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Member since: 2001
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What I learned about freedom, individual liberty, and personal choice at a VERY YOUNG AGE.

And I wonder... are we not teaching this anymore?

I learned the difference between "freedom is doing whatever I want and not having any criticism or consequences for what I do", and "freedom is me being able to do whatever I am willing to take responsibility for."

I learned that individual liberty wasn't possible without a whole community of people looking after one another and being willing to keep each other safe, even if it meant sacrificing personal preferences and pleasures for the well-being of all of us.

I learned that personal choices made with all the attention on "I want" and no attention to "what this might do to other people" weren't responsible and adult, they were narcissistic and childish. And often outright harmful.

Hell, I learned this stuff in THIRD GRADE. From the damn' NUNS, of all people. (Guess I listened after all, Sister St. Nicholas.... who knew?)

I learned it from my Mom who made sure I understood that if I was given the freedom to have a pet, *I* was the one responsible for cleaning up the poop, making sure it was fed on time, etc.

I learned it from my stepfather who enforced the rule about "you have access to the car keys IF you return the car with a full tank."

And I learned that the Constitution has not a single clause, paragraph, article, or amendment, guaranteeing my unrestricted right to be a selfish asshole.

So if I want to use the rights that ARE enshrined in the Constitution, to BE a selfish asshole, I can expect to face, at best, some serious (and likely justified) criticism, and at worst, prosecution and even prison for the harm my selfish assholery inflicts on others.

I won't say I'm never a selfish asshole. I'm a human being; it goes with the DNA to some extent. But I'm also a mostly-adult who understands that my rights and liberties have responsibilities that go with them. And consequences.

I'm not fond of rules for rules' sake. I come from a long line of oppositional people and outright rebels. But I learned from those very people that some rules are necessary, and we need to pick our fights. If you are certain a rule is doing harm, make your carefully considered choice to break it, try to get it repealed or changed. But don't expect to escape the consequences in the process.

And DON'T say "damn the consequences" if you know those consequences will fall on others who had no choice about being exposed to that harm.

When did other people stop learning this? From their teachers, parents, employers, friends....? When did "freedom" get divorced from "responsibility?" When did "liberty" build a Fortress of Solitude where no one else need be considered? When did "personal choice" acquire a "no criticism or consequences" guarantee?


I'd like to see two new national holidays.

We can trade Columbus Day for one of them.

One is a day of mourning/remembrance/commemoration for those who were lynched, burned, otherwise assassinated because they did not suffer from a melanin deficiency.

The other is a day of mourning/rememberance/commemoration for those who died in lonely pain, were killed, or committed suicide because they were victims of homophobia.

I am not sure these wounds can heal without this, and these wounds affect all of us. Especially those who believe such deaths were justified or unworthy of commemoration.


Understanding Joe Biden (the big picture)

Here is the first and most important thing to keep in mind about Biden and his goals, strategies, and tactics:

He's fully aware he might not be alive for the 2024 election. Or if he is alive, he might not be fit enough, in his own estimation, to serve another term.

Here is the second and almost equally important thing to keep in mind:

He has NO fucks left to give in political terms. Everything about what he initiates, supports, promotes, etc., is based not on politics, but on governance. And for someone whose only governance experience is 8 years as Vice President, he has a better grasp of how governance works than many multi-term state governors and past Presidents. He THINKS in governance terms.

That doesn't mean he ignores politics altogether - where politics has an impact on the success or failure of important governance goals, he will bring an awesome reservoir of practical experience and political nous into play.

But politics - including Democratic Party politics - will never define any of his goals, initiatives, etc. They are ALL squarely rooted in restoring the capability and competence of governance to serve the American people.

This combination of factors makes him the prepotent and preeminent threat to Putin and the GOP.

It takes away a huge arsenal of normally-powerful leverage points against him in the political process. It is not possible to threaten him with not being re-elected - he has faced the reality that he may not even be running in 2024. It is not possible to threaten him with purely political factors such as "optics" and "downticket success" and other Party wheelhouse concerns unrelated to what Democrats do when they are in power.

He has only the most minimal concern for keeping the Democratic Party in power or expanding its power in terms of electoral success, per se, because:

1. He understands the timelines and workings of the biennial electoral process, as well as the timelines and the "spin factors" of his own actions and accomplishments. He also has a healthy awareness of the limits of what planned action can accomplish, and a healthy respect for the unknown factors and what hasn't happened yet and isn't on anyone's horizon.

2. He knows a lot more about how campaigns and elections work, how the Party process is underway, what the strategies are, etc., than any media pundit, GOPpie analyst, or 95% of Democratic high-level political strategists. He has confidence in how it's working so far, and he's leaving it to those who have done a pretty damn' good job already.

3. He knows that ultimately, if he has to be a scapegoat to ensure the completion and continuance of his governance agenda through future Democratic political victories, he can and will do that, with gusto and style.

He has had an up-close-and-personal view of the attempted destruction of America's government, and the ongoing subversion of our Constitution. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1973, so he also had a front-row seat to American government at its most functional: Assuring the highest possible standard of living for the greatest number of American citizens, recouping costly military errors at great sacrifice and rebuilding a functional military, rooting out corruption and criminality at the highest possible levels including the White House itself, and holding the foreign intelligence community accountable for its worst excesses and enacting checks against repeated domestic interventions.

Those were all truly spectacular accomplishments of American government. Add in the establishment of the EPA and several major initiatives to improve working conditions for Americans, etc., in spite of the sabotage by Big Finance and Fossil Fuels in the form of economic manipulation that produced runaway inflation. Had Carter been re-elected in 1980, Biden would have had a front-row seat to ongoing efforts to curb American reliance on foreign oil and fossil fuels, to continue checking the attempts of Big Finance to slip all forms of control, to continue protecting the American consumer from exploitation and impoverishment, and a whole lot more.

Instead, after 1980, Biden had a front-row seat to the sabotage and outright demolition of government's capability to serve it's non-oligarch citizenry. He had that front-row seat for THIRTY YEARS of increasing kakistocracy.

Then he had an advanced laboratory workshop in "How attempts to fix the problems can be derailed and/or sabotaged" for eight years more.

Then he had four years to watch the climactic collapse of America's role as a leader in the world and the blatant smash-and-grab raid on what remained of government.

Add this into the calculations:

He's already experienced the worst things, personally and politically, that can happen to anyone. Multiple times. And survived them. And recovered to become even stronger and more focused on public service.

He has a three-year clock running, to accomplish the maximum possible rescue, rehabilitation, and improvement of American government. Not in any big, splashy, public-relations way, but AT THE ROOTS. In the agencies, in the rule books, in the standards, in literally THOUSANDS of places that regularly fly under the radar of political and public perception - but he knows them all.

So, yeah, public excoration over the inevitable chaos ensuing from cleaning up after others' mistakes?

He has no more fucks to give about that. He'll do it again, as needed.

Buckle up, Vlad.

Buckle up, Mitch.


Too boring to report? U.S. Journalism in free fall...

Let's start with the simple "what happened":

Senior (REALLY SENIOR - as in, 'endowed with power to discuss and approve policy-level actions based on the Administration's overall foreign policy agenda, including the Vice President', not just 'part of the traveling State Dept. and Security Agencies medicine show making an appearance for photo ops') American officials met with REALLY SENIOR (as in, 'including the head of state') Mexican officials to discuss bilateral cooperation on a number of topics.

When did it happen? This past Tuesday and Wednesday.

What were some of the results? Quoting from the White House readout:

"...the delegations advanced preparations for the upcoming relaunch of the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue (HLED), which will be held in Washington on September 9. They discussed opportunities to better integrate our economies to make them more resilient, including the potential to strengthen and pivot supply chains in alignment with our domestic efforts to build back better...

...National Security Advisor Sullivan also affirmed our cooperation on health security, including assessing the current COVID-19 situation on the ground in both countries and collaborating to manage the pandemic together...

...Officials underscored the importance of fostering development in southern Mexico and Central America to address the root causes of irregular migration, and will work toward deeper collaboration within the Root Causes Strategy. They discussed current irregular migration flows and committed to jointly managing safe, orderly migration that respects human rights. The National Security Advisor and Mexican leaders also affirmed their commitment to a regional approach to migration..."

Mexican coverage of the meetings was cautiously positive and noted that President Biden will be invited to visit Mexico in September.

AP, Reuters, and WaPo each published a brief recap of the White House readout with no analysis or commentary and very little expansion on the WH release. Props to Reuters for adding deets from the official phone call (Tuesday) transcript on the numbers of vaccine doses being supplied to Mexico by the U.S. government.

And that's it.

Several local papers published the AP and Reuters versions, but I couldn't find any of them went to the trouble of identifying WHICH aspects of economic, security or health collaboration are important and why, or any details of how these meetings might have advanced the Administration's goals in those areas. None of them provided any detail on the "Root Causes Strategy" referred to.

No backgrounders on the participants, no solicitation of direct quotes or additional questions answered by State Dept or security agency spokespeeps, as far as I can tell there were no questions on the topic at either the 8/11 or 8/12 press briefings, although the readout was available on the 11th.

No analysis of the immensely important strategic relationship between America and Mexico, or the recent history of how attempts to solve problems affecting both have succeeded or failed and why that might be. No color pieces exploring specifics of how U.S./Mexico diplomacy has had real-world, day-to-day impact in Americans' lives. (And it has - big time. And will continue to do so.)

No commentary on how the current approaches compare to other potential strategies, or what they might signal in terms of other aspects of the Administration's agenda for the relationship. Nothing about what it might mean in financial and/or security commitments, what key elements of cooperation might prove to be most challenging and why, etc.

Nothing at all, really.

And yet, in terms of this Administration doing important foreign policy things that are going to have a real effect on Americans' future, it is WAY, WAY more important than the details of our final days as a military force in Afghanistan.

But... it's not clickbait. It's not full of potential short-term controversy over ephemeral details. It doesn't allow semi-informed professional bloviators to opine endlessly on what are essentially pointless differences in framing, ideology, etc.

I am increasingly concerned that we are losing any grip at all on competent journalism in America, to a badly-structured and shrinking web of oligarchic "news" corporate profiteers run by beancounters obsessed with clicks, ad revenue, and next quarter's financial statements.

There is a reason that a free press was so highly regarded by the designers of our system of government, and why it has been called "the fourth pillar of democracy."

And it is not dying, not at all. Instead, it is morphing into a toxic, venal, bloated machine lurching through the public perception on a smash-and-grab raid, using fear and sensation and cheap effects to extract maximum cash for minimum quality of information.


I hate myself for thinking this...

...but everyday I read something(s) that brings the thought back:

"Maybe if enough stupid people die, we won't have to go through this for another generation or two. Assuming we survive."

I feel like a bad person for thinking this. But it just keeps muscling into my consciousness.

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