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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 18,889

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Someone Please Take the Methamphetamine Away From the Grim Reaper

It seems like all I read about these days is people who shouldn't be dying, dying.

I can't sign on to the fucking Internet without some headline about someone I admire, someone who's brought Light into the world, flickering out.

I can't open my fucking email inbox without some email from someone helpfully passing along a link to an article about an icon from my youth or childhood passing from experience into memory.

For fuck's sake, I can't even open a god damn HOLIDAY CARD without getting news of the death of some friend's family member (my god, imagine outliving your own child, I can't even contemplate that level of pain without sharing the tearing void...) or even a close friend I didn't know was ailing, passing on.

Everywhere I look, everything I read, hell, it seems like every phone call I answer that isn't from a robot or a telemarketer includes yet another Death Notice.

They say that Bhutan is one of the happiest countries on earth, and the people there attribute their happiness to daily awareness and contemplation of death.

So what is this, a fucking crash course in happiness?

Well, that's not what I'm learning. Provide a goddamn syllabus or some interpretation or enrichment or something, Universe. This isn't so much a "learning experience" as an exercise in pain and endurance.

Yippee-skippee for that.

I would love to believe that what's going on is some kind of Universe-level Event of Balancing, some Earth-human-Western-date-related Conspiracy related to the year 2016. So that the tick of the clock between 23:59 on December 31st and 00:00 on January 1st would constitute a Cosmic Signal to Stand the Fuck DOWN, to the Grim Reaper.

But I don't think so.

I do not fucking think so. Whatever's in store beginning 00:01 on January 1st, I don't think it's the resumption of a less-painful pace of loss.

I'd love to be wrong.

Sorry to be Debbie Downer but, sometimes, y'all are my safety valve, yanno? So, thank you for that.


Internalized concepts of "success" may explain voting patterns. And analyses.

I've been listening to the various "explanations" for "why it could even get close enough to enable the voter suppression, Russian intervention, and general mopery and dopery to swing just enough votes in key Electoral College states."

And it appears to me that they all devolve to one key semantic insight: How the various explainers, analysts, and even how the individual voters, have internalized a concept of "success."

Not a context-specific definition, as in "what constitutes success in carrying out this particular activity focused on this particular goal," but a more globalized concept of success. As a person. As someone participating in a culture, a society, an economy, etc.

What makes an individual feel a sense of 'success' or contributes to their estimation that their time is well-spent, their efforts are worthwhile, their life is/was well-lived?

There's a sharp dichotomy.

Some of us have internalized a concept of "success" in the answers to these questions:

How many people do you love/are you loved by?

How many other lives are better for your life and how you choose to live it?

How much pain have you eased, beauty have you created, joy have you shared?

Others have internalized a concept of "success" in the answers to these questions:

How many games have you played and won?

How much stuff have you accumulated?

How much power have you wielded?

If you are in the first group, you are overwhelmingly likely to have voted for Hillary, but you're also likely to identify and find explanations for the election outcome that are congruent with your concept of success.

If you are in the second group, you probably voted for Trump, and your explanations for the election outcome will be congruent with your concept of success.

And unless/until we understand the fundamental disconnect between the two, we're unlikely to do more than affirm confirmation bias.


"I'm really important, so I should be able to monetize that"...

...is an unethical, unconstitutional, and effectively criminal mindset for an elected leader in a democracy.

It seems simple to me.

That is all.


The Road From Here

There will be no divine intervention.

The train wreck continues.

Now what?

Before we can be effective in altering the future, we have to view the present reality with clarity, accept it, and disband the circular firing squad.

Right now, while the train is still plunging over the abyss in slow motion, with the first few cars just beginning to be engulfed in flames, is not the time to spend arguing about causation and apportioning blame. Keep records wherever possible. History will sort it out. Move on.

No one is going to ride to the rescue.

There is no 11th-hour-and-59th-minute hero.

The Putsch is an accomplished fact.

Some hard realities:

No matter how much we'd like to believe there's a way to stop the wreck, turn it back, there isn't. The laws of sociopolitical physics are in charge and it WILL continue getting worse before there's any realistic hope of it getting better.

If we let that immobilize us, however, it will get a WHOLE LOT worse, and maybe not much better.

So, move past denial, anger, bargaining, and even depression. This is our reality, and we can't change it until we accept its existence.

And until we're willing to inventory what we have, including creativity, to pull the tide of fascism and devolution back out.

One thing we have is experience. Look particularly to the Reagan years. While it wasn't on anything like the scale and acuity of what we face now, Reagan swung a pretty heavy wrecking ball, and we learned a lot about dodging, camouflage, and reconstitution out of range.

Another thing we have is diversity. Which is good. We're accustomed to thinking in terms of the power of "unity" and the added punch of a clear focus on one or two priorities. Exhortations like "if we ALL get behind >preferred priority here< we'll be so much more effective!"

No, we won't. Read your Sun Tzu, read your Miyamoto Musashi. Where forces are gathered, the opponent with the weight of infrastructure and weaponry will concentrate the blow. The principles of guerilla conflict apply.

Diversity, and creativity.

The Putsch has all of the institutional power in its grip. All the infrastructure. All the fixed positions to defend, now. Control of the mass media, control of the bureaucracy (insofar as any bureaucracy is 'controllable'...) control of the existent, established tools for catapulting their own propaganda and enforcing their will, within the fixed emplacements and expectations of a status quo they must defend. And there is considerable dissension in their ranks.

What have we always had (but not necessarily used very effectively?) Greater creativity. Better understanding of science, technology, and the principles of matter and energy. Willingness to change. Willingness to extend risk in unexpected directions.

We need to use all of that.

A lot of our communication, and such organization as we may allow ourselves, will have to go off the grid, out of the spotlight. Many of us can continue to operate in the spotlight-- the idea of the "counter-inaugural" concert, for instance, is a good one and can't be organized from behind the scenes.

But those are one-off efforts. What we need are the small holding actions, the tossing of sand in the gears. Deflection, ridicule, exposure. End runs around, undermining of expectations. Of which there must be hundreds, thousands, constantly. Uncoordinated, from all directions and all kinds of sources. None, perhaps, much more effective than gnat-bites. But collectively they WILL have an effect.

And quietly, we must also use such infrastructure as we do have left-- our nonprofits, advocacy groups, local governments where possible, churches that have embraced the ideal of equity and compassion, entertainment and the arts-- to support one another.

To be there for one another. To keep alive the values of humanity. To tell the stories of courage and hope.

While we cannot, and should not, strive for a flashy 'unified front,' we can quietly unify in purpose and spirit, if not in efforts.

There are no easy answers. No single stroke of action, no single figure of leadership, that will restore a vanished (and substantially illusory, anyway) "normalcy" and let us "get on with our day to day lives."

The ability of our children and grandchildren to survive, to live sustainably on a planet that will support them and their descendents, depends on us giving up on that past-based vision of "normalcy."

We can do this.


I fear Democrats are being nose-led into all the wrong priorities

It's very simple.

The train wreck is in progress. It's a very long train. The wreck is happening in very slow motion. Nevertheless, it is a train wreck, and it's already happening.

We have three choices about how we can spend the scarce and valuable resources of time and effort available to us.

Attempting to stop a train wreck in progress is futile.

Attempting to figure out how it happened and who is to blame isn't futile- and that information will be needed, as many point out, to help prevent it from happening again. Nevertheless, investigating the wreck WHILE IT IS HAPPENING subjects us to an awful lot of noise and confusion and potentially bad calls about causation versus correlation. Not to mention that there is something much more important we can only be doing now, while the train wreck is happening, and that is:


"Trying to salvage" is always a challenge, because of course everything is important. But the discussions we should be having are about what we can save, who can be most effective doing what, and how we can support each others' efforts to save those things.

How can we use the personnel codes of the Federal Civil Service to enable Federal employees to retain their jobs, protect their rights to do those jobs properly, and support one another against the attempts of Putsch appointees to destroy them?

How can we use local and state legislative and regulatory bodies to protect key elements of human rights and freedom, and resist the Putsch apparatchiks?

How can we use available communications, connections, and creativity to build the network of the Resistance, and work against the Putsch at every turn?

"Getting the hell off the train" is related to that last-- what can we take out from under Federal control, off the grid, out of sight. What can we hide or protect from the Putsch shock troops, and how?

Those are the priorities I will be focusing on.

Down the road, time and perspective will reveal a lot more about the chain of causation, the "how the fuck did this happen and how do we keep it from happening again?" We'll be able to use that information, with the cooler perspective of distance and the confidence of analytical testing, to rebuild the railway and ensure this type of train wreck never happens again.

For now, I will be looking to salvage what I can. And to get the people and things I value off the goddamn train before the cars we're in are pulled off to plunge down the abyss in flames.


The Kremlin: Plus a Change, Plus C'est la Mme Chose

Questions about exactly what Russian sources have been doing to America, what their goals and objectives are, the tools and means they are using, and the possible upshot, in terms of how knowing more about that might change the course of events here, are a continuing focus, both for us here at DU, and for the larger media world.

So, my nickel's worth, based on history and experience:

What have the Russians been up to? What have they been/are they DOING?

Very simple: They are manipulating America. With the exception of a nuclear arsenal, which is useful only for a level of war that would be as disastrous to them as to everyone else, Russia's been largely a busted flush as far as geopolitical influence goes, for a couple of decades at least.

Sure, they have a huge army-- ill-equipped, dependent on a devastated economy for supply, and facing considerable morale issues. Sure, they have the bare and battered skeleton of an oil-based economy, but geopolitical events over the same period, manipulated by those Russia regards as definitely NOT allies, have conspired to render it largely inert in terms of power and influence.

What remains to Russia is what Russia has had clear back to the "Great Game" days when they sat across the geopolitical chessboard from the British Empire: A well-honed talent and capacity for covert operations designed to move the pieces in the directions they want, without overt agency on their part.

What are their goals/objectives?

Again, history answers: Russia has always been (essentially) an oligarchy, structured with an authoritarian leader and their cabal at the top, and masses of powerless people below. It simply modulated from an Imperial oligarchy to a Communist oligarchy to a Capitalist oligarchy. Therefore, their goals and objectives relate to maintaining the power, wealth, and influence of the leader and their cabal.

And because that structure has an authoritarian leader at its center, always, those goals and objectives are also colored by that leader's personal history, experience, and character.

So, we are seeing Putin's need to maintain his power, through the lens of his experience, which goes back to KGB days, and colored by his character, which is a pathological mix of subtlety and grandiosity. He's playing us. He's always been part of playing us, even when he was an ambitious cabal member making moves on Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and the other leaders.

So... tools, means?

The tools and means are those the KGB has always used, updated by the current Russian intell machine to apply them to modern technological methods. They include:

Blackmail and extortion- gathering compromising information on individuals and using it to make others do their bidding while they remain covert.

Entrapment- leading key individuals into positions where they become vulnerable to blackmail and/or extortion, via financial, sexual, criminal or other activities.

Information theft- Via their own operatives or those individuals they have subverted.

Covert Assassination- Very covert. The ones you hear about are considered failed operations. Because you heard about them.

Propaganda- Expert and subtle use of mass media to influence populations to make it easier for their operatives to achieve their goals.

And the upshot?

No matter how much hue and cry arises, the actual effect will be unlikely to 'reverse' the train wreck in progress. It may make it easier to clean up the mess.


Quality Assurance vs. Censorship in the Era of Fake News: An Idea

Here in America, we still (for now) have a Constitution and its Bill of Rights, one of the single most important and rightly valued of which is, that our government shall make NO LAWS that infringe on the freedom of something called "the press."

When that was written, of course, you could tell what "the press" was, because there was this huge machine (called a 'press'- go figure) involved in producing and disseminating it.

Over the centuries 'the press' has been redefined numerous times by various court decisions, and the nature and extent of its 'freedom' has been explored in a great many more. Both of those definitions are now quite broad.

And while many of those decisions and definitions have been applied to the compound term "news media," there has been little or no attempt to define, specifically, "news," as a distinct and separate category of information disseminated by the press or the 'news media.'

A good many court decisions have, essentially, said that virtually any information dissemination is protected by the First Amendment, and have explicitly noted that forms of information and expression that include satire, commentary, opinion, etcetera are protected either because their source is protected (the 'press', 'news media', etc.) or because they are "speech," an even more broadly-defined and highly-valued form of expression to which our rights may not be abridged by law.

But no one has yet taken a swing at answering the question, "How can our Fourth Estate do the part of its job related explicitly to reporting and disseminating actual news, in such a way that citizens may have confidence therein?"

With the establishment of an infinitely vast information creation and dissemination network, this question has direct relevance to the health of a democratic republican form of government.

How, then, do we protect "freedom of speech/the press" while giving the consumers of information some level of reliable information on WHAT they are consuming? Is it actual news? Comedy? Commentary? Opinion? Or... deception?

Am I reading, watching, listening to, posting, emailing, passing along, an actual news story? An honest opinion piece? A clear commentary? A straighforward essay? An overt speculation about something? An idea? A piece of fiction pulled out of somebody's ass to attract attention to themselves? Or a deliberately-deceptive fiction propagated to advance a covert agenda, and masquerading as 'news?'

I'd like to know, personally.

I'd like to have some confidence.

While I'd like to think I'm pretty good at assessing what I'm reading, I too can be fooled. I have my own confirmation biases and experiential context that colors such assessments.

So, here's what I am proposing, and it starts with an explicit rejection of two things: First, no laws involving any of this, and secondly, no exclusive control by government and to the extent that government does participate in the process, it must involve all three branches-- Executive, Judicial, and Legislative.

My idea: Establish an Information Description Commission (or any other name that seems relevant.)

The Commission would include one representative appointed by the Supreme Court, one appointed by the Senate, and one appointed by the Chief Executive. However, it would also include two additional representatives: One to be selected from a slate nominated by media providers, by a vote of all National Press Club members, and another to be selected from a slate nominated by academic and not-for-profit media watchdog and advocacy organizations, by an open online public vote which would require voters to supply verifiable unique personal identifying information. (Details for the qualification and nomination process in the latter two cases would have to be worked out, this is only a rough concept.)

Initially, the Commission's task would be to establish definitions for various types of information, with varying levels of stringency and verifiability attached to each definition.

The highest level(s) of definition might include criteria such as 'information reports include one or more of the following: "primary documentary source(s) that meets criteria (see further definition) publicly accessible," "on-the-record verifiable statement by primary qualified (see further definition) source(s)", "multiple secondary documentary and source references meeting criteria (see further definition)" with no or minimal non-sourced opinion or commentary.' Such information may be labeled "NEWS."

Next levels of definition might be looser and allow analysis and commentary of news, based on secondary and tertiary sources, such as academic and historical records; and opinions related to specific news. They, too, could be labeled "ANALYSIS" "COMMENTARY" and "OPINION".

A final level of definition would not include any criteria but would encourage information sources to use an array of consistent labels to identify the information.

No information source would be required to use definitions.

Any information source-- blog, online website, newsletter, magazine, podcast, video channel, whatever, can still disseminate any information they want to disseminate, without any label at all. They can call it whatever they want, put it out there, anyway they want. No strings.

BUT-- if an information source wants to use the Commission's Definition labels, that information source will agree to register with the Commission, and include their registration information in their masthead.

The Commission's task would then become to receive and investigate "label misuse" complaints from consumers.

An organization that used the labels without registering could be sanctioned.

A registered organization that used the labels inappropriately and/or received too many validated consumer complaints about label use could also be sanctioned, and/or have their registration revoked.

Registered organizations that used the "NEWS", "ANALYSIS", "COMMENTARY" and "OPINION" labels according to Commission guidelines would thus meet certain levels of criteria for the qualities and primary sources of the information they were purveying.

It wouldn't prevent anyone from pushing any information they wanted to push via any media they wanted to use to push it.

It would, to some extent, resurrect the kind of tacit 'tiered' system that existed for a while when there were only a few major broadcast networks, operating under FCC rules, and required to meet certain public interest requirements in purveying news, and "all the other" sources, without the same levels of access to public airwaves.

It's just an idea.

I have some sense of how difficult it would be to implement, but not much sense of why this or something very much like it, should NOT be implemented.

So, tell me?


Dear Senior Republicans, Republican Seniors, and Everyone Else Who's "been assured"...

...of something by the Nuclear Cheeto.

(Senior Republican: Trump has given me ‘assurances’ he will axe Obama’s LGBT rights protections)

(My dearest cousin has Trumpgrets over his vote for Trump)

Y'all can learn something from one another.

That pie-hole thing, in the middle of the ugly orange blob with the dead animal riding it, atop the Nuclear Cheeto's shoulders?

Well, when that pie-hole starts to flap, what's coming out has the precise relationship to reality that a fart has to the Gettysburg Address.

Those noises coming out represent only what the Nuclear Cheeto believes will get you to do whatever he wants, right now, at this moment. Whether it's "get off the damn' phone, I'm waiting for a call from Kim John Something-or-Other," or "vote for me!" or "buy my stuff" or "settle this lawsuit" or "get out of my way," he's saying whatever he thinks will get him that.

Now. This minute.

Once he has what he wants, he will completely forget this conversation. And the next person coming along, that has something he wants, or threatens something he has, or whatever? The pie hole will flap at them telling them whatever he thinks will get him what he wants, even if it's the exact opposite of whatever you heard coming out of that same pie hole five minutes ago.

Even if you're still in the room.

Even if you're playing the video of the pie-hole telling you what you wanted to hear.

Learn this from one another, okay?

This has been a public service announcement.


Blue-collar Elitism

I'm a plain working man, me. None of that hoity-toity college-fangled citified elitism for ME. It's MY values-- hard work, patriotism, tradition, reverence for White Baby Jesus and politeness to girls who know their places-- that made America great.

And it was when people like ME, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth, real authentic people with real lives and families that really MATTER, got pushed under the bus by all those white-collar, latte'-sipping coastal elites, that this country began to go downhill!

It's us here in the decaying blue-collar neighborhoods, and out here in the farming heartland of America, who really built this country and defined all the noble things that make America, AMERICA. We're the ones who really know what's important, and when the political elites stopped listening to US, that's when everything started falling apart.

See, I was trained as a machinist, and even though the factory moved to Mesko in 'ninety-one, I'm STILL a machinist, right? A skilled trade. It may be beneath me to take unskilled jobs like doing a little seasonal road construction or some non-union roofing work or whatever, it's even MORE beneath me to sign up for one of those community-college programs where they try to make skilled machinists like me, proud blue-collar workers, retrain for something beneath me like working in health care or some service job.

And America will never be great again, until blue-collar folk like me see those machinist jobs come back with the good wages and NO UNIONS to take a cut of a working man's sweat for doing nothing but sending college-boy sons of city shop stewards to sit around on their thumbs 'monitoring' what the state house is up to... don't need THAT, just those good ol' jobs back, so our wives can stop working at the Dollar Store and get back in the kitchen and respect us again.

Nothing else will do. There's only ONE way to make America great again. The right way.

The blue-collar way.

Not the elitist diverse city liberal way that we've already PROVED doesn't work because hell, I still can't get a good non-union machinist job like I used to have in 'ninety-one.

Well, not that I could do that work anymore since I threw my back out on that roofing job five years ago, that wasn't covered for workers comp because they were all illegals so all I got now is the disability and I need this scooter to get around, and to find another doc to write me a better pain prescription.

But my SON, he could get that job, if America was great again, that machinist job, with no stupid Union dues and no stupid government rules and interference, if the New York and Washington pointy-headed elitists weren't letting those Wall Street crooks and college professors ruin everything.

Damned elitists.

Need to get outta the way and let REAL people like us get this country back in shape.

On my way now, to vote for that Trump fella lives in the gold-plated penthouse in Manhattan. HE'S no elitist.


Putsch of the Putzes

The legitimacy of the 2016 General Election in the United States of America was compromised long before the election took place.

Was it a "grand conspiracy?" Not initially. Not in the sense of a single coherent plan formulated by a consistent group of conspirators-- at least, not at the beginning. To me, it initially looked like political opportunism writ large, and the haunting fear that 'conservative' ideology was on the verge of irrelevance in a world where the pace of change was escalating, post-WW2 innovation and technology promised a broadening array of benefits to an increasingly unionized economy, and evolving mass communications threatened capitalist oligarchs' control of the political process.

When growing identity activism challenged America to walk the Founders' words of equity for all, and marginalized populations began winning victories, they faced the specter of a white, protestant, patriarchal oligarchy's doom.

What else could they do, but find the stress lines in the larger culture, insert wedges of fear, and begin pounding away?

Nearly half a century of calculated, intensive deconstruction of public education stoked racist, nativist identity and fostered ever-increasing civic disengagement and ignorance of the mechanisms of democracy.

Decades of shamelessly racist, xenophobic, anti-urban, anti-poor propaganda produced racist, nativist identity politics that placed GOP operatives in state houses, facilitating the gerrymandering that cemented control of state executive offices and legislatures.

The Friedman/Rand economic center of gravity was established to break the Unions, but it also diverted the economic base of the middle class overseas, provided ideological cover for the robber-baron renaissance, and disseminated the "greed is good" mantra.

As their efforts bore fruit and momentum gathered, the more generalized opportunism finally did coalesce into an actual conspiracy, a network of dark-money financiers fueling a network of covert and overt organizations focused explicitly on rolling back the political, social and economic control structures of America to something that resembled the 1880s. Pre-Union, pre-Civil Rights, pre-Women's Suffrage. It can be done.

It's being done.

Citizens United, ALEC, voter suppression laws, media consolidation, the incubation of the "useful idiot" wing of the GOP, and the enabling of increasingly extremist-skewed propaganda to push the overall center of gravity further and further right, resulted in the gutting of the GOP as a political party in any meaningful sense.

It's now simply the active arm of the oligarchy, carrying out a carefully incubated putsch cloaked under gossamer-thin legalistic veils, subverting long-outdated Constitutional tools to eviscerate democracy itself. (Think about this. If the GOP were still a political party, wouldn't there be considerably more ACTUAL input and participation from the "Party Leadership" in this process? GOP elected officials and the whole 'Party' staff structure are essentially a Potemkin village... there's no real power there.)

Now the Kremlin wants to play, too.

That's okay, actually. Because although the whole "Commie" thing was useful back in the day to whip fear into the American electorate, our oligarchs have always known that the "Socialist" in "USSR" was abandoned early, and the cabal that replaced Stalin's flat-out totalitarian rule were nascent oligarchs themselves, jockeying for position and cover to gather the resources of those "Soviet Republics" into their own pockets. And when the mechanism of the Soviet State was no longer functional, they'd jettison it (as they did,) and replace it with the overt oligarchy the Kremlin's been working on for decades.

Oligarchs can work with oligarchs, at least until one of them exposes a weakness and the knife (or the brolly tip) can be slipped in.

So when it became clear that Putin was working on his own version of the putsch, they gave him a pass.

Even when it became clear that his primo Useful Idiot is a putz.

Because, after all... Putin's over there. Our own little cabal of oligarchs is HERE. Always have been. They're well-entrenched, slippery opportunists who can turn just about anything to their own purposes.

So the putsch has taken place. Putin's Putz is set up as the stalking goat. But the Cabinet of Putzes being assembled now are the water-carriers for our very own domestic tyrants.

Ultimately, they'll discover they've bitten off way more than they can chew. Karma will catch up with them, and it won't be pretty. But in the mean time, buckle up.

The rest of us are in for a helluva rough ride.

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