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Epitaph as the grifters slither away...

The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot

Mistah Kurtz - he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other kingdom
Remember us - if at all - not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.


Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death's dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind's singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death's dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer -

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom


This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death's other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.


The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of this tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death's twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.


It's a cancer. Can we defeat it without sacrificing the First Amendment? I think so... here's how:

With every iteration of humankind's ability to communicate, there's been upheaval. I imagine our far-off ancestors who first progressed from gesture, facial expression, and simple syllabic phonemes to the development of complex verbal communication quickly overwhelmed and out-competed their neighbors who felt that grunts and hand-waving were enough for anyone and all these new-fangled "words" would just corrupt the youth and destroy all that was morally admirable in the contemporary social fabric.

Writing? Oh, we really took a wrong turn there. Being able to record experiences, transactions, and communications from the Divine fucked everything up and killed billions.

The printing press? The telegraph? Radio? Teevee? The devil's tools, every one, causing and/or contributing to an endless series of mass social upheavals, uncountable death and destruction. (Anyone remember the role of radio in the Rwandan genocide of 1994?)

And now here we are with mass social media being exploited by someone (who? More on that later...) to create powerful malign propaganda for the purpose of undermining democracy and destroying any social order based on social responsibility and mutual assistance.

Yes, I'm talking about QAnon, and here's an excellent and very thorough expose of just how this particular cancer was created, disseminated, and how it metastasized in America's body politic: A Game Designer's Analysis of QAnon.

Like any cancer, it has help from an immune system stressed by other assaults, and like many cancers, it weaponizes other systems of the body politic, distorting them and turning them into allies facilitating its spread and its destruction of healthy cells and structures.

It is serious. It is potentially fatal.

And it is all too tempting to apply remedies analogous to radical surgery, near-lethal chemotherapy or destructive radiation, in the form of First Amendment curtailments.

These remedies never really work, though. At best, they leave a vitiated, impaired body with a shortened lifespan and greatly diminished quality of life- at worst, they can be as fatal as the cancer itself. In the evolution of human communications, every time a new capability has developed, attempts to restrain, control or eliminate that capability have not ended well.

What, then?

My belief is that we can begin fighting back using two tools, and if they are consistently and vigorously applied, in time the health of the body WILL be able to reassert itself.

The first tool is understanding. There's a reason successful con artists never wise up the mark: It makes it difficult to use the same con again, as the mark remembers that the money they saw in the dropped wallet was only there for a moment and was quickly replaced with scrap paper.

The article linked above neatly exposes the mechanism of this particular con and why it is so powerful: It relies on apophenia, the human tendency to perceive patterns in unrelated events or objects. We are a species that evolved based on our ability to perceive and respond to patterns, and this is being turned against us.

When apophenia combines with the Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon and our innate tendency to confirmation bias, we can be highly manipulable. And this is what's happened to the QAnon cultists.

Once you understand this, it becomes easier to resist apophenic dysfunction: Yes, the cloud looks like a galloping horse for a few seconds and there was a horse in the field you just passed and you dreamt about the sound of hoofbeats last night after watching that Western movie, but that doesn't mean God is telling you to buy a horse, or even go riding.

As the game designer's analysis (linked above) points out, attacking the rationality and validity of any of the QAnon propaganda has the paradoxical effect of making them believe even more fervently, and questioning their rationality or accusing them of gullibility merely antagonizes them.

Vigorously promoting a broad understanding of just how this type of phenomenon works, however, can happen at a remove from the 'personal' level of the cultist. Continually exposing the mechanism of the con, rather than rating the gullibility of the mark, has more chance of succeeding in generating the cognitive dissonance that will loosen the hold of the propaganda. Discussing confirmation bias, apophenia, the Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon as normal processes that affect all of us may eventually have an effect.

And here's the other tool:

My granpere was the first (but by no means the last) to tell me that "Idle hands become the devil's tools" and I lost count of the number of times my own foolishness was met with an exasperated "You don't have enough to do" by parents, supervisors, teachers, friends, etc.

Being a dedicated QAnon rabbit-hole diver takes TIME. Many hours of it, spent on social media outlets, searching for "breadcrumbs", communicating with other initiates, etc.

These people truly don't have enough to do.

Imagine, if you will, that there were lots of good jobs within their ability to perform and paying enough to allow them to build an interesting life doing something other than hunching over a tablet?

We need a major public employment initiative. We need high-speed broadband available to every household in America and a corps similar to the CCC to make it happen. The Rural Electrification Act was a major building block in America's economic recovery from the Great Depression and it allowed us to tool up for war production in the face of the looming World War.

We need major public employment programs to manage the pandemic, to implement a robust power grid based on sustainable power sources, to preserve and restore the integrity of our water sources, clean air, and arable land. We need to re-tool public education to allow distance and in-person learning and to make higher education affordable and accessible to all.

These are jobs. Millions of them. And people doing jobs they can do, having accomplishments that matter, are way less vulnerable to being dragged down "you're hard done by and here's the conspiracy that's keeping you down" rabbit holes.

Yes, it would require major deficit spending, but in the long run, as with the New Deal programs, it would pay for itself over and over again in a better future and a more stable, secure and united America.

Without trashing the First Amendment.

Is anyone on the Transition Team listening?


P.S. On the "more about that later" thing related to who's responsible for the creation/dissemination of this toxic propaganda: I'm not sure it's worth a lot of effort identifying culprits right now. As with the "root cause" hypothesis for alcoholism/addiction treatment, it's more important to detox the brain and establish some stable recovery first, though it may be helpful in avoiding relapses. But if a culprit must be identified, I'd suggest examining two things: 1. Who benefits from a disunited and increasingly undemocratic America; and 2. Who has the resources to plan and carryout a vast propaganda offensive in relative secrecy?

Okay, I need to change professions. Apparently the going rate for whoring is $130K and up.

What We Know About Trump's $130,000 Payment to Stormy Daniels

Postal worker recanted allegations of ballot tampering, officials say

Really, I had no idea turning tricks had become so lucrative.


I'm glad. But I'm not joyful. I'm still dealing with the worst trauma of my lifetime.

On Tuesday morning I believed the American electorate would soundly and decisively reject the GOP’s politics of fear, greed, hate and division by a margin vastly greater than Hillary Clinton’s narrow popular vote win in 2016. The narrowness of that victory allowed the GOP to steal the Executive Branch using the Electoral College. I really believed that rejection would happen- not just believed, apparently, but was certain the way I’m certain that when I pick up an Agatha Christie mystery, Poirot or Miss Marple will find the murderer and justice will ultimately be served.

On Wednesday morning it appeared that not only had Americans not done that, but a greater percentage of Americans who have been brutalized and exploited by GOP evil and incompetence actually voted FOR [Redacted] and the GOP: Black men and white women.

And Joe Biden, who ran on a platform of decency and competence, narrowly managed to eke out a win currently being disputed with sufficient credibility to perhaps put the specter of another 2000 Supreme Court intervention in play.

“Narrowly managed to eke out a win.” After four years of Americans watching the GOP and its minions tear children from their parents and put them in cages and effectively orphan more than 500 kids. After more than 240,000 Americans died from a pandemic that was ignored, downplayed and mismanaged by the GOP. After multiple attempts by the GOP to repeal the Affordable Care Act and/or deny coverage to Americans with pre-existing health conditions. During a pandemic. After millions of jobs have been lost. “Narrowly managed to eke out a win.”

I can’t come to terms with this.

Nor will I blame the Democratic Party for not being progressive enough, for being too progressive, for infighting, for whatever lackluster sins the Democratic Party bureaucracy may have managed to commit over the 4 years since 2016, much less past derelictions, real and imagined.

When the choice is between a clearly demonstrated, existential threat from a morally bankrupt, viciously corrupt and incompetent ideology and Something Else, people who care about the future of their communities, their grandchildren and their nation choose Something Else. Responsible, moral, ethical caring human beings choose Something Else, even if it is a flawed Democratic Party. And especially if that Party’s representative has made a compelling case for themselves as a competent, decent, ethical human being willing to govern on principles of listening to all, balancing competing interests with compassion, and restoring the Executive Branch’s ability to promote the well-being of America’s most vulnerable people.

Clearly, the America I believed I lived in, where a substantial majority of voting-age citizens are people who do care about the future of their communities, their grandchildren and their nation, was an illusion. The America I thought I was part of, with a large majority of responsible, moral, ethical, caring human beings, was a mirage. I was delusional.

The original Star Trek series had an episode called “Mirror, Mirror” in which a transporter malfunction threw Enterprise crew members into a parallel universe. Instead of serving a Federation dedicated to promoting peace, exploration, and equity among diverse peoples, Starfleet was the thuggish strongarm of a Terran Empire greedy for conquest and willing to enforce its will with genocide. Instead of a shipboard culture of respect for one another and a clear, organized path of achievement and advancement, promotion was achieved by assassination and punishment for those who failed or disobeyed superiors involved torture.

On Wednesday November 4th, I woke up in that Mirror universe.

I am still processing this.

I recognize my responsibility for my own unrealistic beliefs, though I hadn’t thought they were quite so unrealistic or quite so deeply and inherently a part of who I am.

I recognize that yes, there are still many- even that narrow majority of- Americans who are the kind of people I believed Americans are.

I recognize that yes, that narrowly-won victory, if we can hang onto it, gives us a chance to work toward something better, by millimeters if not by the great strides I hoped we were about to take.

I recognize all those things.

But I have spent the past four years with every spiritual muscle clenched, every nerve taut, every breath contingent on a better future I knew would arrive on November 3rd, 2020.

And I am tired beyond tired, and devastated, and shamed, and grieving.

No, I don’t want to talk about it with people who want to tell me it’s not as bad as I think, or people who offer hope I might not be seeing right now, or people who have good ideas about self-care and healing and moving on and making the most of what opportunities we do have.

Not yet.

I’ll get there.

But not for a while.

I’m not who I thought I was, America isn’t the place I believed in.

I need time to parse this out. I need time to explore the inside narrative. I need the trauma to recede a bit. I need to look elsewhere for a while, rather than stirring through the ashes to find artifacts that survived intact or somewhat intact.

I need to get reacquainted with myself, maybe reinvent who I am, a bit harder, a bit more resilient, a bit less naïve and vulnerable and stupid, but hopefully still ethical and compassionate.

I need to grieve my fantasy America, the place I lived in for more than 6 decades that stopped existing quite a while ago, and maybe never existed.

It could have been worse, I know. And I am glad that we have saved something from the wreckage, and will do my best to support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the appallingly difficult task of trying to save an America divided, and assure a better future for the nearly half of Americans who would prefer hatred and fear and racism and patriarchy and greed and division. I will.

But not today. Not for a while, yet.

Much Dimmer Bright

Even if we win, this is not a victory.

It is an accomplishment, it's worthy of note and some celebration.

But it's not a victory.

Victory is the ultimate goal and when it is achieved we can hoist a brew and get 36 hours' uninterrupted sleep and then go back to living our lives with whatever our new normal will be.

Today is not going to give us that, and if we make the mistake of taking it, we will be back here in another 8, maybe 12 years, if we last that long.

If we win, what today is, is an OPPORTUNITY.

Another chance.

A crack to hammer a wedge into.

We can begin cleanup and repair, and make no mistake, it will be neither quick nor easy. It will be a harder and longer and more painful slog than this spasmodic upheaval to shove the poisoned spike out of the wound.

Because even when the spike is gone, the poison will still be in our system. The poison of distrust, disunity, greed and fear.

Russia is not going to suddenly quit trying to undermine our ability to function as a nation. Nor is any other foreign state that sees a strong, united, democratic America as a threat to their own authoritarian kleptomania.

Americans are better at immediate, short-term, superhuman spasms of effort than we are at long-term, sustained, focused, shoulder-to-the-wheel collaborative action. That's not to say we're incapable of the latter- we HAVE done it before. And we can learn from those experiences.

But the simple truth is this: As soon as we stop trying, those who would divide us regain old ground and make new gains.

As soon as we stop trying, the backlash comes for us.

So no, if we win today, it is not a victory.

But it is a damn' good start, IF we can keep going.

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