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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Recap: November 30, 2021

 

prat
noun: prat; plural noun: prats
1. an incompetent, stupid, or foolish person; an idiot.
2. a person's buttocks.

This clown. 

This ridiculous, obnoxious, contemptable, capering buffoon. 

This is the face of the Republican Party today. 

This ass, right here. 


No ideas, only obstruction. 

No leadership, instead only bluster, bombast, and threats. 

Arrogantly self-righteous. Violently xenophobic. Confidently uneducated. Inordinately proud of their own miserable ignorance. Wrapped in the flag of dogmatic nationalism, mindless patriotism, and self-righteous piety. Waving a gun and their Bible -- without respect or understanding for either.  

This is what the Republican Party has become: Lauren Boebert. 

By now I'm sure you've heard about Boebert's bigoted "joke."

Boebert was in Colorado, and told her audience that she was getting into an elevator at the Capitol when she saw a Capitol Police Officer running toward the doors "with a look of fear."

Oh no! What could it be! Why was the officer afraid for Lauren Boebert? Why?!

In the story, Boebert responds to the officer's panic for her wellbeing by saying, "I looked to my left and there she is: Ilhan Omar!"

Ilhan Omar! 

A Muslim! 

Beobert dropped the punchline: "And I said, 'well, she does not have a backpack, we should be okay!'"

The audience laughed, of course. 

Hardee har har. 

Omar, who as a child refugee escaped civil war, terrorism, and genocide in Somalia, who came to America specifically because her family believed in the promise of this country, freedom, justice, civil rights, peace, equality, safety, all those things that Republicans like Lauren Boebert claim they revere, the black Muslim woman is a suicide bomber! She can't be trusted! 

She's not really an American. 

Ha ha! See? 

Isn't that hilarious? 

Because vile jokes based on racist stereotypes are goddamn funny, right? 

Well, they are to Republicans anyway. Q.E.D.


Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.
- More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927


Bobo "apologized" for her "joke."

But, of course, the apology was bullshit, a trap. 

Boebert only wanted to get Omar on the phone so she could spew more hate. And when Omar hung up rather than listen to it, Republicans declared victory and bemoaned Omar's "intolerance." 

This is what bullies do. 

This is what the Republican Party has become. 

They attack and harass and terrorize those they defines as "weak," and when they're caught and called out, they declare themselves to be the real victim. 

That's what the Republican Party has become: A rabble of dimwitted goons, bullies, thugs, who perpetually play the victim and pander to the lowest, most base elements of our society. 

It's not just Boebert. 

It's Steve King's comment today. 

It's Marjorie Taylor Geene. 

It's Donald Trump.

It's Kevin McCarthy. 

It's the craven cowardice of an ideology based on hate, fear, and cheap laughs. 

And until the GOP takes responsibility for their own shitty behavior, until Republican leaders (so called leaders anyway) step up and hold members of their own party accountable for their unacceptable hate, until they expel these vile racist dimwitted pandering thugs from their caucus, then those like Lauren Boebert are the face of the Republican Party. 

Lincoln would have beaten these miserable goons with a hickory axe handle. 

Which is why those who think like Lauren Boebert murdered him. 


Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We, of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.
- Abraham Lincoln






Monday, November 22, 2021

Recap: November 22, 2021

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Senator Ted Cruz:

President Biden’s supply chain crisis won’t spare your Thanksgiving sides. Sweet Potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and pies are all experiencing shortages throughout the country.

Oh. My. God! Not the sweet potatoes! 


First Joe Biden took away our turkeys and our hams. 

Now he's come for our pie!

And... boxed gravy, apparently. 

You know, I didn't want to straight up call Ted Cruz, a Senator forsooth, a goddamn pandering liar. 

I didn't. 

So I went to the cheapest, low-end grocery store in my town, the place that doesn't know how to order stuff even when there isn't a "supply chain crisis." 

And not just the lowest end store in town, but a damn low end town. This place isn't exactly a hub of commerce and transportation. Hell, I have to drive across the bay into Pensacola just to get a USB cable. So, if there's any place that the shelves ought to be bare, it's Winn Dixie in Milton, Florida. 


Except, the shelves were stocked. 

Turkeys (fresh and frozen, also various parts you could just buy out of the regular freezer if you only want a certain piece of the bird), ducks, ham in five different kinds, yams (canned and fresh), potatoes (russets, yellow, red), produce, pumpkin, condensed milk, brown sugar, broth of every kind imaginable, baked goods and about the only thing missing from this Thanksgiving bonanza was a band of Narraganset come to show you pilgrims how to plant corn in the New World. 

There was even gravy, boxed, canned, and in a jar. In five different flavors, including turkey. 

Turns out, Ted Cruz is a goddamn liar. 

But, just inside the door, there's a big florid guy in a Trump hat and some sort of shirt with eagles and flags and guns shouting into a phone: Ya'll betta git down heya! The shelves is empty!

I'm like, wut?

The shelves are empty? I could see a 1000lbs of turkeys and the guy is literally standing next to a stack of pies high enough to feed the entire nation of Rwanda. But the shelves are empty. Goddamn that Joe Biden!

I mean, this guy can literally see the shelves are not empty with his own eyes, but he's such a programmed tool that he believes Ted Cruz and Tucker Carlson over his own senses. 

These people simply do not exist in the same reality with ... well, reality. 

There was plenty of everything else too. Plenty of butter, milk, eggs, Pop Tarts, frozen burritos. Toilet paper. Tums...

The produce looked a little skanky, but it's Winn Dixie. The produce always looks a little skanky. 

Sometimes a lot skanky. 

Another aisle, another big florid dude shoves in past me and starts grabbing "family" sized bags of Doritos from the end cap. Says to his wife, "Two fer $4.95! We better stock up!" 

He filled up a cart. A whole cart. Two for $4.95. He really likes Doritos, I guess. Better get 'em before Joe Biden does. 

My point being that if you're leaving the store with a whole separate buggy full of Doritos, there ain't no "supply crisis." 


Look here, in addition to the 15 different kinds of Oreos in the the cookie aisle, they had a totally separate display at the front of the store for Christmas Oreos. 

Christmas Oreos. 

"5 cool winter designs!" no less. 

That's like 20 different kinds of Oreos. 

You could have fed the entire Plymouth Colony on nothing but bags of Oreos from this store. 

There are people, too many people in far too many parts of the world right now today struggling to get enough calories just to stay alive. But we got 20 different kinds of Oreos and Family Size Doritos 2-for-$5 and Ted Cruz is mad because he read a Yahoo News article about a shortage of ... gravy in a box. 

I don't know. 

I guess at this point we should just be glad Ted Cruz is tweeting about gravy from Washington D.C. and not Senior Frog's on the beach in Cancun. 

Anyway, I look forward to the Republican plan to fund and train more truck drivers. 


Friday, November 19, 2021

Eclipse

 

That's it.

That's my shot. 





Shot from the Florida Panhandle at the peak of the event, 10" Meade ACF autotracking telescope coupled to a Nikon Z7 using a short Starbossa Z-mount adaptor. Focus is manual via the scope controls, using Focus Peaking in the camera and a DJI drone piloting VR headset coupled to the camera via an HDMI cable. f/8 1/30sec ISO25600. 

It's now 4AM. I'm going to bed. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Announcing Alternative War




Announcing the release of Alternative War, the latest anthology from B Cubed Press




 

Announcing the release of Alternative War, the latest anthology from B Cubed Press

Past, present, and future conflict, those who fight, and what comes after. 

Some science fiction. 

A bit of historical fiction.

Some detective work. 

And a leavening of poetry. 

This mixed genre anthology features all new works from both award winning masters and new writers alike, a talented cast from literally around the globe. Jane Yolen and David Gerrold, Gwyndyn Alexander, Gustavo Bondoni, C.B. Claywell, Karl El-Koura, Rob Francis, Bruce Golden, Philip Brian Hall, James Hancock, Liam Hogan, Tom Howard, Shawn Kobb, Vlora Konushevci, Lita Kurth, Pedro Iniguez, Al Margrave, Alison McBain, D. Thomas Minton, Ann Poore, Anthea Sharp, Marge Simon, Peter B. Tracy, Jeremy Thackray. 

Forward by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, author of The Healer's War

And, oh yeah, one more: Yours Truly. 

That's right. The anthology includes my short story: The Gelding -- a tale of war, robots, evolution, and strange new worlds. 

And yes, before you ask, that is indeed my art on the cover. Thanks to Bob Brown at B Cubed for buying it. 

Available now from Amazon. 


Thursday, November 11, 2021

How The Heroes Die, Veterans Day 2021

 

Please don't thank me for my "service." I was in the military, not the "Service." Service is doing something good. Service is what the person does who fixes your car.  When the word "service" is applied to the military, it helps to justify violence as a method for conflict resolution. Like "defending our freedom," or "bringing democracy," the word "service" is used to lower the barriers of aggression. The military solution to conflict is death and destruction. That's not "service." Call it what it is - the military. If you have to hurt someone to solve a problem, you are the Problem. 
Arnold Stieber, US Army Veteran, 1970

 

I didn’t go to war so that my son could follow.

I didn’t go to war to be thanked for it.

And I certainly didn’t go to war so that I could be called a hero.

Last week, a reader on Facebook asked how I felt about exactly that, being thanked for my military service.

Specifically, I was asked if I agreed with Arnie Stieber, the Vietnam veteran quoted above.

I do.

And I don’t.

Stieber’s experience was not mine.

His time was not my time. His war was not my war. His military was not my military.

The United States and the US military have changed greatly since Vietnam – due in no small part to the efforts and activism of veterans like Arnold Stieber.  While I don’t entirely agree with his position I don’t disagree with it either. I understand completely where he is coming from and I can sympathize with his point of view and I can unreservedly grant that he earned it.

He's entitled to his position, but his position is not mine.

Not exactly.

I don't feel disrespected or diminished if my own service goes unacknowledged.

I don’t feel proud and heroic if it is.

I mostly don’t care if others acknowledge my veteran status or not.

Unlike Stieber and many of his fellows, I wasn’t compelled to serve. I had a choice, Stieber didn’t. War was my profession for more than two decades, I served as both enlisted and as an officer, I joined the military and stayed of my own volition – and that makes all the difference.

As I said in reply to the question, I don't advertise my military service but I don’t try to hide it either. 

I served in peace and in war, I wish for the former and despise the latter. 

Like Stieber, I have little use for those who glorify and promote war as a way to solve the world’s problems.

Unlike Stieber I pragmatically acknowledge that sometimes war is necessary. 

I don't march in parades and I don't go to protests. I don’t wave the flag and I don't attend reunions. 

I’m proud of my service, I treasure some of my experience and try to forget the rest of it. I miss the men and women I served with. I was damned good at what I did and there are days I wish I was still out there doing it – but most days I’m damned glad I’m not. 

No sane man prays for war.

No moral man hopes for death and destruction, not even for his enemies.

Nowadays I’m certain that my haircut and bearing broadcast my status to those paying attention - along with the fact that I often wear the ratty fading sweatshirts from my former commands and so it’s no secret that I’m a veteran. But I emphatically do not feel entitled to thanks from Americans for my military service – or whatever you call it, I’m not inclined to argue the semantics of it.  I went of my own free will and for my own reasons, America owes me nothing for it. I’d like to think America will make good on what I was promised, but I cynically don’t expect it – and more on that in just a minute.

I do not demand respect as my right nor gratitude for my service.

But if thanks are given, I will gladly accept them in the spirit offered and return the compliment. 

If a business offers me a military discount, I will gratefully accept it. If they don't, that's perfectly fine too. 

Choice, freedom to choose, the right to decide to offer thanks or not, well, that's what we were doing out there, defending that. At least that’s what I was doing, others can speak for themselves.

And if you believe in liberty, if you're willing to give your life for it, then you must acknowledge people will use that freedom however they please. Some will use it to thank you for your service.

Personally I think you're a bit of a shitheel as a human being if your response to a simple thank you is a political screed and a lecture on semantics, then again that's your right. As I said, I don’t speak for other veterans.

But me? As I said, I take thanks in the spirit offered and return the compliment, one citizen to another, and it bothers me not at all.

 

But I draw the line at hero.

 

I utterly despise the recent trend towards fawning, blind hero worship of the military.

In the same conversation described above, a commenter proclaimed all veterans “heroes.”

She gushed on and on with glassy-eyed effluvious enthusiasm about “sacrifice” and “patriotism” and a dozen other clich├ęd platitudes and ended her comment by saying that her eyes well up with tears whenever she sees a military member out in public wearing a uniform. 

I asked her not to call me a hero, but I should have just walked away – and after she condescended to tell me what a “real” veteran is, I did, because like Arnie Stieber there are things I just cannot abide.

And hero worship is one of them.

We, most of us veterans, we’re not heroes.

I certainly am not.  Oh, sure, I’ve got a box of decorations in the back of my closet, we all do. Maybe I have a few more decorations than most, a few less than others. Maybe someday long after I’m gone my son will find that box and wonder at those bits of fading cloth and tarnished metal.  Maybe he’ll read the commendations and be proud of his old man, just as I once did.  But goddamn it, I’d far rather have him boggle in horror at the idea of war, I’d far rather have war be so long forgotten that those decorations are nothing but curiosities of a primitive and violent history, one that his generation has long moved beyond.

I didn’t go to war so that my son could follow.

We are not Spartans.

We are not Romans.

We are not Nazis.

We are not, and we should not be, some military society who worships war and glorifies battle as some great heroic ideal and spawns generations of warriors. In America, mothers don’t tell their sons and husbands to come home with their shields or carried upon them.  Or a least they damned well shouldn’t.

We are a free people, we are Americans. For us there should be nothing glorious about war. 

We should honor the soldier, certainly, but we should honor the peacemakers to a far greater degree.

As I’ve said here and elsewhere more times than I can count: war is a dirty horrible business and make no mistake about it. War should be the last resort, when all else has failed and the very safety of liberty is endangered. 

War is hell. War is violent and terrible and immoral. Certainly there may be acts of heroism and valor in war, but there are also endless acts of craven cowardice and ignorant stupidity and wanton violence and vicious cruelty.  War should always be a last resort, embarked upon only under the most dire of necessity and not some goddamned glorious spectacle.

We go to war because we have to, and for no other reason.

While it’s certainly true that, as Orwell and Churchill both said, the nation sleeps snug in its bed only because rough men stand ready to do violence on its behalf, to paint us all as generic “heroes” leaches the word of meaning and power and diminishes those acts that truly are heroic and worthy of great respect.

But it’s much, much worse than that.

To paint all veterans as heroes, superior above other citizens, worthy of worship and compulsory respect, gives lie to the equality of democracy and makes such status enviable.

That, right there, is why Stolen Valor is such a thriving business.

That, right there, is why our society is a brim with military fakers and ersatz war heroes.  They show up at every parade and hang out in front of the VA, they polish their stolen medals to a golden glow and tell stolen war stories replete with glorious battles that exist only in their minds, all with false aw shucks humility and grim steely-eyed false heroism.

And they lap it up, your wide eyed unquestioning admiration, because it feeds their empty souls.

These people are parasites, thriving on our mandatory respect and wide-eyed unconditional hero worship. They exist because of your admiration, without it they would wither and die. But the damage they do is limited and they are typically found out and shamed when their duplicity crosses that of a real veteran.

Far, far worse than the posers, this national hero worship compels the dull-witted and the small and mean to join up for all the wrong reasons.

There is little worse in the ranks, and nothing worse – absolutely nothing – in the officer corps, than those who want to be heroes.

We’ve all encountered them, those of us who served.  The commanders and the lieutenants and the majors who practice their Medal of Honor acceptance speech in front of the shaving mirror each morning, the one that begins, “Thank you Mr. President, I’m sorry all my men were killed, but I’m grateful to accept this award on their behalf…”  We’ve all served under the senior NCO who dreamed of a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart and the tales of glory he would tell to the doe-eyed girls back home who would then coo over his manly scars and jump ready and eager into bed with a hero.

Those are the kind of people who get other soldiers killed.

They’re not there to defend the country, the oath means nothing to them, they crave only glory and the admiration of a grateful nation.

Writ large, this idea makes war itself desirable, for only in such a crucible can heroism be forged.


And then war becomes the norm instead of the exception.


Worst of all: heroes are not people.

Heroes are symbols, objects to be worshiped and admired and fawned over and then forgotten when new ones come along.

Heroes don’t make mistakes. 

Heroes don’t die from friendly fire. 

Heroes don’t bomb a wedding or a school by accident. 

Heroes don’t get PTSD. Heroes don’t come home broken. Heroes don’t wake up screaming covered in sweat, night after night. Heroes don’t need help. Heroes don’t end up on the street. Heroes don’t wonder where their next meal is coming from, or how they’ll pay the mortgage. Heroes don’t end up addicted to booze and drugs trying to cope with the pain. Heroes don’t mind that you look at them with uneasy fear, wondering if, when, they’re going to snap – because heroes don’t snap.

And, after the war, heroes don’t need education or retraining or help buying a house or easy access to VA medical care. In fact, heroes, well, they don’t need any of those things you promised back when you were terrified and desperate for rough men to do violence on your behalf.

Heroes just need a parade and the cheap thanks of a yellow magnet stuck on the back of your car.

Calling us heroes taints your thinking, it biases your viewpoint no differently than painting all veterans as “baby killers” did a generation ago.

Mostly we veterans are just people who came when called and did our best under terrible circumstances.

If you truly wish to honor those who put their own precious selves between home and war’s desolation, then you wouldn’t call them heroes.

Instead you’d make them obsolete.

I didn’t go to war so that my son could follow.

If you want to honor veterans, try living up to the promises you made when you called us to war. That would be a start. Make good on the medical care. Make good on the education. Make good on the support for our families. Pay up and pay up promptly. Hold your elected leaders to account and make them do it or throw the cowardly sons of bitches out of office when they won’t. That would be better than all the empty thanks and the parades and the yellow ribbons.

If you truly wish to honor all the men and women who have served this nation, who have given their lives, who stood ready to do violence in your name, then you would do your utmost to keep our children, indeed all the generations who follow, from having to make the same bitter sacrifice.

Wars are caused by unbridled hate, by intolerant fanaticism, by selfish idealism, by religious extremism, by hunger and poverty and inequality, by bigotry and greed and fear.

If you wish to honor the warrior, truly honor the warrior, then you would do those things which make war less likely.

You would elect leaders who don’t see military action as the first option, or even the second, or the third.

You would elect leaders of reason and judgment, those who are loudly and forcefully reluctant to waste the lives of their fellows and the treasury of their nation.

You would elect leaders who set the example of citizenship, who are willing to listen to each other, to compromise and work together for the good of us all, who don’t go around spewing hate and fear and glassy-eyed fanatical jingoism and simple-minded patriotism.

Yes, you build a strong and well equipped military, of course you do, for defense. You don’t go around finding excuses to use it all the goddamned time. You don’t throw more lives away for political posturing, for imagined slights, for profit, for pride.

More importantly you give equal or greater effort and resources towards those things that make war unnecessary. 

You feed the hungry, you clothe the poor, you heal the sick, you employ the able, you educate the next generation, you pay your taxes, you stop looking at your neighbors as the enemy, you give back, you invest in the future, you dream of the stars, and you remember we’re all in this together. 

If you want to honor veterans, then don’t call them heroes. That’s the easy way out.

If you want to honor veterans, then live up to the ideals they fought to defend.

I didn’t go to war so that my son could follow.

I went with the hope he would never have to.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
― Dwight D. Eisenhower, Soldier, General, President

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Recap: November 7, 2021


Republicans have declared war on Big Bird.

If you need yet another example of how utterly and absolutely insane what's left of the Grand Old Party has become, you need look no further than Ted Cruz:


Fun fact: the Australian army once went to war against emus.  Yes, emus. 

The Aussies were experienced combat troops armed with machine guns. 

Emus are giant murder chickens what look something like an ostrich crossed with Bloom County's Bill The Cat. They have dispositions that are most charitably described as a steady diet of those amphetamines' the Nazis used to make stormtroopers into murderous psychopaths. 

Spoiler: The emus won. Against machine guns. 

I don't know what species Big Bird is, but he looks a bit like a cassowary and those things will kill ya dead and then kick the shit out of what's left just for fun. 

As someone who grew up around geese, which are essentially the closest thing to modern day velociraptors, I'd say maybe rethink this attack on the big bird. 

Then again, you can sort of see Ted Cruz's point. 

I mean, Sesame Street teaches kids about reading, critical thinking, how to be nice to each other, hygiene...

...spelling...


Imagine being mad at a kid's show, because it promoted the very cornerstone of modern medicine and disease prevention by suggesting that getting a vaccine is safe, effective, not scary, and the smart thing to do. 


The US once led global efforts to develop vaccines and eradicate pandemic diseases such as smallpox and polio. Republicans were once proudly on the forefront of efforts by the US government to establish mass vaccination campaigns against common diseases here at home up to and including producing TV shows, radio programs, and written material specifically designed for kids. Hell, Donald Trump himself once touted development of this very vaccine and claimed personal credit for it. But decades of relentless hate radio, for-profit hate religion, and fanatical hate politics treated as if those are rational viewpoints instead of the fact-free lunatic ideology they are, have turned conservatism into nothing but a bunch of frothing red-faced bulging-eyed spittle-flecked raging paste-eaters.

And now they're mad at Big Bird.

Trump may be the Fool King, but Ted Cruz is their clown prince. 

Speaking of Texas and paste-eating, a contingent of what passes for the Republican Party nowadays gathered in Dallas last week for the return of...wait

JFK Jr?

Yes, that's right. The second coming of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Junior.

Son of the late president. Died in a plane crash in 1999 at the age of 38. 

That JFK Jr. 

A large bunch of QAnon believers -- which I am increasingly hard pressed to separate from the rest of Republicans and so I won't bother anymore -- showed up in Dealey Plaza, surrounding the big white X marking the spot where President Kennedy was assassinated, waiting for the Q prophesized return of John Junior. 

See, they apparently believe in a QAnon conspiracy theory which goes: Kennedy Junior faked his own death and spent 20 years in hiding so that he can reemerge in 2021 (SURPRISE!) to be Donald Trump's Vice President when Trump is reinstated (SURPRISE AGAIN!) as America's president because, according to QAnon, who is totally not just some random 14-year-old shitposter from 8-chan, everything that happened after 1871 is illegal and unconstitutional because something something My Pillow Guy gazpacho (SURPISE HAHA!) and therefore Joe Biden's presidency is totally for sure illegal and anyway once Trump is president again he'll step down and Kennedy Junior will then be president and will naturally appoint (MORE SUPRISES!) disgraced lunatic general Mike Flynn his vice president so Trump can go on to be -- I swear I am not making this up -- "King of Kings" as foretold in the Book of Revelation. 

If this doesn't work, Plan B is that Trump will have to run for president like any other schmoo in 2024 and JFK Jr will then be his running mate -- because even if Kennedy is in fact an actual desiccated corpse dead and rotting for 20 years, he'd still be more personable, charismatic, and fresher smelling than Mike Pence. 

So, anyway, there they were, in Dealey Plaza last week, waiting for Junior to arrive.

And so he did. 

You saw it, right? The moment came and suddenly there he was! Flash! Thunder! The earth split open and there he was! That's right, John Fitz Junior, back from the dead! You can see it on the tapes in glorious technicolor! There was a moment of stunned silence, then the crowd went wild with cheers! USA! USA! QANON! QANON! Ken-a-DEE! Ken-a-DEEEEE! Junior looking around, his thick dark hair perfectly styled, his handsome face splitting in a wide smile...

...to revel inch long fangs! Holy shit! There's a price for immortality and that price is the flesh of the living! OMG! OMG! RUUUUUN! Then the screams and the blood...

Well, that's how it would have happened if they let me write it. 

What's that? 

Over the top? 

Heh heh. Yeah. 

You want to talk over the top? You wanna talk horror show? You wanna talk about the flesh eating shambling undead?

Let's talk about Republican reaction to Joe Biden's Infrastructure Plan. 


There it is, Joe Biden's communist takeover of America. 

Roads are communism, folks. 

Roads. Are. Communism. 

Roads, Bridges, highways, passenger and freight railroad, public transit, transportation technology, broadband, public works, schools, airports, the electric grid, water systems, sewage systems, all communism, apparently.

And you thought the bird thing was stupid, right? 

Modern Republicanism is the most morally bankrupt of ideologies.


Call it the McConnell Doctrine. 

Republicans would rather burn the entire nation to the ground and squat in the ashes if passing legislation means all of us benefit rather than just them, just their party and ideology. 

That was why Republicans under Trump never could themselves craft infrastructure legislation -- or, for that matter, deliver their long promised healthcare plan. 

Because they couldn't figure out how to do so in a way that it only benefited them and no one else. 

The only legislation Republicans have been able to pass these last few years is that which penalized and criminalized the people they hate. They literally couldn't do anything else and they've reached the point where they never will. 

They would literally cut off their own nose just to own the libs.

The Party Of Lincoln, that Grand Old Party, has become The Party of Anti-Reality, of Trump, of Limbaugh, of unwashed, science-denying window-licking lunatics and proudly deluded fools who declare war on puppets and who gather in the street to unashamedly share their ridiculous insanity.


The very name, Republican, has become a cruel jape. 

These people are no longer defenders, or even citizens, of The Republic. 

They are the howling barbarians at the gate.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Recap: November 3, 2021

 

This morning, like you I suspect, I'm disappointed.

The election results are not what I'd hoped they'd be today, but I can't honestly say that I am surprised.

I doubt you are either. We are a year into the Biden presidency the big promises are still unfulfilled. There hasn't been enough progress, or any really. Right?  Biden hasn't been able to force through his big agenda.

Trump is out of office but things haven't really gotten better. Not really. Have they? Everywhere you look hate is on the rise, civil rights are under attack, and hysterical conspiracy rules the day.

Naturally, you're disappointed. 

Democrats are disappointed by the lack of progress and Republicans are -- to use a Republican term -- emboldened. 

Republicans are motivated. 

Democrats are not.

Now, it would be great if the previous four years had galvanized America. 

I mean, if America had looked at Trump and said, whoa, hang on, this is nuts. This isn't the future we want, this isn't the world we want to leave our kids. This hard shift towards rightwing extremism, this normalization of lunacy and conspiracy theory as fact, man, history has shown us repeatedly what happens when you go down that road. No. Stop. Back up. We're not having any of that, goddammit. 

But that's not what happened. 

Predictably, that's not what happened. 

Because to a lot of Americans, that future looked good.

Just as that future looked good to ordinary Germans in the first years of the Third Reich. 

America for Americans, right? 

Sure. Who doesn't want that. So long as you get to decide what a real "American" is. 

Democracy for all people. Sounds good. So long as you get to decide which people are "people" and which ones aren't. And so long as they vote in the manner you approve of. So long as your guy and your ideology always wins. For a lot of people, that's the kind of democracy they think they want. 

Law and order so long as you get to decide what the laws are and who they apply to -- and who they don't. So long as that civil order benefits you at the expense of others because for many Americans, rights are a zero-sum and if others get more they feel like they're getting less. Because in a society that values profit above all else, human value is relative and your self-worth is quantified by your perceived superiority to others and so if there's no one to look down on, there's no way to feel good about yourself. Capitalism sucks if everyone has the same value, and that right there is the very crux of their visceral terror at the idea of socialism. 

Peace and prosperity for all, for the whole world, so long as everyone understands who's in charge and that America comes first. So long as those of inferior humanity remember their place. So long as you are the most powerful, because might makes right and a nation's greatness is measured in the size and power of its military and thus its ability to impose its will on the world and compel respect by force

Like the Germans of the 1920s, that's the future a lot of Americans here and now in the 2020s think they want. 

Of course, that's also the future a lot of Americans don't want. 

And enough of the latter showed up in 2020 that we, maybe, changed our future. 

But Joe Biden isn't Barack Obama and his win wasn't a landslide and the future is never certain. 

Biden doesn't inspire. He's not charismatic as Obama was -- or Trump. Biden is just not that kind of guy and his win wasn't so much enthusiasm as it was a repudiation of the future Donald Trump offered America. 

But it was a close thing.

And it's not over. 

And that vision of America described up above is still very much a possibility. 

Biden made some big promises.

Democrats made some big promises.

Their hold on power right now is tenuous at best, as yesterday's election clearly demonstrated. 

But then, it always is. 

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
That quote is often misattributed to Irish statesman Edmund Burke. He never said that, or at least if he did there's no record of it among his prolific writings, but he did say something similar in his 1770 Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents: "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

They will fall one by one in the contemptible struggle, indeed and the more things change, eh? 

Burke is right. And so is that first quote. 

The only thing necessary for America to become Germany of the 1930 is for us to do nothing. 

To do nothing because we are not inspired. 

To do nothing because we are disappointed. 

To do nothing because Joe Biden, Democrats, made some big promises and they haven't delivered. 

Of course you're disappointed. Of course you are. And of course the opposition is emboldened by your disappointment and the supposed failure of Joe Biden to deliver on his promises. Of course. 

But this is normal. It's only been a year...

What's that? 

Heh. 

Yes, I know. I know. A year is a long, long time in this age of instant gratification, in this age of Twitter and Facebook and the relentless torrent of news and information and disappointment. 

It is. 

But in the grand scheme of things, it's not that long. A lot of you were disappointed by the first year of Obama's presidency too. And Obama had a hell of a lot better support in Congress from his own party than Biden does. 

It's natural, normal, predictable, to be disappointed that Democrats have not, yet, delivered on their great promises. 

Progress is slow. Too damn slow. Of course it is. Especially in the face of fanatical resistance and partisan opposition, when you have to overcome both homegrown conspiracies and foreign influence, the machinations of dark money and invisible influence -- and especially the selfish obstruction of your own, supposed, allies. Pragmatically, you must realize that.  

Nevertheless, we want what we were promised and we're tired of excuses, tired of waiting, are we not? 


Damn right we are. 


Thus, this morning's election results were completely predictable. 

But that future does not have to be our future.  

The election results are a warning to Joe Biden and Democrats, indeed all Americans.

A warning, NOT fate.

Biden and Congressional Democrats need to deliver on their promises, big and small. 

They need to do what it takes, whatever it takes, and deliver voting rights legislation, deliver a modern infrastructure that will serve America for the next 100 years, deliver renewable clean energy independence, deliver good jobs and a living wage, deliver sane and rational international relations and foreign trade, and, yes, they must directly address Conservative concerns regarding immigration and national security (in a manner that we can all live with). 

Some of those things will take years and perhaps another Democratic term and maybe a better leader than Joe Biden, but some of that agenda must happen now (voting rights, for example), or yesterday's election will be the future of America. 

The clock is running out and it's damn easy to give in to disappointment.

But it's in that dark hour when you find out what you're really made of. 

And if you want that better future, then now is the time to be a better citizen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Election Day

 It's election day. 

Yeah, it's an off year and, yeah, these are small local elections, and yeah, you probably don't care much. 

But these elections matter. 

If you want to keep your democracy, keep your Republic, then every election matters. And these elections, right now, today, matter even more than the big national elections. 


Right now, it's state and local politicians who are every single day,  step by steps big and small, bit by bit, relentlessly advancing the fanatical agenda of absolutism. Look to Florida. Look to Texas. Look to all those places where a dogmatic ideologue in the Governor's office and zealots in the local legislatures have criminalized women's healthcare; taken away the right to vote from those they deem to be of the wrong race, wrong income bracket, wrong political party; imposed their miserable religious ideology in the classrooms and denied your children the opportunity to learn history, science, social systems and political ideas different from their own; and have not only refused to take steps to protect the general welfare during a pandemic, but deliberately and with malice aforethought made things worse in the guise of some idiotic idea of "freedom" and the mindless shallow nationalism of the Patriot.

But you can stop them. 

Today is the day. If you want a better nation, be a better citizen. 

Get after it.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Recap: October 28, 2021

 

Stimulus. 

Or perhaps "bait" is a better word. 

Yes. Bait. Sometimes my comments are bait.

I mean, no matter what I post, it's bound to provoke someone. Q.E.D. And that's just how social media is nowadays. 

So, why not put that tendency to use? 

Thus: sometimes my comments, particularly on Twitter, are not for my regular readers so much as to poke the other side. To stimulate conversation. 

See, if I say for example: "We should pay people a living wage" most of you would respond with a shrug and an "Okay." If you responded at all. 

And where's the fun in that? 

However, if I say...

Just drove 2000 miles across the middle of the US. Everywhere I went there were Help Wanted signs. Biggest complaint heard: we can't get workers!

On the Southern border are tens of thousands of people willing to work at nearly ANY job.

The solution seems obvious.

...well, then I get a three-day long discussion of labor in America. I learn stuff. 

What's that? 

Oh. Well, yes. 

Yes, I do indeed realize that this technique may perhaps make me, in fact, a dick. 


So what else is new?


In this case, I wanted to test my own assumptions, chief among them this: 

Republicans say Americans don't want to work. 

There are Help Wanted signs everywhere. You've seen them, haven't you? Me too. I just drove 2000 miles across this country and everywhere I looked, there were signs saying "We're hiring!" Every restaurant I stopped in said, "Please be patient, we're understaffed." There were several fast food places that had closed their lobbies and dining rooms and only kept the drive-in window open due to this alleged shortage of labor. 

Don't take my word for it, go drive across the country and see for yourself. 

It's in every store window. It's on every news channel. It's in the mouth of every politician. 

We can't find people to work. 

We can't find people to do the jobs. 

There's a labor shortage. Help wanted. Will train.


And yet, weirdly, at the same time, the economy is terrible, right? 


I was traveling with my adult son. 

Just outside Springfield, Missouri, we stopped at a gas station to fill up and use the facilities. 

The place was a Shell franchise, seedy, off a little used exit in the middle of farm country. The parking lot was full of farm equipment and the store was full of old white men in rough and dirty farming clothes. 

I pumped gas while my son went into to use the restroom. 

The restrooms were locked and the guy behind the counter said: "You wana use the toilet ya'll have to buy sometin'. Goddamn Joe Biden is ruining business and we can't afford to jus let people use the bathrooms! So you gotta buy sometin' and I'll unlock it." 

My son had to go, so he bought a candy bar without comment and did his business and came back out and warned me before I went in. Also, apparently buying $40 in gas didn't count towards using the restroom. 

I held it until we reached Springfield and civilization. 

The economy is so bad that the stock market is at an all time high... what's that? Oh, now that Trump is out of office Wall Street isn't a indication of economic success? Sure, Mate, whatever you say. Anyway, the economy is so bad that every indicator of economic success, including profit, is pegging the meter and we can't find enough workers to do all the jobs and, yet, somehow, business has to extort customers just to stay afloat. 

And goddamn that Joe Biden. 

It's not this guy's poor business skills, or that his business is located in a poor location, or that he's overcharging for services, or that he's openly hostile and unprofessional to his customers, or that the Free Market he likely worships is offering plenty of better choices, or that the political ideology he no doubt embraces started a trade war and a let a pandemic get out of control -- after crashing the economy completely in pursuit of unsustainable profits in the mortgage industry. No, it's not any of that. It's Joe Biden. 

It never once occurs to the party of personal responsibility to actually take personal responsibility for their own shitty situation. No, it's Joe Biden's fault. 

And the perfect example of this hypocrisy is right there on the Southern Border. 

See, here's this alleged labor crisis that every Republican politician and pundit is outraged over. And every shitty business owner in a MAGA hat mindlessly parrots. Business is supposedly struggling to find workers and goddamn that Joe Biden, paying lazy liberals not to work, right?

Right? 

And, yet, here's a huge pool of workers on the Southern Border, who want to work, who will happily take these lousy, low-paying jobs without protest or demand for something better...

...and Republicans don't want to let them in. 

Build a wall and keep them out, right? 

We need workers!

But not those workers. 

I mean, they could try paying American workers more, but they don't want to do that either.

The point of my original post...



..wasn't that we should perpetuate the pre-COVID business model but to point out this hypocrisy. 

See, there's plenty of labor available. Q.E.D, but a Help Wanted sign in the window too often nowadays isn't a call out for future employees, instead it's a political statement.

Business could pay American workers a living wage and evolve a more equitable model of American labor. 

Business could demand government let in immigrants and continue their current model of serfdom. 

But they don't want to do either. 

Their greed won't let them pay workers more, and their ideology of racism and white nationalism won't let them hire foreign labor. 

Hell of a pickle, eh?

So instead they blame Joe Biden and pretend it's not their own lousy business model that's the problem. 

The problem isn't a lack of labor in America.

For Conservatives and American Business, the problem is as it always was: a lack of slave labor. 


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Travel Advisory

 

[Update below]

I will be a little scarce around here for the next week or so. 

I have to drive to the middle of Canada with my son in order to repair and retrieve a vehicle.

So, I'm looking at about 2000 miles up, some repair work in the middle of Saskatchewan -- which we can hopefully complete ourselves (we're bringing parts and tools) and not have to haul the vehicle to a shop. And then 2000 miles back.  

We're going to be moving right along, hoping to beat the winter weather, so no stopping to smooze with readers unfortunately. 

I'm hauling along my cameras and other kit, hoping maybe I'll get a some photography opportunities. I'll try to post from the road, maybe a few pictures, but no promises. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go get a COVID test and get moving. 

See you on the road. 

[update]

We have returned from 4000 miles round trip and two weeks in Saskatchewan. 

While it was a good trip, we were unable to repair the RV ourselves. 

We were,  however, able to find a reputable mechanic and shop. We were able to move the RV to the shop without much trouble -- it runs, just not well. Mechanic thinks we're probably looking at a broken valve spring or a bent push rod and I agree. Problem is that all the shops in Regina are booked solid right now and we were lucky to even get on this guy's schedule. He can't even look at the problem for another week, and then it'll probably be at least two more weeks waiting on parts and then whatever time it takes for the repair. 

So...

We unloaded the remain items from the RV and put them in the SUV (we took my wife's 4-wheel drive SUV instead of my Mini, in case of snow and so we'd have more room if we had to do exactly this). Moved my daughter-in-law's kayak from the roof of the RV onto the SUV, and headed south. 

My son has a YouTube Channel, CKW Outdoors, where he provides a bit more detail and some video of our time in Saskatchewan. 


If you liked that video, remember to click "like" and maybe even subscribe to the channel. 

2000 miles from Regina to Milton, Florida is about 30 hours of driving down through flat, flat plains states. So we drove 12 hours per day, stopping for food and exercise breaks, and stopped each night at a decent hotel for dinner and good 8 hours of sleep. 

Three days later and we are home safe and sound. 

My son and daughter-in-law will fly back to Regina when the repairs are complete in a few weeks and repeat the drive. 

I've got some catching up to do and I'll be back in the saddle tomorrow. 

See you then. 


Friday, October 8, 2021

Recap: October 8, 2021

  

Charles Ernest Grassley.

Republican Senator from the state of Iowa.

He's 88-years-old, he's in his seventh term, four decades in the Senate. He is, in point of fact, the President Pro Tempore Emeritus of the United States Senate. 

You'd think he'd be old enough to know better.


"So I congratulate you and your people."

Well ain't that nice? 

Judge Lucy Koh is an American, born in Washington D.C. She's a graduate of Harvard Law. She was an attorney for the US Department of Justice, Special Assistant to the US Deputy Attorney General, and then an Assistant US Attorney for Central District of California. She then went into private practice representing major technology companies in patent and trade secrets before being appointed Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and then appointed by Barack Obama as US District District Court Judge. 

But all Grassley saw was an Asian woman. 

It's right there in his own words, "your people." 

Your people. 

You think he would have said that if Koh's ancestors had come from Western Europe? 

Somewhere right now, congressional staffers are patiently explaining that's it's not 1950 to Chuck Grassley and he's just shaking his head and saying, "I don't get it."

Of course when I said that on Twitter, well...

He's from a different generation where his comment was a compliment.

Oh.

Tell me, which generation was it where "yer one of them 'good' minorities'" from an old white man in power wasn't condescendingly racist?

What context makes that okay? 

When this person says "put history in context" what they mean is whitewash it so they can pretend that doesn't exist.

But that's it, isn't? 

That's the goal. Erase that history. Pretend it doesn't exist, until it doesn't.


The history of racism in America is painful. 

It's shameful. It's embarrassing. 

It should make all Americans of conscience feel bad. 

It should make them want to be better. 

That's the whole point of history, to learn from our mistakes, to learn from the atrocities of the past, and therefor do better in the future. 

Since the hysteria over Critical Race Theory began a few months back, I've watched my feeds for examples of the sort of unconscious and embedded bias CRT attempts to educate people about. Grassley's comment above is an obvious and egregious example. Of course he's not the only member of Congress, my erstwhile boneheaded dinosaur of a Congressman Don Young comes to mind. As does Donald Trump. 

But it's not just members of government.

Here's an example from my Twitter timeline yesterday.



I know this person thinks she's being woke and aware and whatever word we want to use, but look at that. Look at the embedded unconscious bias. What if people in "poor" countries don't die from malaria, how will we feed them all? 

She'd likely be aghast if I'd said: We should restrict medical care to only those people who can prove they are productive members of society or who are rich enough not to be a burden on the rest of us if they live a long time. 

But she is essentially saying the same thing, only couched in a manner of concern for some imagined  future "humanitarian crisis" in "these very poor areas."

Very poor areas that just happen to be inhabited primarily by people of color.

It's not a generational thing.

It's a perpetuation of bias and racism in our thinking from one generation to the next. 

If Americans are ashamed of their past, then they need to face it, change the present, and create a nation future generations can be proud of. 



Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Recap: October 4, 2021

  

I am suspicious of any ideology that deals in absolutes. 

I am suspicious of any cause whose sacred principles require others to make a sacrifice. 

But we'll come back to that. 

Facebook went down without warning yesterday. 

To be honest, I was busy and didn't really notice until I started getting messages from various friends and family asking what was going on. Yes, I'm that guy. I've got a couple of degrees in CompSci and nowadays I make a living via the internet, so I'm the one in my circle people call when they're having problems with The Google. 

I looked into it, mostly by checking other social media sites, and assured them it wasn't on their end. Likely things would be back to normal in a few hours or so. 

But, it got me thinking about my dad. 

When he was young, my dad was the most active guy I knew. He was a veteran, a Navy man, restless, always going, full of energy, he had a million friends, and he was always eager to learn new things. 

But you get older. 

The horizons get closer and closer as the years go by. 

You live long enough, you start to lose people, friends, family. You lose connections. Your eyesight goes and your hearing. You hurt. Goddamn, how you hurt after a while. The world speeds up and you slow down, things change, complexity increases, it gets harder and harder to keep up until you just can't any more. You become more and more distanced from the world. 

His health went to hell. The things he used to love doing, he couldn't do any more. 

But there was the internet. 

Social media. 

Birds. 

Wait, what? Birds? 

Yeah, birds. 

My dad became a birder. A bird watcher. He loved birds, always had. It was something he could do.  Something he could still enjoy without reservation. He'd walk slowly downstairs every morning in his old ratty Navy sweats (later riding the chairlift the VA installed in my folk's farmhouse when he could no longer manage the steep stairs), and shuffle out to the sunroom to see who might be visiting his feeders. I think he spent more on food for those birds than he did on feeding himself. On cold Michigan mornings when he hurt too bad to do it himself, my mom would fill the feeders for him. There he'd sit in his old easy chair, watching intently. He knew them all, the various species, the colors, male and female, their songs. When he was able, he'd sit out in his woodshop and make birdhouses. He could talk about birds all day and my folks' property was often a riot of wings and color and birdsong. 

He had my old film cameras set up inside the glass. And he'd spend the day happily snapping away. He'd get the film developed and laboriously scan in the images to his computer -- why not a digital camera? Because he knew how to do film and that's what he was comfortable with and what business is it of yours? 

And then, well, then he'd spend hours sharing those pictures with other birders on social media. 

He was one of Cornell University's legion of bird watchers, carefully tracking migrations and sightings and another data points in a vast global web of science and information. In the last years of his life, it was what gave him joy. It gave his life meaning and purpose. It mattered to him. It was something he could do. Every day. He looked forward to it. 

But see, there's something I haven't told you. 

My dad was prone to depression, as a lot of older people are.

When he was cut off from those things that mattered to him, it affected him badly. When his internet connection was down or the software didn't work or he couldn't connect to the things that gave his life joy, well, it was depressing. He'd muddle on, find something else to do, but still it hurt him. 

And that's what I was thinking about yesterday when Facebook went down. 

My dad's been gone for longer than I like to think about now, my mom lives alone in the old farmhouse. She's a thousand miles away. We talk. She's got her friends, a lot fewer now than there used to be. But there's been a pandemic for two years now, social distancing, services shut down, the things people like her do to maintain their social lives have gotten a lot harder in recent years -- and it was already hard enough before.

If you live long enough, loneliness becomes a looming ghost in your life.  

And so social media, Facebook, is important to a lot of people. It's part of their lives. Just as other forms of technology are, TV, phones, electricity. 

Now, I can already hear the righteous rage, because people have been righteously screaming rage at me for going on 24 hours now. 

So, before we go any further, I suppose this is where I have to make a disclaimer: 


Facebook sucks. 


Yes, it does. 

Facebook sucks giant festering donkey balls. 

I'm not talking about Facebook the platform, though that sucks too. 

I'm talking about Facebook the monstrous, multi-tentacled, poorly managed, juggernaut of a company.  

Those who have followed me for more than a few minutes know, or should know, my opinion of Facebook. And Twitter. And massive global multibillion dollar corporations in general. 

And that opinion is not high. 

Facebook, Twitter, et al are very often churning cesspools of the very worst of humanity. 

I have said so. Many times over the years. 

I moved my content back to here because of it. 

I've written over and over about the damage these unregulated platforms are doing to our civilization, about how internet billionaires like Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg are essentially spoiled maladapted children who've been handed a loaded machinegun, and about how our enemies are demonstrably using these communications systems every day to wage information warfare on our democracy in a manner most of our leaders are ill-equipped to even comprehend let alone counter with any degree of effectiveness -- I mean, you only have to look at Senator Blumenthal on your TV right now doddering on hysterically about the "The Finsta" to see that. 

But...

And there's always a but isn't there? 

But, the very things that make these platforms so dangerous are also the things that give meaning and joy and purpose and opportunity to many people. 

People like my dad. 

They aren't trying to destroy the world, they just want to talk to other people who enjoy looking at pictures of birds. 

And in that regard, well, Facebook is their world.

And that's what I was thinking about yesterday when Facebook went down and I said on Twitter: 

I'm literally texting with older family members right now who are suddenly isolated due to FB being down. It's hugely frightening for them to be cut off from their primary means of social interaction. 

I don't think some of you really understand what this is like for some people.

Now, please note that I did not say: Facebook is awesome! 

said that for some people who I was talking to, the sudden unexplained outage of their primary means of social interaction was terrifying, disorientating, depressing

But I didn't say: hey, Facebook is awesome and we should have more of it and please let me gargle Mark Zuckerberg's tiny hairless balls. 

What I said did not seem controversial to me. 

A day later, it still doesn't. 

I said that for many people, ordinary people who have little other means of social interaction, Facebook is important. And maybe a lot of us don't realize just how important until it goes down and they call you up worried that they did something wrong. And those people are not monsters, they just regular folks, old, confused, lonely. 

And that, predictably, did not sit well with a lot of very, very righteous people. 












There were more. Hundreds of comments more. But that's probably enough to make the point. Well, except for this one, my personal favorite:



I'm eager to watch this person spend the day talking 90-year-olds through the download, installation, and setup of Zoom software, along with the requisite video conferencing hardware, and get them all connected and chatting via some sort of coordination process that doesn't involve social media or long distance international charges and yet somehow magically functions on a global scale. 

But it's more than that. 

Do you see the assumption in that comment? Start a zoom party! Set up video conferencing! This assumes everyone can not only access the necessary technology and can afford it, but that audio and video are suitable mediums for them. I guess if you're hearing or vision impaired, you're just shit out of luck. More, it assumes everyone you socialize with is online at the same time you are. Oh, and here's a thing you might not be aware of: not everybody has the bandwidth. My mom? That farmhouse I mentioned? Rural Michigan. Farming country. No cable service. No fiber. No broadband. You can't even get copper DSL anymore because it wasn't profitable for the local phone companies. So, she accesses the internet via a cellular connection and she's lucky to get that because the cell tower in the cornfield behind her house is only a few years old -- a lot of areas near her don't even have that. So, she's got a cell connection and a limited number of bits each month. And beyond that things get very expensive very fast. Even in the local town, access is limited. Remember when Biden was talking about broadband as infrastructure? That's why. Because there's a lot of America, probably more than you care to imagine, just like this. 

Some people can't just go outside and "meet people in real life," and it takes a hell of a lot of unconscious privilege to think that's some sort of solution for everyone -- especially when you're condescendingly suggesting it on social media.

Some people can't just easily switch to other platforms. They don't know how. Or those platforms don't work for them. Or those platforms don't connect them to the world they need -- not you, not your needs, theirs. 

And then there's this idea, shouted at me over and over these last 24 hours about how people existed before the internet, before Facebook, they can do it again. Like my 90-year-old mom is going to roll outside in her walker because Facebook is down and take up skydiving or something. Oh, man, if only I hadn't been socializing on The Facebook all these years, look at what I missed! Woohoo, Imma try some rodeo next! 

And it's worse than that because for the last two years we've been telling these people to stay home, to avoid physical contact, to isolate. And now -- now -- here you are shouting for them to go outside and meet people? 

I mean, can you even hear yourselves? 

A lot of these people lived full lives. Some of them were skydivers, or racecar drivers, or scientists, teachers, pilots, doctors, adventurers, veterans... But, here you are telling them to go outside and do stuff because it's just that easy when you're 90 years old and dragging an oxygen tank behind your walker. 

Again, if you live long enough, the horizons close in and there comes a day where you just can't anymore. Before the internet, before social media, when that happened a lot of people just sat and waited to die. No matter how attentive and caring, their families have lives of their own. There can't be someone there all the time. A lot of their friends are gone. Their spouses. Their families. There can't always be someone who understands. Who shares your interests and experiences. Social media, Facebook for good or ill, provides a means to connect to others who do share your history, a place to still be able to interact and be part of the world. These things matter

Those who are suddenly cut off from that, well, it's frightening, it's lonely, it's unsettling, even if it's "only" for a few hours and it shouldn't take a lot of empathy or imagination to see that. 

Should there be a better way? A better company? A better platform? One that's not destroying the country too? 

Sure. Of course. Why not? 

But here's the thing: Facebook is like a coal-fired power plant. 

Yeah, it's terrible for the environment. There's going to be consequences. It's poisoning people. It's destroying the future. It's polluting the air and water. It is. No argument. But, it also provides power. It keeps the lights on, it keeps thousands of homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer, it provides the juice to run industry and schools and hospitals. Without it we'd freeze or starve or have to squat in the dark and shit in a hole. We need that energy. People die without it. 

What?

Oh. 

Right. You're that guy. The one up above in those tweets. People existed before technology, they can do it again. Learn to grow their own food, pump their own water, milk cows, make candles, ride horses or walk, live their allotted time and die. Life was better then. Right? 

Civilization existed before electricity. 

We could go back to that time. 

But there are unpleasant side effects and quite frankly I don't want to live in the fucking Stone Age. 

Could we do better than burning coal to power our civilization? Of course. Obviously. There's something between caveman and murder the planet. 

But you can't just burn down the powerplant without having an alternative in place. 

Well, I mean, you could

In point of fact, that's exactly what certain people demanded of me yesterday. Shut it off. Burn it down. Old people were fine before Facebook, they'll be fine without it now. LGBT people found ways to communicate before social media, they'll go back to that. Shut-ins should just get up off the couch and go outside, learn to skydive, make their own candles, tan leather, meet real people! Shut it down. Do better. 

Do better. 

Yeah, that's not better. That's not a plan. That's arson and people die in a fire.  

It's not just old people. 

It's not just disabled people and the shut-ins.

It's not just those who use social media to keep in contact with loved ones deployed overseas and who have family far away. 

It's not just the introverts or those with crippling social anxiety. 

It's not just those who have reason to hide their identity in the real world for fear of violence and hate and who without social media would have no social interaction where they could be themselves. 

It's not just those who find joy in a larger world they would have never known outside of an online global community of people who share their interests -- like birds. 

It's not just people who have built businesses and a living around these platforms. 

It's not just about writing letters or using a phone or reading a book or going outside to meet people. 

It's all of those things and much, much more. 

And if you can't see that, then that says a hell of a lot more about your lack of empathy and imagination than it does about those who use Facebook. 

Can we do better? Can we regulate these companies? Can we limit the power of those like Zuckerberg and Facebook? Can we prevent these platforms from becoming weapons aimed at the head of our Republic? And can we do it without marginalizing those who need it most? 

Of course we can. 

But burning it all down isn't how you do any of that. 

When I described an analogy on Twitter yesterday similar to the power plant metaphor above, this guy showed up:



Sorry about the people, but my principles are more important. 

Collateral damage, someone else said. Dismissing those innocents who might be lost when we bulldoze that big polluting company. We've got to think about the bigger picture, the country, sacrifices have to be made. 

Sorry about the collateral damage, but this is war

It's funny, ironic, that those liberals who are most eager to sacrifice others to their crusade against Facebook are the very same people, almost name for name, who were outraged when the Republican Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, suggested those very same old people should be willing to sacrifice themselves for the economy. 

Ironic, indeed. 

I pray to the gods of technology to grant me the confident assurance of every mediocre tech bro on Twitter. 


I am leery of any ideology, left, right, or other, that deals in confident absolutes. 

And I am suspicious of any cause, no matter how noble, that requires others to sacrifice for your principles. 

If you want a better world, be a better human being. 





Sunday, October 3, 2021

Recap October 3, 2021

 

Fox News headline this morning. 

Democrat -- DEMOCRAT -- Tammy Duckworth hasn't paid property tax on her Illinois home since 2015, report says.

Why, that cheating bitch!


Except disabled veterans are exempted by law from paying property taxes in Illinois. 

Yeah, except for that part, you know. 

And Fox News actually does know, because they actually spell out that Duckworth is fully 100% entitled to her exemption in the actual article under that inflammatory headline: 

In Duckworth’s case, the 53-year-old U.S. senator pays zero in property taxes because she is a disabled U.S. military veteran with a 70% or higher disability rating, as determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

She and other similarly disabled veterans in Cook County who own homes get the tax break regardless of their income level, the Sun-Times reported.

Duckworth lost both of her legs and some use of her right arm after the helicopter she was piloting was hit by a rocket-fired grenade in Iraq in 2004. 

The article also mentioned that Duckworth paid more than $16,000 in property taxes on a second home she owns in Virginia -- because even though Virginia offers a tax exemption for disabled vets, it's not her primary home and so she doesn't quality. 

So, she didn't pay taxes she wasn't required to pay. 

And she did pay taxes that she was required to pay. 

The outrage! 

Fox News is literally attacking a 100% combat disabled veteran who was severely wounded in the service of her country for not paying taxes that she doesn't owe and for paying taxes where she does. The article literally describes Duckworth's valor and then somehow implies that same Senator, a combat veteran who is a hero in every sense of the word as defined by Fox News and its viewers, as somehow doing something wrong because ... something. 

And if you read the comments under the article you'll see that Fox's conservative viewers agree, even if they're not quite sure why they're certain Duckworth is somehow up to no good. 

Republicans love Veterans and tax breaks until it's a decorated combat veteran who happens to be a woman of color and a Democrat.

I'm not a politician. 

I am however, a disabled veteran. 

I make a decent living. And you'd better believe I take every veteran related tax break I'm offered. 

Why wouldn't I? I earned it. 

Why wouldn't you? 

Why shouldn't Duckworth? 

I mean, what's the logic here? If you make some arbitrary amount money, as determined by random Republicans on Twitter, you're not really a veteran any more? A real combat hero should live in poverty? How much is a pair of legs and an arm worth anyway? 

I really enjoy that part where this guy thinks people should just volunteer to pay taxes they don't owe. 

Trump, a rich coward who got out of serving his country by faking a crippling injury via a doctor that his daddy paid for, once crowed about how smart he was for not paying taxes and his supporters cheered and enthusiastically agreed -- just as they did when he and his Republican cronies slashed taxes on the wealthy and multitrillion dollar megacorps. 

But the very same people are now mad because a combat veteran didn't pay taxes she doesn't owe

It's not just Fox News:

That's Chicago Sun Times yesterday. 

Which is, no doubt, where Fox News stole the idea from. 

It's funny how the Sun-Times article leads off by attacking disabled vets in general and Duckworth in particular, yet the Senator's property is not some palatial estate but rather a 1600 square foot home worth a modest $250,000 and the others mentioned in the article make vastly more money than she does. Not only that, but the article specially says that property tax exemptions for disabled veterans and senior citizens are a "tiny sliver of the $1.5 billion in all real estate tax exemptions granted to Cook County homeowners this year." 

A tiny sliver.

And yet the Chicago Sun Time is pretty sure it's somehow Duckworth and other combat wounded veterans who are the villains here. 

This isn't anything new, of course. These same people, all who profess to love the military are who are utterly outraged when a black man kneels during the National Anthem in what they see as the ultimate insult to veterans, were the very same people who mocked John McCain's combat disability and who went after Bob Dole, who attacked Gold Star families because they didn't vote for Trump -- a guy who openly mocked a disabled reporter and called veterans "losers" and "suckers." 

Republicans tell you they love and respect the military. 

But that's not true. 

What they actually love is the idea of an obedient all-powerful unstoppable force they can use to crush their enemies and threaten into subservience those they see as less than worthy. 

Most of all, they see the military as a projection of their own manhood and the right arm of their mean bitter religion.

They despise the idea of a military made up of actual people. 

They are actively revolted by veterans who might have been damaged in the service of their country, mentally or physically, because to them any disability is weakness and any veteran who is less than a comic book hero in their eyes lessens their manhood and makes mockery of their small miserable selfish god. 

This country doesn't deserve heroes like Tammy Duckworth. 

And yet, there she is, still serving.