scandals like voicing support for dictators and ignoring journalists killed because of trade deals––, has clearly surrounded himself with criminals, and is an international embarrassment. He basically blew off the emoluments clause and any transparency around it, puts up staff in his hotel at cost like he's running a grift, is a walking ethics breach, and can't seem to cross the room without accruing some corruption charges, which isn't surprising since his understanding of the government that he runs clocks in at a bit under what an 8th-grade civics class would cover. He attacks any institution that besmirches him, no matter how integral they might be to a functional democracy. Not to mention that he hasn't fired a white supremacist on his senior staff, calls Nazis very fine people, is openly racist, misogynist (including a self-admitted sexual assaulter), and homophobic. And he's running a trade war with tariffs that Americans pay for, based on nothing but his demonstrably wrong ideas about what tariffs even are, what they do, or who pays for them, all essentially to assuage his ego about zero sum "deal making," which he is notoriously terrible at if he is not already the boss. He extrajudicially murders high-ranking foreign statespeople without a clear or present danger. He has now spent more of the taxpayer's money than the auto bailout just to keep farmers from losing everything, even though basically every mainstream economist says he's tanking the economy. If his lips are moving, he's lying. He has gutted decades worth of regulations set up to help people who don't have a billion dollars or a corporation with which to defend themselves, and he is a reprehensible character of breathless moral turpitude. He engages in outlandish nepotism, not so much draining the swamp as bringing in a giant hose and pumping the bilge directly into it. He has emboldened a new era of hate crimes, naked bigotry, and cruelty as the ends itself, all with Republican culpability. And that's before even cracking open his personal history of fraud, tax evasion, and credible rape accusations. If I believed in evil, this administration would be it.

PIERCE

I'm going to make fun of how he looks and suggest he has a learning disability.

Curtain

Act II


Scene 1
Discord Chat Engine. Modern Day. Prudence and Pierce are chatting.


PRUDENCE

That joke was clever, Pierce, but perhaps consider that it reinforces taboo and negative stereotypes to others who share said characteristic but are not themselves terrible people like the person you are trying to laugh at–at least not BECAUSE of this characteristic. Plenty of people with bad hair do not employ white supremacists. Plenty of people with small hands are not holding up foreign aid contingent on their personal political benefit. Plenty of people who have learning disabilities do not place children in cages to try to deter those seeking asylum. Perhaps we should retire such humor in favor of better, more precise, humor that really gets at the terribleness instead of skipping past the terribleness to focus on looks or smarts. Surely accurate jokes can be equally titillating.

PIERCE
No, Prudence, I'm sorry. We have a moral obligation to make fun of him. And since he himself is sensitive to his looks, it must be in that way. There can be no other guiding star. Because my intentions are to harm only him, my impact will not matter. That is how life works when one is particularly odious, and truly deserves mockery. Their pain subsumes all other concerns.

Curtain

Act III
Scene 1
A living room. Modern day. Mark is in the middle of the floor.


MARK
For all that he is and all that he is not, it is the characteristics he shares with me––the unalterable circumstances of my birth––that they find most disagreeable. Not the pain he inflicts or his dubious choices or his bigotry or his moral turpitude, but instead his appearance and his ability to process information. THAT is where their spurs land. That is what they find worthy of mockery. I can only conclude that who I am is worse than all these things combined, for it is the traits I share and not his willful behaviors that have become the insult.

I shall internalize this. I shall never forget the lesson I have learned this day about how much people who look and think like me are valued. And I am now in pain.

~fin~

Monday, January 20, 2020

This Schedule Already Rocks my Socks!

[This got a little long for the FB post it started out as. I'm going to do some navel-gazing about my wonderful, kick-ass new schedule that I can already tell is better than sliced bread and possibly not getting charged the extra buck for guacamole at Chipotle.]

Going in two hours later each day (or an additional hour and 15 minutes on top of the late November adjustment) is going to make a big difference. For reasons I think have about 90% to do with perception, that end of the day has a very "small change, big results"/"fiddle with the knob and get a whole new dynamic" type ebb and flow about it.

I'll be able to really knock out an entire day writing before I have to get to work. If I sleep in, wake up, eat, do my morning routine (which I'll be the first to admit includes too fucking much Facebook), and then sit down to work a little late, I won't immediately have that sense of "WTF just happened? There's no time! I have to crank out some kind of puff piece if I'm going to get out of here by 1:15." Even when I **DO** have to go into work, most days I'll be done in just a couple of hours (instead of five or six) and able to come back and keep going if I wish (instead of exhausted). Plus there's plenty of time for adulting if I need an appointment or something, and not having to figure out what writing to sacrifice every time you want to have a teeth cleaning, get a skin tag looked at, or go take care of your passport is exactly the kind of thing creativity needs to flourish. Our high-octane, late-capitalism world of side hustles, constant productivity, and zero-sum time management is a near-impossible environment for creative thought, no matter how fecund the starting soil.

I also have a feeling that I WON'T do as much Facebook. At least in my experience I won't. I waste time––like really waste it––when "me time" feels like a starvation economy.  When I actually have time and I'm not worried about how much I've got to get furiously get done before I "hop in the shower at 12:30 to be on the road 1:15....", that's when I start having ideas left and right (but mostly left ones *rimshot*) and sitting down in the middle of the afternoon on a lark to just crank out two hours of fiction or something.

I also have a hard cap of 18 hours. The past few months it’s been 30 with most week’s creeping up to 35+ Twelve or more hours a week makes a huge difference. It’s like having an extra entire day.

But sitting here today, I can already tell that the biggest difference will be the three-day weekend every week. I got two days to relax and become myself again (yes, I was just coming back from a vacation, but with high-powered introverts like me, there has to be decompression after travel, no matter how relaxing the time was). Each day I wrote, (for I write every day), but without blog deadlines and productivity demands (and as I mentioned above, ironically wrote more). But then, instead of hopping right back into the grinder with a sense that I had only JUUUUUUUST gotten my various psychic needles out of the red, I get an entire extra day to focus on writing.

I know today is a bank holiday, so I'm joining many in having this three-day weekend, but getting one every week is going to help my creativity, help my quality vs. quantity, and help my output.

I took a pretty big financial chance with this schedule. An expensive month is going to see me dipping into my savings. (And so I take a crass moment to remind everyone that even a small patronage over on Patreon will help me out immensely.) However, that is actually what my 3-year-old Kickstarter is FOR––shoring up a budget shortfall and keeping me writing. I probably have too many money anxieties to sit and watch a savings account shrink month after month after month while staying zen and it was a mistake to think I could, but once in a while, I can talk myself down and put on my oxygen mask.

This will be the most writing-est schedule I've ever had. Technically, it won't be the most writing-est TIME I ever had. For 18 months in my early thirties, my then-spouse supported my quitting my day job. The only thing I had to do was about two hours of housespousery a day. And while I learned a lot and wrote a lot, I did not yet have the tools to make the most of that opportunity––both in terms of my prose skill, but mostly my discipline to stay focused on writing for hours a day.

However, I have never had a conjunction of so much time AND so much ability. If I can keep from worrying overmuch about my finances, it's going to be an explosion of creativity.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Domino Squirrels

Me: Wait, why do I have a window open to some comment about the immorality of physical violence in the formation of nation-states? Why am I reading this while I should be writing?

My brain: Because you were listening to your "Because you wanted Moana but also some other stuff."

Me: You're going to have to walk me through this one.

My brain: You were listening to Moana on a loop, but you got a little tired of it. Not so tired that you wanted to listen to other things, but tired enough that you wanted to intersperse other things into your Moana experience. But manually changing the song back and forth meant meant closing your writing tab every couple of minutes. So you turned on your soundtrack genius, and just started skipping songs you weren't into since that just takes a click. "Soundtrack" genius picks gave you Braveheart. Not the regular soundtrack, but the one with all the voice-overs called Additional Music From Braveheart which you bought because you're a big nerd who loves that soundtrack. You started reciting, along with the song, the last line to yourself in your best Mel Gibson-being-Scottish accent. ("They fought like warrior poets.") You wondered what really happened at Bannockburn since "historians from England will say Robert the Bruce's voice over was 'a liar'," Googled it, read up on the Wikipedia––WAY different––and like a COUPLE other things, and then found, on only the second or third page of results, an interactive map, and somewhere between "can't look away," "distracted by other people's emotions," and this idea that as a writer you have to occasionally "experience the malevolent aspects of the human condition," you scrolled down to the comments, which––being internet comments––did not stay on the subject of Bannockburn, but became a shoehorn for some white dude's freshman political philosophy ramblings.....

....all while you should have been writing.

Me: I miss our ADD meds.

My brain: I miss them too, brah. I miss them too.