Street Scene

Nothing profound, just…

I’ve been going through a book of Elliott Erwitt photographs. If the name is not familiar, you should treat yourself. An all-around kind of photographer and had–has, he’s still working–that Henri-Cartier Bresson important-moment thing going on. And a tremendous sense of humor.

But I was reminded how much I like straight black-and-white, “found” photography. So not like I’m anywhere in his league, his work prompted me to put up a new image. Enjoy the day.

 

Post Ides

A departure from the trend of political screeds. The COVID19 pandemic.

People are nervous, uncertain, many frightened.  I’ve always dealt with that kind of thing by finding things out. Information. The more you know, you know.  So here is a link to a very handy, graphically interesting page of data about the thing itself.

The Coronovirus Data Pack.

Study it, absorb it, then—

Reasonable precaution, much of which consists of habits we should already have (but probably don’t).  And if it is your inclination to dismiss it, blow it off, assume it’s either exaggerated or too late, well, so be it, but keep one thing in mind: it’s not about you.

This is the time to adopt those habits and take those precautions whether you believe in them or not because the idea is to reassure those around you. You do this for your friends, neighbors, community.  You do this to lower the level of ambient anxiety.

It hurts nothing to be a bit extra careful, circumspect, considerate.  And on the chance that such precautions really do work, you can save a life or two.

Because honestly, we’ve all been pretty on edge and often nasty to each other the last few years.  Not, perhaps, unprovoked, but still, this is one instance where such an attitude will do no one any good and relearning some manners may do a lot of good.

So be careful.  Be considerate.  Be a good citizen and community member.

Thank you.

March (the Ides of)

And I haven’t posted anything substantial since the beginning of February. February turned out to be a difficult month. I came down with some species of flu-like yuck and ended up home in bed for a week. I’m still getting over it, whatever it was, but I am managing to get back to the gym and work on new stories and all.

So I thought I would do an update.

The Ides of March will be here soon.

The current issue of Analog has a new story by me. I’m rather pleased with it. I think I managed to do some things I’ve always wanted to do and never felt quite good enough to pull off.

I’ve been working my way through a few stories that are proving reluctant to complete. I’ll get there.

I’m behind on finishing the last couple of batches of photographs. But that will keep for now.

Donna and I are coming up on an anniversary. Forty years since our first date. I took her to see 2001: A Space Odyssey and to a Chinese restaurant afterward, both of which were new experiences for her. The theater and the restaurant are long gone, but we try to watch that movie and eat that cuisine every year. (We might change up the movie to 2010 this year.) I’m working on my thoughts and feelings about four decades with her. I can’t imagine anyone else being there with me through what has been a long, strange trip.

We’re making upgrades. A couple of new windows going in, some other details in need of tweaking. We probably won’t be going on any major trips this year. Might be a good year for review and reassessments.

So…

 

…what with the chaos and instability of the last year and a vague set of possibilities for the next, I thought I’d make a couple of observations about—well, about us. Humans.

It has brought me up short to discover that certain people whom I hold in considerable esteem and respect support the current administration. As has been my wont through most of my life, whenever confronted with something like this, I do a long, deep diving analysis of my world views to see if I’ve missed something. Perhaps things are not as I perceive them. Perhaps I haven’t recognized the “big picture.”  My reflexive reaction to our president has been consistent since before the election and I’ve gotten used to certain attitudes which, maybe, I should rethink.

I’ve been doing that for a couple of months now.

My conclusion is that no, I haven’t missed a thing. The fact is, I want something different than those who support him. My expectations are distinctly other than theirs. That’s fine, people are welcome to their viewpoints. If the problems were mostly a matter of style, I could even live with the differences.

But they are not. They are matters of, to me, moral judgment.

The first problem is the least tractable. The election which put him into office was deeply problematic on several levels. Fifty-three percent of the electorate turned out to vote and he in fact lost the popular election, which means that he, as has been the case for many years now for most of the so-called Right, is in office based on at most a quarter of the adult population’s support. I say “least tractable” because the only solution to this is higher voter turnout and I do not know how to achieve that. Some have said it would have been higher had any other candidate opposed him but Hillary Clinton, but I don’t buy that. This is not the first time low turnout has been an issue and it does not excuse the indifference exhibited at state and local elections. You don’t like the presidential candidates, fine, don’t vote for them, but show up and vote for your senator, your representative, your state offices. If this had been the first or only one a few elections with this problem, I might be inclined to agree with the “wrong candidate” excuse, but it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.  Americans seem to be lazy. They don’t want to be bothered. Then, when things turn out badly, they complain. Loudly.

A partial solution to this would be to make election days holidays. Mandatory. Even state and local elections. That might take care of part of it. Add to that making voter registration automatic upon one’s 18th birthday and tie it to your social security number, so this nonsense of lacking an address no longer can be used to deny a basic right. You’re the voter, not your house. With modern databases, it would be easy to track your voting record and see that you vote once.

But inspiring people to actually vote? I like Australia’s system, where voting is required by law, but I rather doubt it would work here. We’re too punitive at the best of times.

When we had a pool of educated, semi-responsible people in government, this wasn’t as big a deal. The country would run along regardless. We didn’t have people in congress conducting a guerilla war with each other.

Where did that come from?

Many places*, but the chief one seems to be that our sense of national character has been weaponized and turned into a do-or-die cause. The chief problem with that is, no one can actually define what is or isn’t our “national character.” It changes. The genius of our system up to this point has been its ability to adapt so efficiently to that changing landscape that from generation to generation there seemed to be widespread coherence and agreement about what that character was, with the illusion that it is at any given moment what it has always been. With the loss of rationality in our representative offices, the revelations that we have from time to time been less than faithful to our assumed ideals has scraped nerve-endings raw.

We hear that the country, the nation, the People, need a new narrative. Why? Because left to our own individual devices we can’t seem to find one that works? Evidence would suggest such a factor, but I’m not convinced. We had a pretty good narrative. The problem hasn’t been the story we tell about ourselves, but in living up to its requirements. If we throw up our collective hands and say “Well, we can’t do that,” it doesn’t mean the narrative is a bad one, as if to say “That’s too hard, so let’s get a new one that’s easier.” For one thing, swapping out national narratives is not so easy, and anticipating outcomes is even dicier.

But no, I don’t believe the narrative we had was so bad. What happened somewhere along the way was the additional thread that told people that if they didn’t like it, they could opt out.

Or blame someone else.

There has always been a degree of this all along, people who don’t like the way things are feeling that they can just pick up and leave. Once upon a time, there was something to this, but it meant actually leaving, heading west, risking oblivion if you failed. Interestingly enough, every time enough people migrated and settled, they dragged along all the community-based accoutrements the first bunch supposedly fled in the first place. The Great Westward Migration was never primarily the individuality exercise our fiction made it out to be.

With the closing of the frontiers, though, the “opting out” became considerably more complex and usually a matter of antisocial resistance to group standards all the way up to actual criminality. Today it manifests chiefly in debates over not who leaves but who gets let in. (It, in fact, always was this debate, but the inclusion narratives are not universal nor as pleasant as we like to think.) Right now there is a flurry of voting poll closings in Texas ahead of the coming elections. Minorities, mostly. One part of the community trying to deny another part a say in how the community will operate by attempting to exclude their vote.

In its simplest terms, this is a toxic combination of NIMBY and “I don’t wanna pay for them.”

Or look like them. Or sound like them. Or eat, think, act like them.

In Strangers In Their Own Land, Arlie Russell Hochschild lays out another component of this, namely the notion of “keeping one’s place in line.” In other words, many of the constituency who put Trump in office have felt for a long time that undeserving people have been “placed” in line ahead of them.

“Like some others I spoke with in Louisiana, Jackie felt she had hold of an American Dream—but maybe just for now. Gesturing around her large living room, she says ‘This could all vanish tomorrow!’ She had worked hard. She had waited in line. She’d seen others ‘cut ahead,’ and this had galled her and estranged her from the government.”

What this has led to is the election of representatives who seem to feel it is their duty to interrupt as much of the federal government’s operations as possible in order to prevent a perceived Leftist takeover. On behalf of people clamoring for justice, at least as they see it. Combined with the erosion of trust in anything “knowable,” this has led to a situation in which the optimal condition is a free-for-all wherein no one idea can gain ascendance over any other. This is, naturally, untenable. Some ideas will rise out of the chaos, but with no reasonable discourse it will likely be the less nuanced, most emotion-laden, immediate kind of ideas that can solve little (or nothing) but “feel good” to those who think they’re defending “balance.” What results is anything complex gets shouted down or barred from consideration, especially if it seems to run counter to a preferred narrative.

In congress, Mitch McConnell is sitting on around 400 House bills and has stated categorically he won’t allow them on the floor for a vote. Same thing only at a higher, more organized and potent level.

I don’t care how you try to spin this, it is immoral. It is a denial of voice to people who are legally guaranteed to have a say. It is saying “My mind is made up, so fuck you.”

That’s all.

Very simply, whether that representative is yours or not, this is wrong. It is immoral.

McConnell has been rubberstamping Trump’s policies all along. Why? Because Trump is disassembling the regulatory apparatus that stands between powerful people and the rest of us. He has been taking apart the machinery that is designed to keep the predators from feeding on the body of the nation.

Look at the list of things that have come under the axe in this administration and, whether you agree with how they function or not, it is impossible not to see that the only things being attacked are protections.

Now, some people will loudly declare “I don’t want your protections! I can take care of myself!”

This is a flamboyant, boastful, egotistical bit of self-aggrandizing nonsense. You live in a community, which provides many things you may not, perhaps, even notice. Without them, you could not live the life you may think you’ve earned. But what I have observed among those who often make this claim is a contradiction: they do not pick up, move to the wilderness, live off the grid, and “take care of themselves.” If they did, we would never hear from them. They would have no means to participate in this dialogue. Instead, the statements masks the fact that these are people who either assume the services they use exist in nature (so to speak) and if everyone withdrew from supporting them they would continue uninterrupted or they are people who feel they have achieved a level of self-sufficiency that will allow them to isolate themselves from those parts of the community they don’t like, even while continuing to live in that community and availing themselves of the services.

Or they think they’re just denying these services to others of whom they disapprove.

Somewhere along the way they lost the thread of the actual narrative, the one that says “We are all in this together.”

Even so, hoarding is immoral. When you look at billionaires, you are looking at a species of hoarding.

Not that any of them keep all that money in a safe buried beneath (one) of their houses. No, they’re hoarding influence. The landscape shaped by economics. Their decisions affect people’s lives and those people—you and me, presumably, living on salaries (and that covers a wider range than a lot of folks seem to realize)—have virtually no say in how that manifests.

Again, we are muted, almost voiceless.

“But the Market!”

The market is a wide, wild river. It goes where it will and is only ever controlled grossly by those people hoarding the influence who build dams and levies. And they only build them to direct the flow into preferred channels and those channels may not be to anyone’s advantage but their own. Get over this idea that the Market means leaving those people alone. We labor under the myth of the Free Market. There is no such thing. All markets are at least nominally “owned” by someone and that ownership manifests in exclusions. (What most people likely mean by Free Market is Open Access Market, which is not the same thing. An Open Access Market is one that is inclusive, but in order to achieve that we need a system of wardens to keep the gates open.  Once in the market, freedom may be expressed at what we then can do inside, but even that is not the complete absence of rules some seem to believe should maintain.) We have been sold this myth along with several others by those with the most to gain from our accepting less in the presumption that eventually there will be more. So far, that has not been the case other than for specific groups here and there (not always the same ones consistently); never for the kind of universal improvement supposedly on offer.

There are over seven billion of us on this rock. It is not flat, we are inextricably part of its biosphere (nature), and our collective impact has progressively changed over the centuries and we cannot blithely go on behaving as if nothing we do has any consequences on the world we inhabit. Size matters and while you as an individual would like very much to be released from any responsibility to people you don’t know (including what they do to our environment), no one can absolve you from that. You are part of your species and we—WE—have responsibilities that extend beyond your backyard. Whether you like it or not, you are as much a part of the human race as someone in Guatemala or Indonesia or Chad or Norway and pretending you are either separate from them as an organism or superior to them as a member of a given polity is a surrender of conscience. The problem is, that conscience you’re so willfully trying to deny does not go away into oblivion but remains extant for someone else to pick up and co-opt and use as part of their argument. So you can either be part of the dialogue or a witless tool. but you cannot be apart from it all.

Among the things that have been allowed to drift into the control of those who do not have your best interests at heart:

1: Climate change is real. Stop for a moment and just look at it this way—in order to live, we burn things. It does not take much to understand that the more we burn, the more residue is released. When there were only a few million of us, this was negligible. There are over seven billion now. It adds up. It is the height of wishful thinking and willful ignorance not to understand this.

2: Vaccines have been the most effective weapon against disease ever invented and a refusal to vaccinate your children is criminal negligence. The only reason you might think otherwise is because you have no direct experience of uncontrolled diseases like measles. The only reason you lack that experience is because of vaccines. This nonsense is self-entitled, trendy, pop-culture propaganda and it will kill people.

3: Evolution is real. If it were not, vaccines would not work. Modern medicine would not work. We would not, ever, find new species, anywhere, and quite possibly there would be no life on this planet at all. The only reason to deny evolution is so you can maintain a privileged view of yourself as somehow apart from and above Nature. Which view allows all those corporations to feed you lies about how pesticides are safe, climate change is a hoax, and Democrats are evil. You have put gullibility on like a bad suit and it will kill you some day.

4:  Economic systems are just that—systems. We built them, we run them, they do not exist in Nature, and consequently we can control them, modify them, tweak them, and revise them to suit circumstances. Labels have no actual valence, so calling something by a label you do not understand because you’ve been told it is evil and will inevitably lead to dire consequences, you contribute to the lobotomization of our collective intellect. Ayn Rand aside, Capitalism is neither a philosophy nor an ideal and in the hands of those who see it as a game of one-upsmanship, it can be used to hurt you. Stop assuming all controls and regulations are there to hurt you. Haven’t a lot of us been hurt by their absence? (The answer to that is Yes.)

5:  The Civil War was fought over slavery and slaves. This is not up for debate, despite the continual and continuing attempts to rewrite history into something more noble or innocuous, like States’ Rights. Most of the articles of secession published by the Confederate States list the preservation of slavery as the number one issue and if that were not enough, Alexander Stephens’ Cornerstone Speech (he was vice president of the Confederacy) made it about as clear as it could be that it was about maintaining white supremacy. A great deal of our subsequent history has been maligned, ignored, disputed, and twisted over this and whether you like it or not, the facts are not in question. (Why this is an issue now is complex but the fact of the matter is we have a resurgent white supremacist problem, much of which hinges on this issue as a matter of patriotic nostalgia.) The Confederacy was illegal, the instigators were essentially traitors, and no one should use this as an excuse to be either a bigot or a nationalist.

6:  Presidents are not messiahs. Resumés matter. Being inspiring is nice, being competent is vital. We are not crowning a king, we are hiring a manager. Policy is at issue, not endorphins. Stop voting with your amygdala.

7:  Following upon that last, stop thinking the only election that matters is for the president. Congress matters more. I don’t care if you’re bored, staying home because you can’t be bothered to vote is, especially today, inexcusable. (There are reasons for not voting that are, voter suppression being one.)  We have been ruled by quarter-population mandates for too long.

I suppose I could on, but you get the idea. I felt the need to get that off my chest.

I have been told that confronting people with accusations of idiocy, stupidity, venality, and so forth do no good, that it just makes more enemies. That may be. But the soft-touch approach has been used against us for too long. I don’t believe in shaming, but I am tired of living with the consequences of people who probably should be ashamed.  Ashamed of their feckless disregard for what we euphemistically term “common sense.”  (I believe there is no such thing. I know what it’s supposed to connote, but that kind of acuity and wisdom has never, in my experience, been common.)

Because ultimately it is a result of a refusal to trust. Perhaps an inability. But when you look at the decisions of some people, especially with regard to who they elect, the only common factor seems to be that such choices leave one free of having to think about what to do next. The bombast, the denials, the questioning of every single inconvenient fact, is designed to allow some of us to posture over “balance” and retreat from considered argument because “both sides are just as bad,” which leaves us off the hook morally. It’s a refusal to take the kind of steps to find out and be informed and then make decisions that are not just masked motions designed to wash our hands of a situation we don’t understand.

Corporations did not want to pay for their messes or admit to culpability or even float the costs of changing the way they did things, and so embarked on a campaign barely dreamt of by postmodern onanists.  Evangelical churches wanted to maintain their lock on our consciences and so embarked on a similar series of campaigns to convince people that science was just another religion and nothing could be known but “god.” Politicians wanted to get re-elected and maybe get rich by appealing to both these sectors and so abandoned their civic responsibility to hold themselves and the nation accountable to reality and principle.

November is approaching. I’m not as concerned about who ends up in the White House as I am who becomes the next Senate Majority Leader. In order to preserve our democracy, we have to actually use it.

These are the kinds of thoughts occupying me. Thank you for your time and attention.

___________________________________________________________

*For those who wish to lay actual blame as a matter of first causes, you can blame this on the corporate actions to undermine legitimate science in order to avoid the costs of cleaning up messes. What began as a fairly simple tactic to call into question facts which pointed to the need to change certain practices in order to prevent enactment of new regulations (and later undo existing regulations) got away from them and became an evangelical movement to deny any fact that did not fit a particular view. It has led to the discrediting of any kind of authority, valid or otherwise, and hamstrung us when collective action is necessary. The method has become a politic position.

Because…

It’s election day. Primaries. I already voted. So, in lieu of any other commentary, a new image:

 

…And Another One Drops

Elizabeth Warren has ended her presidential bid. She’s not going anywhere, to be sure, and it is somewhat mollifying that she is in Congress. Maybe she’ll get a cabinet post.

Pretty much leaving the race between Biden and Sanders.

So what is this? How do we put this into some kind of sensible perspective? Warren was a solid candidate and had the added attraction of knowing how to build plans and coalitions and who clearly understands how both the economy and the culture works. Was this not enough?

Here’s my quick and dirty analysis.

1: The DNC feared going into the summer campaign season with too crowded a field. Pare it down, pare it down. Leaving a row of wannabes on the stage for people to be perpetually uncertain about works against potential unity.

2: Mainline Democrats are afraid of anyone who might actually revise the system to address the underlying problems that have brought us here. They do not know what that would mean For Them. Personal ass-covering time. There are a lot of center-leftish folks who don’t like the inequities but would rather not see them redressed at their expense. Upper middle class and wealthy Democrats are just as committed to keeping “their share” as Republicans and Right-wingers. Warren could potentially undo the pipelines that feed into shareholder coffers and that might mean comfortable people could get less. Or, worse, be on the hook to pay for the ride they’ve had on the backs of those who just work for a living without the benefits of pension-benefits.

3:  Of course, the same problem is there with Sanders, but somehow he doesn’t seem as dangerous.  I don’t know quite why. Age? Demeanor? He doesn’t inundate people with theory and he seems to tap into the emotional end of this whole thing. It may just be that Sanders seems better equipped to get into a brawl with Trump.

4:  Which brings it to Biden.  This is a nostalgia candidate. Obama, sure, but even older, “back in the day,” traditional Democratic esthetics. Uncle Joe. He’s comfortable, seems safe. The kind of president you vote for because it feels good and safe and then you hope he appoints smart people.

5:  My mantra for some time now has been that our politics are driven by the desire among too many people to “Fix It But Don’t Change Anything.” Biden has some of that about him. He represents a chance to put it all back together the way it was before the wrecking ball was elected.  It’s perhaps understandable but short-sighted and more fear-driven than perhaps we can afford.

6:  Warren, in my opinion, would have been a fine president, but, finally, I think she’s burdened by two deficits for too many people: (a) She’s an intellectual and not afraid to let you know it and (b) she comes across somehow less tough than the others, probably because of her more academic approach. America has had a horrible track record with smart people running for office. Misogyny plays a part as well, but I think less now than before. We can’t discount it, certainly, but I don’t think it’s a simple aversion to having a woman for president.  It’s now arrived at the “What kind of woman” question.  This is where that messy problem of public perception and group dynamics comes into play.  She did well, but I think a lot of that was people delighted she was running, but not expecting her to win. Perhaps they thought she couldn’t win a debate with Trump.  Well, Hillary “won” all the debates, but they were speaking different languages, and the people who largely went with Trump couldn’t hear what she was saying. It is not unlikely some of the same fear is at play here.

Biden, I think, doesn’t have to win any debates with Trump.  Supporters will do that work for him.  It’s about image now.  If people want a “safe” candidate, he’ll keep winning primaries and then the nomination.  If people want a brawler, then Sanders will ultimately win.

I will repeat here, once more, the important thing: THIS ELECTION IS LESS ABOUT THE PRESIDENT THAN IT IS ABOUT CONGRESS. Anyone opting to stay home because they don’t like the presidential nominee does all the rest of us a disservice by not being there to vote for a new Congress.  Plus all the state and local down-ticket seats. Whoever gets the nomination, it doesn’t matter if we don’t overturn Congress. Show up. Vote.

Thank you for your attention.

What I Expect

At the so-called National Prayer Breakfast, he walks in with a newspaper displaying the headline ACQUITTED. In front of a roomful of evangelical leaders, he proceeds to unleash his anger on the Democrats (and one traitor) who impeached him. He ranted.

What should he have done?

An adult would have been gracious, said little or nothing. Proceeded with the presumed intent of the meeting and left all that at the door. Certainly, you do not gloat. Gloating is for lesser beings, petty and vindictive, with no sense of the appropriate. It sets the entirely wrong tone for the supposed “leader of the free world” to indulge his sense of personal betrayal at what ostensibly is a religious gathering.

And then that marvelously unselfaware line:  “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong…”

Spoken to a roomful of the most blatant hypocrites in recent history: the evangelical supporters of a president who has made public mockery of so-called Christian Values. A group of people who have collectively turned their back on what Jesus means to embrace someone who will, they seem to feel, will finally impose their vision of “social justice” on the people they too often condemn from their own pulpits.

One more detail to note—that tirade? That was his Reichstag Fire speech. Condemning the treacherous enemies who have now failed, who will soon be feeling his wrath.  It’s a rallying cry, a re-election gambit, and slab of bloody meat tossed to the feral faithful.

We are seeing the result of the polarization of the last 20 years, a situation wherein “reasonable” and “impartial” have no actual meaning for some, especially if they mean finding grounds to judge something wrong. Romney stood by principle and voted according to his interpretation of the facts presented. He was, in my view, reasonable and impartial. But that is no longer a meaningful stance.

It should begin to register on some level even among his supporters that the ranks of the discredited are beginning to overflow. When one after the other who started out as allies is cast into the wilderness when finally a disagreement over policy or procedure is too blatant to ignore, the faithful decide in retrospect that the critic must never have been loyal to begin with.  It cannot be that this bastion of conservative principle might have a point. No, out, away. Banishment. And ridicule. When people you once sided with suddenly become “the enemy” because they pointed out a problem, the Problem is not with them but with your reasons for such unquestioning devotion. How many does it take before you start to think that maybe your hero isn’t what you thought?

Still, at this moment, personally, I do not see Trump as the primary problem. I’ve been doing a little reassessing lately, trying to understand what we’re seeing, and I honestly cannot see that this president is anything but an aberration. My focus is on Congress and the GOP apparatus itself.

Mitch McConnell, as of November, has blocked over 250 House-passed bills from even be heard before the Senate. He has placed himself as a dam and will not even allow debate. This situation is being used to give the impression that the newly Democratic-controlled House has been doing nothing. Precisely the opposite is the case. Now, you may argue that the substance of those bills may be contrary to the nation’s welfare, but the fact is we do not know based on common knowledge. You want to vote a bill down, bring it to the floor and hear it. That is not what is happening.  McConnell characterizes himself as the Grim Reaper of Progressive Legislation. He has vowed to prevent any progressive measures from passing.

Without that, how effective could Trump ever have been? He understands very little about government. He presides over an administration of bullies. He wants the world to get in line behind America. There is no nuance, no comprehension of the complexities of the world—just profit and loss. He has demonstrated time and again he not only cannot color inside the lines, he doesn’t know what the lines are there for. With a different dynamic in D.C. what could he have accomplished? He requires McConnell, who does understand the machinery.

And along with him the entire GOP, who, with just now the single exception of Mitt Romney, are locked into his program. Lindsey Graham, who at one time was his most barbed and cogent critic, has become little more than a lapdog, seems to exemplify the utterly bizarre lobotimization of the GOP.

It is fair to ask, what is it he has on them?

But that may be going a step too far. Not all of them, certainly. Each one must be getting something out of this, if nothing more than a shot at re-election.

What I expect going forward. It may be that Romney could switch parties. He will certainly be made to pay a price for his integrity. I expect another surge of young voter-driven purges in the House and, more importantly, in the Senate. I think it highly likely that McConnell will lose this time around, possibly by a narrow margin. I expect the Democratic nominee to win the popular vote again. If the Democrats are smart, they will let the numbers dictate the nominee and not do anything to jeopardize their chances in November.

I expect Trump to sue if he loses. We may even see the Supreme Court drawn into the fray again.

But I do expect things to be different. We are not Weimar. If Trump wins re-election but loses Congress, I expect him to eventually quit.

If he loses, though, I expect there to be a rebuilding of the judiciary and repairs done to our civic institutions. If there is a silver lining to this, it is that the damage already done has left a lot of vacant area in which to build something better than we had before.

But I do expect better.

None of which will happen if people fail to vote.

 

2020

Optimism. Maybe this year will be clear, sharp, allowing for vision.

I sold two new stories in 2019, after spending a year or so working at recovering the skills to write short fiction. To my complete dismay and pleasure, both stories sold to a market I have traditionally been unable to crack—Analog. Diligence and energy permitting, I intend to write and sell several more stories this year.

Other than that, I do not have much to say about 2019. We lost friends, our dog, suffered unexpected disruptions. Personally, politically, creatively it was not much of a year to remember.

So rather than do the usual retrospective, I will only say that going forward I intend doing all I can to make the next 12 months better.

I have the best partner anyone could hope to have. Without her, I believe I would be a gibbering idiot in a padded cell somewhere. I have excellent colleagues. I work at a place that is an intellectual and spiritual oasis, a garden in the midst of so much wrack and ruin. I have friends.

I have work.

In the coming months, I intend doing more with my photography. Changes on my art site have commenced, modest to be sure, but I intend calling more attention to it. Please, if you are in any way inclined toward hanging original work in your home or office, pay a visit.

But more than that, I intend publishing more. I’ve been too long absent from the short fiction  environs. I have novels waiting in the wings. I have more stories in process.

It may be that in a couple of years I will have more time to devote to all of it. We shall see.

But whatever happens, 2020 offers a chance to be more and better—for all of us.

So. Be well, be clear, be alive. We’re living in the Future.

Travel well, travel far.

The Self-Deception of the Cornered

He is impeached.

The senate, as it is currently configured, will likely not convict and remove. Mitch McConnell has already thrown his conscience and oath of office and any claim to adherence to the Constitution on a trash heap and set it on fire. The GOP have the majority and unless there are major defections, the trial will be a formality, a joke. But the impeachment is real.

I believe the man currently holding the office of the president is a feckless, somewhat clever opportunist who has no real grasp of the meaning of the office. I actually believe he is having a hard time understanding what the problem is with the Ukrainian affair. He has a very General Motors attitude (circa 1950): What’s good for me is good for the country. He should be removed for basic incompetence, but unfortunately that is not illegal or unConstitutional.

But the rest of the Party, that is another matter. It’s not even so much that they’re backing him, but that they keep trying to put a respectable gloss on it. Reputations are descending into a pit the longer this goes along. It is fairly clear that they are desperately trying to hold onto enough legitimacy to convince people not to throw them out.

They should not worry. Even a bad act seems to have fans. Many of them will retain their seats because too many voters see this as a contest between different forms of America. It does not bear too much examination to understand the motivations of many MAGA supporters. That onion has too many layers, but every one of them will make you cry.

The economy is rolling along like gangbusters, so many people believe he’s doing something right. They still do not grasp the nature of economy trends and the realities behind those numbers. Many people seem to feel that growth at 2 to 2.5% is barely better than depression, and yearn for 3.4 to 5%, not realizing that such growth rates are like shots of ether in an engine, and while it will run magnificently for a short while, it will quickly tear itself apart because that level of growth is unsustainable.  The compromises necessary to achieve it will result in recession and damage to certain segments of the population when the entire system seeks to find equilibrium. It doesn’t matter. What is sad is so many people think high growth will redound to them in some way, and it rarely does.

Wages are going up. This is likely the result of many factors having nothing to do with the president. But too many people are working longer hours, or multiple jobs, or are chronically underemployed, and we still do not count the unemployed who exhaust their benefits and fall off the rolls of those who are counted.

It is possible to build economic infrastructures that sustain and include, but it cannot be done so long as we do nothing about the extraction of wealth by the top 1%—who do not spend it, but hoard it—and simultaneously do nothing about the power inequity between employers and employees. Also, we need to address the whole monetary system. We need to look at basic economic policies that put necessities out of reach for too many and the burdens of cost on the wrong people.

But that’s not what has been happening. Because there obviously is no comprehension on the part of the party in power as to what any of that means.

Next year will require historic voter turn-out. Not so much to remove the president but to do something about all the other offices held by people who think doing less means offering freedom.  Local, state, and federal offices needs to be changed over. We know this. We also know that many people will assume a high-minded attitude about who gets their vote that in the past has resulted in split tickets, no-shows, and low turn-out.  This is no time to stand on inappropriately applied principles that might leave the corruption in place. We may have to do this several times in the next couple of decades before the message is made clear.

For myself, I have come to the end of my patience. A young girl from a foreign country steps up to speak truth to power.  She is eloquent, she has her facts in hand, and she speaks from the heart, and the response of this administration is to ridicule her. If the message is sound, the messenger is secondary, but the utter contempt on display by these people is appalling.

That alone should be enough to turn away the support, but it will not for too many because this has become like a football game, and winning is the only thing that matters.

There is not a single cogent, well-considered, thoughtful justification for this man to remain in office. To try to assert otherwise says nothing about him and everything about the defender. And the defense now reeks of desperation.

So he is impeached. He is at the head of an army of the cornered. With every tirade we are shown the complete abandonment of responsible, principled governance by them. The word salad has become incomprehensible. What world are they seeing? Not the one I live in.

Not one I want to live in.

The frightening thing is, they seem to believe their own blind mouthings.  What must it be like to indulge that level of self-deception?

In the last couple of years I have been in a number of exchanges with his supporters. Not one has said anything coherent about policy. All of them lead, continue with, and end with vitriolic attacks on anyone who offers the least criticism. Maybe some of them don’t know the difference. But it has been consistent to such a degree that I find it no longer tenable to try to find reason in such defense.

This is the populist politics of fear. They are frightened. Of something. Many have personal complaints that often make perfect sense, but when translated into national policies, the sense vanishes in a cloud of righteous anger.

We’ve been through periods of this kind of terrified divisiveness before. I don’t believe this one is any worse than past tearings, but it is far more communicated because of the tools at our disposal. It feels worse, and that feeds the fear.

Stop. Take a breath. Step away from the newsfeeds for a week or a month. Do human things.

And then let us actually make things better.