Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Staying Alive

Well, the world is still here, two months after my last post. That almost counts as an upset these days. Things have gotten worse, somehow, thanks to the police doing what the police do, murdering Black men and women. I'm a few weeks late to say anything profound about that. The situation has changed, though - it's been strange, the way the protests have gone from looking like an plagueexcuse for Trump and company to impose martial law on the country, to - well, success, sort of. Minneapolis is willing to change their police department completely. Lots of talk about reform, from modest and obvious measures to defunding police to abolishing police - and a lot of it talk by people in position to do it. Will they? Early days, we are in...

The protests have spread, from directed at police villainy to directed as the long history of racism and evil in this country in the world. More talk about bringing down Confederate statues and purging Confederate names from the military and the like. Statues of Columbus and other nasty racists coming down. All getting complicated, I suppose, though it's hard to see a downside. We should not be celebrating the people who created the colonial system, fought to protect it - as well as those who fought to protect the racists societies it created. Not celebrating them is not the same as forgetting them. Granted - things like Columbus statues get complicated - Columbus himself was a nasty piece of work; but the statues are there more to push the idea that Italians deserve respect. Though I suppose turning Columbus into a symbol of Italian pride in the United States is a pretty blatant erasure of history itself. And so on.

All of this, by the way, is going on in the middle of the same pandemic we suffered through in the spring. COVID-19 isn't going anywhere. Cases are starting to go up again, predictably, as states ease restrictions on what people can do, and people go do them. I don't know where this is going to go, but it's hard to see how it can go anywhere but badly. There's no sign the pandemic is over; only that quarantines and regulations have slowed it. Lifting those restrictions lets it start up. The question is, how much restriction do you really need? If people wear their masks and don't go to obvious danger spots and stay apart and all the rest - will that keep the rates low enough that it is controllable? Maybe - though given the number of people who even now seem to resist wearing masks - I don't know.

So I won't speculate. Only say, it is best if everyone wears a mask, at least any time they are around other people. And stay out of crowded places and wash your hands and all the rest. Though if things start spiking again - well - I hope people are willing to do what they can to stop it. I suspect this is going to break on political lines, which is one fo the saddest things about this whole affair. The Republicans politicize it - attacking anything that treats this deadly disease as a deadly disease, making refusing to take it seriously almost a point of political identity. Great. The death cult in action. The alternative - that the Democrats are making taking the pandemic seriously, taking racism and evil police seriously, accounting for the past seriously into something of their political identity is encouraging. Even if it's symbolic - saying the right words. Saying the right words are more likely to get you to do the right actions than saying the wrong words.

There might be a post there, about the relationship between symbolic politics and real politics, though I doubt I will get around to writing it. But teaching yourself to see things - like racism and colonialism and all that means - is a part of changing it.

All right. That's all for now. See you in October or November, at the rate I'm posting (though I see I will match last year's output with this post.) Campaign for Democrats, vote for Democrats, and hope the world survives. And listen to the Kinks. Always good advice.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Plague Journal

It looks so innocent, the end of February. I could still imagine a good candidate to vote for in the presidential election, though that hope was probably false. I could imagine a candidate I would not mind voting for, at least, in Sanders. Well. I could go to the Walmart and buy toilet paper, I could go out to eat, I could hang around the house and play games, I don't know. I was looking forward to spring training and baseball, watching Liverpool win the Premier League, watch8ing the C's now and then. Fun stuff! I could go to work, whatever that is worth!

Well, I can still go to work. I can't really complain about work, on balance: I'm doing video calls mostly, isolated from the world and even my coworkers - hey, cool by me! But there's not much else the recommend the last month or so.

Month: March 12-13 were the days when things seemed to click in, at least where I am. That was right after Italy locked down, about the time some of the harder hit American states started to ramp up controlling efforts. I had just put in for some vacation time, to do other things - I told my coworkers it looked like I was wasting my time off, since none of the events I wanted to attend were going to be open in a month, and maybe not even the job itself. They were not convinced, but within a week, yeah, all the events were canceled, most of the workplace's contact with the public was gone - yeah. I mean - a month ago.

It has been a hard month; the country locked down before the horror started to hit - the last week or so, the bill is coming due, and it is not good. I don't know where it will end - yesterday had something like 1800 deaths - horrible, and likely still on the climb. Famous people are dying, John Prine or Adam Schlesinger or Ellis Marsalis and Wallace Roney, others are sick, or at least infected, from Tom Hanks to Boris Johnson. I don't know. I don't know if this is going to rise and peak and fall abnd be gone; I don't know if this is going to rise and fall in little waves as we quarantine and break quarantine and quarantine again - I don't know. I don't know how it ends, how long we can stay locked down, what happens when we stop. Can the economy recover? will it, since what can happen and what will happen in the USA are not always the same.

That was a useless paragraph. Most of what I do is useless. It is a strange crisis in that the best thing you can do is wait for it to get better. It's a crisis that rewards patience and resilience - letting the disease run its course, find a vaccine or treatments, let a level of immunity build up that turns it into just another variety of the flu. That is hard to do, partly because it is so easy to do. You feel guilty. I certainly feel weird, reading about everyone's lock down travails, while I continue to go to work more or less on my regular schedule, never needing to find a way to stay sane alone for two weeks at a time. Which, I have to say, is not something I would have a lot of difficulty with, comparatively. I am fine being alone, at least as long as I am healthy. Though I wish I got more writing done.

All right. This is just to say that he re I am, and to prove to myself at least that I can force myself to do something like this, once in a while. Huzzah and all that.

And maybe dabble in politics? Bernie Sanders finally gave up. The Democrats are left with Biden - my god. But it is far more important to take the senate anyway - Biden and the senate is worth more than Sanders without, so, forward decent people! don't stop, for a moment, reminding the world that Trump is a monster, that Mitch McConnell is worse, and if they can win elections when they are a clear minority, we should be able to take one or two as the majority. Though we'd better ake this one, because we probably won't get another chance.

Though then again - nothing ever ends. So - yeah.

Vote, whatever it takes.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Primary Voting - Elizabeth Warren Voter here

I am bringing this blog out of hibernation to write about politics. Primary time is here - not Massachusetts this time, at least not since 1820, but next Tuesday anyway. Four years ago, I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary. This time - I'm voting for Elizabeth Warren.

It's been a strange year, and it's turning into a strange primary season. A year ago, I was fairly optimistic about the Democratic side of the race. I liked the senators offering for the race - Warren and Gillibrand and Harris and maybe Sharrod Brown, Booker and Klobachar; I was willing to give a listen to O'Rourke and Buttigieg and the like. I took some shots at Bernie in that post, but have never had any complaints about Bernie's policies. Biden - well, Biden is Biden. It looked like we were going to have good choices.

Oh, fool that I was. Warren and Sanders are still around, but the others I thought I could support are all gone, leaving the likes of Biden, Klobuchar (who's the least of the senators running), Buttigieg (the year has not shown mayor Pete to be qualified for this gig, though somehow people preferred him to Julian Castro or Booker - I don't know.) And motherfucking Mike fucking Bloomberg? the fuck? As a Democrat? And worse, the raw stupidity of the American political system is on full display. We have had what, a primary and two caucuses and people are acting like it is a given that Sanders will have a plurality of delegates at the convention, and oh, what shall we do then? Caucuses need to be banned, and places like Iowa and New Hampshire need to be relegated to the afterthoughts they should be. Start with California or something, I don't know!

There is no sanity to be found in trying to make sense of American politics at all. So I won't anymore.

Why Warren? The truth is, i would have supported her last year - I would have supported her in 2016, if she'd ran. I wish she had - she would have been a far better representative of her brand of leftist politics than Sanders, she would have done a lot more to move the entire party left (though the Democrats continue to move left, a fact no opne seems to admit to). She probably wouldn't have won in 2016, but she'd be the front runner this time, and almost certainly far stronger than Sanders is now.

That's horse race stuff, though. The main reason I support her is that I support her politics. Bernie's too, for whatever that's worth - they'll both push for real health care systems, for higher taxes on the rich and corporations, for stronger labor, for higher wages, for regulation and oversight, for saner foreign policy, for better support for students, for child care, for civil rights and on and on. Where they break, they usually break in her favor: she is more insistent on political reform - ending the filibuster; packing the courts. Political reform, from protecting voting rights to breaking the power of minority parties to dictate politics, is necessary, or we will not have a country much more. At least not a democracy, and the republic is not exactly on the firmest footing. There is that.

I also think she would be much better at getting things passed than Sanders would be. She is more likely to have, and court, the support of the more conservative parts of the Democratic party, she is more likely to be able to build deals, she strikes me as having a better grasp of the nuts and bolts of politics and government. I think she will do a better job of strengthening the party up and down the line - and that might be the most important thing anyone can do. Party trumps personality, and if it doesn't entirely trump politics, it runs it close. You have to be able to pass things, and the Republicans have long since committed utterly to obstructionism and anything they can do to force real decision making onto the executive. They won't stop any time soon. (You can hate Trump as uniquely awful, as an open fascist, as all the things he is - but the fact is, he matters because the Republican party supports him all the way. Mitch McConnell is the one who has ruined this country. Trump serves at his pleasure; literally at this point, as he had a straightforward chance to remove him and did not.) It is a fact that whoever becomes president, winning the senate is far more important. Warren strikes me as a better bet to make that possible.

You will notice that I am only comparing Warren to Sanders here. It's a fact that there is not one else left in the race I would want to vote for. In the fall - obviously - you have to vote against Trump, no matter what the option is. They could bring back Hillary Clinton, and I'd vote for her in the fall. But I don't have to vote for crap now, and I don't have to pretend to want to. The rest of them are awful, frankly - Biden was a joke back in 1988, how is he still a thing? Blame the Onion, I guess. Klobuchar might not be terrible, just a bland, middle of the road, typical midwestern Democratic, dare I say it, establishment politician. Fine in the senate; a disappointment as president. Buttigieg? the same, only 20 years too young. Maybe he'll change, but right now, he's a middle fo the road hack with absolutely nothing going for him. And what have I forgotten?

I yeah - Mike fucking Bloomberg. Dear god. In the admittedly extremely unlikely event that he got the nomination, he would sorely try my conviction that I must vote for any Democrat on the ticket against Trump. I would - I mean, shit, if the only people on the ticket were Trump and Pence, I'd vote for Pence - but he would try it. At least the rest fo the contenders seem to agree with me, the way they have all been lighting into him. The more the better. Eat the rich indeed!

Enough! I am voting for Warren for the reasons above. I only compare her to Sanders because Sanders, whatever his faults, is the only other Democratic candidate I really want to be president. Beyond the reasons I listed above, I could add, though she is too old for the job, she is younger than Sanders - she is more likely to be alive in November 2020, let alone November 2024. And I won't deny I would like to see a woman elected to the office. Age and demographics are part of the qualifications of being president - it is a hard job, it will wear you down. And who and what you are matters - not as much as what you do and what you stand for, but they matter. And everything I find to choose between Sanders and Warren pushed me to her.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

2020 Hindsight

Happy New Year!

This blog has become a ghost site - I thought it was bad last year, or the year before, but - 4 posts? Why bother at all? Well - if I could get back to posting, I suppose that would be the answer in itself. I won't promise it. As it is - it's as good a place as any to toss some thoughts out into the world, to let them float in the ether on a sea of forced metaphors. It's as good a place as any to welcome the new decade, to bid the last one farewell and all.

It was a strange decade. For me, personally, it began on something of an all time low: my mother died, the day after Christmas, in 2009; 2010 began with her funeral. There has been a lot of that this decade - I am of an age when the generations before me are starting to die. My father, a couple close friends, many uncles and aunts have passed, some of them very hard to process. But - I am of an age when that is going to happen. I am getting perilously close to the age when having my contemporaries die will seem less like a shock and more of the natural way of things. Another decade and I will be there, I am afraid.

But that said: the first half of the 2010s weren't a bad time for me. I moved to a place I liked, a good apartment, where I stayed for 7 years. I took classes, I wrote, I posted regularly, here, and sometimes on other blogs. I got out of the country a couple times, still played softball, sometimes well, I ate well, lived well. My job even seemed to reach a detente with me - though that got me accused of "complacency." That, of course, should have been a sign - was a sign - but - that's the second half of the decade. In all - I lived pretty well in the first half of the 10s. Even just using this blog as indication - I posted regularly; I started up a couple series that carried on a while, and gave me a chance to write some things I liked. History posts - following along with the Civil War, then WWI for a while; music posts, those band of the month posts; movies - screen shots and directors and things like that. It was good. I was, I think I would have to say, satisfied with my lot in life.

The second half fo the decade has been a bit different. Maybe not objectively - nothing really bad has happened to me, except of my own making (sort of) - but a lot of the things I was satisfied with had to go. And the world outside has gone straight to hell. For me - the job is what got me. Things changed. A generation of managers where I worked left, and a new generation came in - people who use words like "disruption" as a positive term; people who openly admitted to forming their management ideas by watching TED talks and reading online management consultants. The results were predictable. And I was not willing to take it, because I did not have to. I had resources to move, and did, though it meant I gave up living in the city - but I could live closer to my family, could support myself on a lot less money, and could engage in other past times - bowling and D&D in place of softball and education! So - not a bad tradeoff, over all. Though it changed me in strange ways. I went from being a fairly obsessive habitual movie goer to almost never going to movies, and barely even watching movies. I went from the blogging you see before 2017 to almost nothing since 2017. Some of this is me - some of this might be the world, the way the technology has evolved (as fewer and fewer blogs seem all that important - Twitter is where all the conversations seem to be happening. That is not a good thing.) BUt there is it.

And the world, of course, has gone to hell. It held on in the first half of the decade - but you could see the disaster coming. The mid-term elections in 2010 doomed us, giving the Republicans completely undeserved and unrepresentative control of the machinery of government that they have exploited to hold power as they sink into smaller and smaller minority status. The GOP, long having embraced white supremacy as a vital part of their politics, doubled down on it. They reacted shamefully to Obama's election, the worst of them used it to build the racist elements in the party. All this brought us to Trump, who has made all the racism, sexism, xenophobia and everything else the whole point of his existence. Was Trump a break from what the GOP had been? Maybe - there is a sense that earlier Republicans used racism as a way to get votes for their tax cuts. Trump and his closest supporters seem to be using tax cuts to keep support for their racism. The white supremacy seems to be their defining point. It sometimes seems like this is so.

And no? Trump himself is a plain fascist - he has all the makings: the racism, xenophobia, authoritarianism, use of violence for politics, corporatism, aestheticization of politics, turning it explicitly into spectacle, and working very hard to make only the spectacle seem to matter. (Though I think the most important element in the aesthetics of fascism is the idea of the dominance of Myth. It's the idea of a mythological justification - Make America Great Again. The red hats are part of it - but the idea of a lost golden age, an imaginary version fo the country that conforms to their political goals, etc, is what really defines fascism. This is an essay I am not going to write just now, though.) The country, of course, is something else - even now, he is only the president, one branch of government, he is a Republican, one party - if the other branches act, if the other parties resist, if his own party decides to try to not be fascists - he is not going to succeed in turning the country into something worse than it is. He has been impeached; there are elections coming; we will see how this goes.

But I don't want to write about the future. This is one last look back at the decade gone. So: the second half fo this decade - 2016 on at least - have gone from worse to worse. All the celebrity deaths in 2026 hit hard. My job went to hell in 2026. And Trump - getting elected came on top of a primary and election campaign that defied my ability to imagine the depths of stupidity possible int he American political system. Trump? The idiotic attacks on Hilary Clinton? Though the defenses of her were sometimes just as hard to take - I mean - how could any Democrat worth a damn vote for anyone who voted for the war in Iraq? why was that forgiven? I don't know. Now - 2020 - big chunks of the country, the Democrats in particular, seem determined to relive 2016. I don't get this. Why does so much of the discussion in the Democratic party revolve around Bernie Sanders (and by extension, Hilary Clinton?) That might be because I read Twitter and Facebook too much - that is a topic unto itself. The point is, 2016 was awful even before Trump got elected; his election just made sure the next 4 years would be even worse.

All right. That is enough. One more thing - just a hint. Technology - here is something I have been thinking about lately. There are major technological shifts going on - streaming, Disney's domination of the entertainment industry, the effects on discourse of Twitter and FAcebook, etc. But have there been any real technological changes in the last 10 years? Twitter and Fecebook existed in 2010; youtube did; streaming services existed. Digital film distribution. Almost everyhting that defines the technological world now existed, was even fairly significant, in 2010. Compare 2010 to 200 - that is not true. The 00s brought us youtube, Facebook and Twitter and MySpace and all the other dumber forms of online communication. It brought ius smart phones, tablets, iPods, it started streaming services. Or the 90s - from 1990 to 2000 we gaines DVDs, the world wide net and the popularization of the internet; computers changed fairly significantly; digital photography and video started to appear (though they became ubiquitous in the 00s). What has appeared int he 2010s that has changed things the way - any of a dozen things changed the world in the previous decades? This has been more about cultural shifts to accommodate technology - which have mostly felt bad: corporate control over all of it; the colonization of places like Facebook and Twitter by propagandists, who have made all of us amateur propagandists and ad writers. Another reason to worry, I guess.

But I won't end with pessimism. I like a lot of what the world offers. I can lose days browsing through YouTube - I don't know why videos have replaced blogs as the preferred method of amateur communication, but it seems they have. 10 years ago, I counted mostly blogs as the most interesting sources of information and discussion online. Now? it tends to be youtubers - Seth Skorkowsky! The History Guy! Scholagladatoria! (All reflecting my recent interest in games and history, no doubt.) Is this better than reading blogs? I won't say yes - but it's still a nice feature of the internet, the ease with which people with interesting things to say can communicate with the world, without a lot of extraneous resources.

And so - happy new year! Happy new decade! And here's hoping I manage to post something here before 2030...