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Member since: 2001
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The Power of Half Loaves and Baby Steps

Truism: We never get everything we want right when we want it.

Sometimes we get nice surprises. But the American legislative and executive branches are set up NOT to give any group of "us" everything we want right when we want it.

You can debate the wisdom of that all you want, but winner-take-all is a two edged sword that can cut our throats, too.

Am I disappointed that the Stimulus bill will not deliver the level of help promised to everyone immediately?


Am I angry that the machinations of power-hungry greedheads are going to result in some of the most vulnerable people and those with the most pressing needs being left out, made to wait, ignored.... AGAIN?

Oh, fuck yeah.

But I know how to turn this around, and so do many (if not most) of our Democratic leaders:


Take the half loaf.

Settle (now) for the baby step.


If we cannot gain a meter, take the ten centimeters. Hang onto them like glue.

And bake another loaf, take another baby step IN THE SAME DIRECTION.

In the long run, we will get there if we do not forget. If we do not stop trying. If we say "we'll take that for now" rather than "that's enough," and keep right on going.

And we can do this.

A hundred baby steps will, in the end, take us a lot further than three or four giant steps.

So, we can do this.

But we have to keep empowering the voices of those who got left out - again. And handing as much agency and power to those disempowered as we can. And working within our own party to unify, help each other, and keep focusing on the needs of those who need it most and keep getting shut out, marginalized, and refused.

No, we may not be able to bring about total equity for every type of person who has been denied it, all at once. But every single damn' day we should make SOME kind of baby step for one of those groups, and not always the same one.

And rather than "keeping score" based on how much closer any one group has gotten to real equity, change, and progress, keep score on how well we manage to make a little progress for each/all of those who have been locked out of the American Dream by racism, anti-semitism, misogyny, ableism, homophobia, classism, and ALL forms of bigotry as well as sheer indifference.

Giant steps provoke giant backlashes.

Incrementalism is painful, it seems to prolong the agony needlessly, but in the end, it can produce more solid, more lasting gains for all of us.

I'm not saying we shouldn't keep trying to take the giant steps, no, not that at all. We have to keep starting with those. Getting as much as we can from them. Not letting the perfect be the enemy of the possible, and chalking up any gains at all, even the partial ones, on the credit side of the ledger. And making MOMENTUM out of those small gains from the big steps that appear to "fail".

NOT getting discouraged. NOT saying "well, this doesn't work", NOT blaming ourselves or the leaders who are making the attempts, or even the "friendly fire" that slows up the process.

Instead, saying, "Okay, we got THIS, we still need THAT, let's try again by a different route."

The GOP has had enormous success with the "flood the room" tactic of introducing dozens and hundreds of pieces of legislation to dismantle government, make it fail, concentrate power and escalate authoritarian/minority control.

They know damn' well that a large percentage of them will fail. And when they do, they repackage whatever it was, and load it up again, hoping that in the hail of bullets, it will find a target and do the damage intended.

We can learn a lot from them.

Yes, getting some big, public successes can be a victory for morale and a real momentum-generator. But getting 1/2 of 1% of what we want in each of 1000 baby steps that have an 80% failure rate will get us there, too.

I am seeing every sign of our current Administration being well aware of this. They have plans, backup plans, backup plans for the backup plans, and each layer of those various plans and backup plans has some particular strength. We won't get them all at once. But we will make plenty of solid, meaningful gains if we don't let go, don't get bogged down in internal conflict, don't let ourselves get distracted by the flak grenades of America's Enemies Within.


Who gets to decide if it's harassment? Or racism?

Pity poor Governor Cuomo.

He WASN'T "harassing" those women! He would have KNOWN if he was harassing them! He would have been, like, saying to himself, "A-ha, a woman! I am going to assert my superior patriarchal male dominance over her now, by making a remark about strip poker!", and HE DIDN'T SAY THAT TO HIMSELF! What he said to himself was, "Hey, let's let her know I like her by making a remark about strip poker!"

And she TOTALLY misinterpreted that.

And pity the co-worker who asked their new colleague, who has distinctly Asian features, where they are from.

Co-worker WASN'T "being racist"! They would have known if they were being racist. They would have said something like "Ha-ha, (insert racist slur here), do you need chopsticks with your hamburger or can you use a fork?" THAT would be racist, right? And the co-worker totally DID NOT SAY THAT! What they were INTENDING to do was, like, be friendly- find out more about this exotic-looking new colleague in a FRIENDLY way, right?

So that sour look and the sarcastic "Piscataway New Jersey" response was totally out of place.

Because everyone knows, the burden of figuring out whether that remark, or that action, was based in misogyny, racism, etc., is on the person who experiences it that way, to plumb the depths of the remark-maker or action-taker's INTENTION, and determine whether they are really basically a good person who doesn't MEAN to be a racist moron or a misogynist dickhead, or are legitimately and intentionally acting out a racism or misogyny OF WHICH THEY ARE TOTALLY AWARE, and thus engaging in inexcusable harassment or racism.


Because no way we should be demanding white people, or guys, or whatever, to do the work of LEARNING ABOUT RACISM/MISOGYNY/ETC. as it is experienced by the people victimized by it, and understanding their own privilege, and policing their own remarks and actions.

Oh, fuck no.

That would be TOTALLY unfair.


When they're "Our" assholes.

Okay, stipulated, the percentage of floridly psychotic assholery is exponentially greater among GOPpie-affliliated/related/supporting individuals.

But as much as I wish the GOP would save itself from a messy, implosive devolution that will inflict massive and painful collateral damage on all of us, there ain't a damn' thing I can do about it. I have the reverse of leverage with the GOP. They'll happily figure out what I want and do the opposite, unless they suspect I'm part of a reverse psychology Conspiracy to whargle bleeaarh dehdufblrerg slorfnagle flerpsnimmm....

But anyway. No leverage there. I have none over them. They have none over me. They'll do they, no matter what.

But then there's Joe Manchin.

And Andrew Cuomo.

And the idiot Biden had to fire.

And a whole lot more of our very own homegrown Democratic-affiliated/related/supporting assholes.

Who are counting on me to allow them to continue being assholes because they're "Our" assholes. AND they have leverage. They wield power. They have bully pulpits, they have influence, they can make things important to me happen or prevent them from happening.

My leverage with them seems pretty minor, in comparison. I'm one small voter/donor/Democratic Party member.

They're counting on me to calculate that the value of what they "could" do to harm or benefit me and people I care about will outweigh their assholery, so I'll tolerate it. Keep stumm, or at best limit myself to a mild tsk-tsk. Or even become an apologist for them, excusing or explaining away their assholery on the basis of our shared Democraticness and my desire to avoid harm/ensure benefits they could deliver.

Practical politics, yanno? Compromise, that's it. Balance competing interests. Steer a middle course. Don't let the disgustingness of the means stand in the way of achieving the goal.

So here's the deal, dear benevolent Democratic affiliated/related/supporting assholes:

Yes, I get compromise. I understand the pragmatic realities of political dealmaking and negotiation. I'm willing to accept half-loaves on occasion, and trade promises of future abundance for current sacrifice. I have done all those things.

With people I trust.

And I trust a lot of people I have policy differences with, believe me. There are many people of integrity who have honest differences with me and I do believe that while their priorities aren't the best and their ideas won't necessarily work out well, they share a fundamental set of values with me related to respecting humanity and how to treat people. They will deliver on their word not just because it's a calculation that benefits them, but because it means something important to their integrity.

You are not those people, assholes.

I believe you have the capacity to learn and change and become less of an asshole and more worthy of trust.

But you ain't done it yet, and I don't see any signs that you want to.

So, no.

I am not going along to get along, and if I have to sacrifice benefits or accept harm based on you scrambling for leverage, needing to feel powerful, needing to be assholes, well, so be it.

I will call you out.

I will not "go along".

I will not keep silent.

I realize I'm spitting in the wind.

I realize my leverage is infinitesmal compared to yours.

But I still have it, just a little of it.

And if enough other Democrats make similar choices, at some point, "our" assholes will face the choice to change who they are or change what they do, and either way, we win.


We Need a Facts Machine to Defeat the Fear Machine

In the 20th century, capitalism extensively researched cultural anthropology, psychology, behavioral science, data management and media technology to determine the most effective ways to get money from consumers, and then expanded the uses of that knowledge to influence legislation and ultimately shape public policy.

In the middle of that century, those "influence technologies" were still constrained by a comparatively narrow pipeline of communication sources widely regarded as both (mostly) reality-based, and authoritative by virtue of officially-sanctioned information flow. There were only three major television networks, a handful of wire services, and a recognized top tier of major print media and radio networks that channeled most national/international news.

Sufficient independence and competition remained in the local media markets (print and radio) to keep their focus on local content, remaining dependent on those meta-sources for non-local programming/news, etc.

It was a double-edged tool: Having a comparatively limited, clearly-mapped information network made it easier for those in power to disseminate a certain amount and quality of propaganda. But the "shared reality" nature of the public understanding produced by that primitive machine also kept it from the worst excesses of propaganda- the deeply divisive fear-mongering and intense manipulative techniques of the reality-denying darkprop we see today.

In the late 20th century, however, that machine was supplanted by a vastly-enhanced network of communications media and channels. Cable television and the internet combined with deregulation of media business to provide exponentially more commercial outlets controlled by fewer businesses, and a yeasty underlayer of virtually uncontrolled but swiftly-exploited "non-commercial" outlets.

This broke the chain on the most intensive, darkprop usages of influence technology and the first to exploit it were those who had the money and power, and vested interests in concentrating them. And their tools- the burgeoning new influence technology peddlers. They recognized the immediacy and efficacy of fear as an influence force.

They poured resources into elaborate, subtle, and powerful agitprop focusing on fear of change and fear of whatever convenient "others" they could exploit given any specific stimulus. A news event, proposed protections for consumers, a policy that threatened this quarter's profits, a helping hand for a bought-and-paid-for public official, whatever it was, they identified something that could be used to activate enough fear to deliver benefit to the greedy, power-hungry and uncaring.

And the Fear Machine wasn't just a home-grown product: Oligarchs and wannabe-dictators in nations all over the world bought and paid for more tools, more resources, and more power to the Fear Machine, producing a powerful feedback loop to increase its efficacy. And then they went back to that yeasty underlayer of "uncontrolled" media, and applied the Fear Machine.

And here we are.

I have no answers on how to make global-level changes to this devolution of our shared reality.

But I have seen some hopeful signs in the resurgence of organizing at the community level, as a cooperative project between ground-level activists and an 'establishment' of moderate-to-progressive interests and power that is now beginning to understand just how important it is to counter the Fear Machine.

We have begun the process of building an organized network to empower the vote and send competent, reality-based people to public office.

Now we need to build an organized network to support them and their work and give them freedom from interference produced and amplified by the Fear Machine.

We need a Facts Machine.

On the ground everywhere. Using all the tools and power of influence technology itself, to promote reality, science, the rejection of fear, the value of understanding, tolerance for complexity and ambiguity, awareness of interdependence, and the effectiveness of community agency.

We need the people who put so much creativity into the short election cycles, to develop and promote a sustained, entertaining, engaging narrative. To focus on how we share a reality full of promise and opportunity. To remind us we have the power, if we will use it, to act, to sustain life on this planet and improve the prospects of our children and build an amazing future for everyone.

This will not work without trust. We at the community level, and that 'establishment' power structure will have to earn each others' trust and find a balance where we can work together. Squabbles over who should be first in line to implement a change they need, or the redress of a particular historical injustice, will allow the Fear Machine to pound in a wedge and derail our efforts.

The best way to keep it on track is to find the broad strokes of the shared agenda, and integrate as much equity and access as possible into the implementation for each. None will be perfect, but we can do better with the next one. When fear diminishes and everyone sees improvement, we can address the imperfections and take it to the next level. And base each new level of the narrative in a better reality.

Without this, we will make only small increments of progress that will quickly be rolled back by the tide of reaction from the Fear Machine.


#NotAllTexans... but...

Texans are my neighbors. Some of them are assholes, or, as we call them here in Northern NM when they visit and park in handicapped spots and pass in no-passing zones on the highway and complain bitterly about the "no firearms allowed on these premises" rules in downtown business, "Texasses."

And some are Texans- kind, friendly folk with a large size in heart as well as attitude, and brought up by parents what raised 'em right, to be polite and treat everyone kind and listen before talking.

But right now, they're pretty much all miserable. And I'm real sorry about that. I don't want even Texasses to potentially pay with their lives for decades of choosing low taxes over competent government so automatically it has virtually become a reflex.

We have a competent national government now, that all of us who don't mind paying taxes to support rely on when we're in trouble from some major disaster. With the scope of this winter storm, it's stretched pretty thin, but it's working, and we'll send all the help we can.

Assuming the incompetent, greedy, selfish anti-tax government y'all keep electing will allow the help.

No strings, no gotchas. Y'all are our neighbors.

We'll do our best.


I would like to propose a new civilian honor award for our nation.

The award would replace the Medal of Freedom.

It would be named the "Constitution Star" and it would be available in two versions: The Presidential Constitution Star, and the Congressional Constitution Star.

The award would be granted for spectacularly meritorious service in the defense or advancement of the Constitution of the United States and the ideals of freedom, equity, unity and liberty embodied in that document.

The first two Congressional recipients would be Brian Sicknick (posthumous) and Eugene Goodman.

The first Presidential recipient would be Stacey Abrams.

They all deserve an honored place in the history of this Republic.

We are fighting for the life of our Constitution.

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