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Member since: 2001
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This time there will be no silence.

When I was a child, there was a conspiracy of silence.

Forced births were hidden.

Deaths from unsafe abortions were hidden.

They weren't talked about.

It was all shadows and euphemisms... "Wayward Girls' Home"... "Sepsis following a minor injury"... "She's away visiting relatives."

Their names weren't spoken. The veil was drawn over them, their tragedies were forgotten. Their names were erased, their lives were erased.

The lies were endless.

Girls just disappeared, sometimes. "She went to live with her aunt in another state, she's going to school there." Illnesses like tuberculosis and polio and pneumonia were used to explain the funerals.




Every death, every forced birth, every tragedy is going to be SHOUTED.

We will not go back into the silence.

Count on it.

We'll go to jail if we have to.

And we'll tell the story of WHY, with PRIDE.

We will wear the prosecutions and persecutions like badges of honor.

We will testify with our bodies, with our voices.

Be prepared.


Towards the New Normal

We missed the "wipe it out forever" window, with Covid.

To be sure, it wasn't much of a window, and it wasn't open very long... perhaps a three- or four-month period at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 when a tremendous, unified effort could have shut down the pandemic in its tracks. In retrospect, it was probably an unrealistic hope even without the sabotage of world leaders who didn't want to deal with the expense, the inconvenience, and the potential political costs to themselves.

So what are the possibilities for "normal" now?

Like many other diseases, Covid in its various forms will become "endemic" rather than "pandemic."

But that, in itself, offers a wide spectrum of possible realities.

At the worst-case end of the spectrum, we could drag on for many years, fighting recurring waves of local epidemics, coping with the repeated emergence of increasingly-dangerous variants, and seeing a constant, ongoing mortality toll wax and wane from region to region globally. This "normal" would have a painful and dismaying array of secondary economic, political, and cultural effects. It is possible because of the number of powerful and wealthy parties who see potential profit and/or benefit to themselves in maintaining it.

At the other, best-case, end of the spectrum, we could reach a place where Covid becomes one of many serious but not-too-common diseases that flare up locally from time to time and are quickly suppressed by established medical and public health protocols everyone understands and supports. Fatality rates would diminish, becoming occasional, even rare. It would have little if any lasting or noticeable secondary economic, political or cultural effects.

We have everything we need to bring about that second version of "normal" within as little as a year. Only three tools are required:

1. Potent, safe vaccines
2. Rapid, accurate tests; and
3. Effective treatments

These three things are now all available.

So, are we on our way to that best-case "new normal"?

Not so fast.

All of those things are available, but to bring about that best-case status quo, they must for a time become more than available - even more than 'accessible' - they must become universally accessible, even ubiquitous. This is what's called the "suppression phase", when public health works to bring transmission rates as close to zero as possible.

We are working toward this level of accessibility with the first tool - vaccines. Not there yet, there are still parts of the earth where vaccines are scarce and/or expensive, and/or difficult to get. But we've made progress in many of the world's more complex economies. In America, where I live, anyone who wants to can now receive a full course of vaccines and even vaccine boosters, with no or only modest effort and expense to themselves.

Still, we could do better with the "uptake rate" for vaccines, but that's a different kind of challenge, not related to the basic technology or logistics.

Follow the link on the second item to see an analysis of the principal logistical challenges related to rapid, accurate tests - they are now possible, but they remain expensive. Production has not been scaled up, there is no wide-scale logistical effort to manage a supply chain that will put a supply in every home medicine chest cheaply or even free. We have not established and normalized required testing protocols for communal activities such as school, work, recreation, etc., during the "suppression" period to bring transmission rates close to zero.

And finally, the third item - effective treatment - remains at an early, if promising, stage of development. But these are most vulnerable to a complex and poorly-conceived regulatory patchwork that forms a thorny barrier to ongoing testing and development of additional safe and effective treatments. They're also within the control sphere of one of the greediest and most rapacious forms of capitalist endeavor in the world economy - the pharmaceutical industries.

So far, those corporations have shown a reasonable awareness of the public relations aspect of their work, and a certain discretion in applying the equations of demand-based pricing in the current political minefield.

Suffice to say, making effective treatments cheaply and universally available remains a complicated task.

But not an unachievable one.

In fact, none of the barriers preventing the level of near-universal access to these three tools are uncrossable in any technical or logistical terms.

What will prevent us from mounting an effective suppression effort, nationally or even worldwide, is the same set of problems that are keeping vaccination rates lower than they should be: Issues of political will.

Political will is required to overcome the reluctance to mount the high-level public education and communications campaigns required.

Political will is required to suspend, bypass, revise and develop new regulations, protocols and standards that will enable fast but careful and monitored development, testing, and upscaling of the needed tools.

Political will is required to mobilize the resources for an effective supply chain and delivery conduit of all tools.

Political will is required to revise and stave off the attempts of would-be profiteers, litigation-happy opportunists and their enablers, grifters, and outright saboteurs.

Understand this:

"Political will" is not created by politicians. Politicians, left to themselves, will bend to the proximate winds of moneyed lobbyists and campaign mega-donors.

"Political will" is something politicians respond to, in many cases only with the greatest reluctance, when it becomes both crystal clear and overwhelmingly prevalent in their own milieu.

"Political will" is made by people who use information to build broad and/or intense support for a clearly articulated, understandable, unequivocal goal, and who patiently and relentlessly demand politicians respond by making that goal a reality.

Those people can be wealthy corporate lobbyists, maliciously-motivated foreign agitators working behind cadres of useful idiots, media moguls preparing for their next quarterly stockholders' call, or...

...they can be us. They can be the choices we make. The discussions we have. The donations we give. The actions we take. The communications we have with our representatives and their staff. The community meetings we attend. The Party work we volunteer for or offices we hold.

We have the numbers.

Do we have the political will?


Saving Thanksgiving

I can't express how much I love the notion of a holiday dedicated to giving thanks for all the ordinary and extraordinary blessings in our lives throughout a year. Were it but that, my enjoyment would be unshadowed and my efforts at celebration much more wholehearted.

My problem isn't the gratitude part.

It's the history part.

Let's face it, the history is pretty squicky. Essentially, it's the Plymouth Colony saying to the Wampanoag, "Geez, y'all, we wouldn't have made it without you - let's have a nice celebratory feast together before we get started wiping y'all from the face of the continent!"

So... the whole Pilgrim's Hat, "Indian" corn, horn-of-plenty overflowing with the Three Sisters produce symbolism kind of takes the edge off my enjoyment.

I wonder what it would take, to divorce the concept of a holiday devoted to being thankful for the wonders of life over the year?

Move the date? Certainly stop teaching that creepy "Thanksgiving Story" history without the actual context around it. Change the symbols somehow?

Just musing, on this day before the day.

And for the record, one thing I'm thankful for, this and every year since 2001, is DU and all the wonderful people here. Glad there's an excuse to let y'all know.

Now I'm-a cue up The Restaurant and start labeling 8x10 glossies with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back...


When the weariness overwhelms...

It is hard not to be exhausted today.

It is hard not to be exhausted by the injustice. By the weight of accumulating pain. By the possibility of darkness falling.

It is hard not to be exhausted from holding back the tears, or the rage, or the despair.

It is hard not to be exhausted by expressing the sorrow, the anger, the anxiety.

It is hard not to be exhausted by the perception of fear in people all around me, manifesting as hate, rage, lack of empathy, intolerance, and the desperate need to control other human beings.

It is hard not to be exhausted by the apparent futility of being able only to hope, to pray, to make small gestures of kindness on a very small scale, in the face of a seemingly-unstoppable tide of indifference to human suffering.

It is hard not to be exhausted by an anxiety for the future of my grandson and the world he will live in - and hoping there will be a livable world in some form.

It would be so easy to give up, just for a day. To go back to bed, to tell everyone "Don't bother me, I can't help, I can't listen to your pain, I can't cope with my own weariness, much less anyone else's problems."

And then for another day, and another... because the tide of human fear just continues to roll in, fed by the waves of grift and power-seeking and profiting from the misery of others.

But I





Instead, I will raise my eyes, quite literally, to the hills, whence flows help. Here in northern New Mexico, the hills-- well, mountains, actually-- are all around, larger and older than any human work.

They endure.

They give life.

They shelter so much life, providing refuge.

They are scarred by fires, natural and human-caused, but if you walk in those daunting places and really look around you, you see the eternal beginnings of rebirth springing from the soil, anchored on the rocks.

And I look in my back yard, where flocks of sparrows, bushtits, and finches visit the feeder and play in the birdbaths and sun themselves on the bushes, rejoicing in the warming rays on a chilly day.

They keep going.

They express their joy, even in the face of impending winter.

And I walk around my block, and as I pass each house I silently wish its inhabitants-- humans, dogs, cats, plants, whatever-- a respite from fear, and a deep breath of serenity to bring the sun into their hearts. Yes, all of them, every house, every neighbor, even the ones with Republican yard signs during recent elections. If my fears are deep and painful, how much more so must theirs be?

All hate is rooted in fear. All indifference to suffering, all rage, all denial of humanity, is sourced in some existential fear, preying in hearts and minds and spirits like a despoiling leech.

I will to reject hate.

I will to reject fear.

I will to turn away from exhaustion, and seek instead a quiet place within, fed by contemplation of quiet places without, for they exist.

Kindness exists.

Love exists.

Light exists.

And it is ALWAYS stronger than darkness.

So now I'll take the time to answer a call or two, to listen to someone else's pain, to find what words of comfort I can. To affirm the Light.

And I will go on.

Thank you for letting me share this with you. My heart to yours.


Uninformed Takes on the Rittenhouse Trial/Outcome

There are a number of people here on DU who apparently feel free to opine on the trial, the verdict, etc. They get all emotional about it. They use words like "miscarriage of justice" and "systemic racism" and even more inflammatory terms.


You see, 1. These people don't know what they are talking about.

They are not lawyers, legal scholars, Constitutional jurists, well-informed legal analysts or experienced journalists on the judicial system beat. They don't understand the nuances of courtroom procedure, the constraints attorneys and judges must heed in order for their work to conform with the statutes and precedents that structure justice in America and/or particularly in Wisconsin. They probably haven't even read the many detailed and in-depth analyses of the trial proceedings that have been published in the press, online, etc., the last few weeks. They don't "get it."

And, 2. These people appear to believe that Democratic Underground is a themed social message board, not a juried, facts-only, Very Serious Discussion Forum for Highly Informed and Very Serious Legal Scholars.

So they are bringing in their wholly uninformed, emotional reactions to something they know effectively nothing about, and muddying the waters of Clear and Fact-Based Discourse with wild opinions, perfervid ranting, attempts to gin up and increase mere feeling-based outrage, and will actually end up DAMAGING THEIR OWN CAUSE by perpetuating uniformed and potentially harmful arguments in a public forum that should confine itself to measured, fact-based exploration, analysis, deconstruction, review, and the drawing of tentative hypotheses and possible incremental improvements to be carefully considered.

Which has a much higher chance of resulting in lasting, positive incremental changes than an outpouring of emotionally-based, unbalanced, uninformed outrage that a white teenager was able to shoot three people who were engaging in anti-racism protest and possibly even civil disobedience (although THAT certainly wasn't proved in the context of the incident or established at the trial), and that shooting caused the death of two of those people.

See, you don't know what you're talking about.

You think this is about a privileged white adolescent illegally obtaining killing tools and putting a shitload of effort into seeking out a particular type of excitement without regard to the law or the lives of other human beings.

You think this is about a judicial system fucked up with systemic racism to the extent that said adolescent can walk free after bullets from the gun he was illegally carrying far from his own home or property, bullets that left the muzzle of that gun when HE pulled the trigger, entered the bodies of three people, causing injury to one and ending the lives of two more.

You think this is about wider evidence of people from that court's jury pool, from the press, from Informed Legal Scholars and Important Knowledgeable Pundits being so focused on the drama of the trial itself and so blind, deaf, and dumb to the fundamental issues of social injustice, racism, gun violence, and mounting public tolerance of lethal authoritarian tactics by both law enforcement and vigilantes, that they can nod with regretful affirmation that those lives were worth less than the observation and preservation of a massively biased judicial process.

That of course, is where you're wrong. Take some time. Study the issues. Stop going off half-cocked expressing your outrage about what isn't the Real Issue at all. Stop trying to get other people-- smarter, more well-informed, balanced, people-- to share your horror at the situation.

Sit back and let them debate exactly what went wrong - not the emotional stuff like racism, corruption, etc., but the REAL stuff, like the wording of particular statutes, what decisions the prosecution SHOULD have made about which evidence to emphasize, what precedents the judge should never have brought in to support various rulings, etc.

After they've debated that enough, maybe a few years down the road, they'll come up with a list of a couple of things about the system that should be fixed, and then we can start the long process of getting laws revised, getting officers of the court investigated and censured, and other actions that will produce Real and Lasting Change.

Because widely-shared emotional responses to a fundamental outrage have never actually produced any worthwhile action.

So sit down and take a chill pill, y'all, and let the Real Experts sort it out.


(And because I know it'll be absolutely necessary to tell some people here, the foregoing rant was 100% .)

Cheese it, Comrades! They're onto us! (RW Galaxy Brain explosion)

CODE BUNGUS! The cardinal flies at noon. Fly, all is discovered. The fried egg has broken windows.

They have figured out our cunning plot:

A few weeks ago, Breitbart News — the right-wing, hyperpartisan news site formerly run by Steve Bannon — published a truly galaxy brain column. Editor-at-large John Nolte argued that Democrats have been promoting the COVID-19 vaccine not to save lives but instead to trick Republican voters into not getting the jab. Nolte’s theory concluded that this, in turn, would lead to unvaccinated Republicans getting sick and dying from COVID-19, ultimately helping Democrats electorally.

They figured it out! And it only took them eleven months... Damn, they're sharp!

The Central Committee is in an Emergency Strategy Session in the Lombard Street Dominos' basement as I write this.

Stay tuned, Comrades....

Commissar Bright

A Primer on Getting Your "Respectful Questions" Answered

Back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I was for a short time the only white student on a dorm floor otherwise occupied by black students. (Being it was 'back then' we were also all female. And there were curfews and rules and shit today's students would think totally archaic... but I digress.) I had never had much contact with black people, but I tried to be both respectful and friendly, which basically involved smiling a lot, saying 'hello' in the dorm halls and when I met a dorm mate elsewhere on campus, etc. I never made any close friends but most of my dorm mates reciprocated the respectful friendliness.

Until one day when I was startled by the appearance of a dorm mate with an AMAZING hairdo. Up until then she'd had a shaped and trimmed "natural" and occasionally slicked it or did short braids in tiers for special occasions. But that day she showed up in the common room with a swear-to-god foot-high cone of amazingly-twisted braids atop her head, with sparkly ornaments inserted and it just looked incredibly
COOL and before I could stop myself I said "Melly, how did you DO that?"

And then blushed bright red.

And, as was a perfectly natural response, she gave me the side eye. I waited for a slapdown, but she decided to be nice, instead, and smiled, and told me about 'extensions' and how long it took to work up an elaborate 'do like that, and the night out she and her friends had planned at a very elegant place.

And that was my first experience with getting a "respectful" (well, amazed and impulsive) question answered.

Later, I tried again with someone at a place where I worked, who gave me much of the following wisdom:

1. You may think it's "respectful" because a) you really want to know, and b) you don't think you have any bias/bigotry against the 'different' person. That doesn't make it respectful, though. Unless you have an immediate, practical reason to know about something (like, you're in charge of arranging refreshments and do they need a dietary accommodation, or you're setting up seating for a presentation, and do they need an accessibility option, etc.) it's just your curiosity and your assumption that they should be able and willing to satisfy it is pretty disrespectful, actually.

2. You might have very good intentions about wanting your curiosity satisfied, like your workplace is becoming more diverse and you want to know how to be respectful, etc. That still doesn't make it your (black/trans/Jewish/blind/etc) co-worker's responsibility to enlighten you.

So how DO you get your "Respecftul Question" answered?

Fortunately, there are members of just about any different-from-you group you can imagine who have shared their experience of living in a world where they are considered different. They have shared that experience in writing (books, articles, blogs). They have shared it on video or film. And there are lots of them.

So do your own damn' homework. Start reading, watching, educating yourself. Be prepared to find out that (holy moly!) not all people who are different-from-you in a particular way have the same experiences or the same opinions about it. There's no one answer to some questions, especially the tricky, complicated ones.

And for the most practical stuff - like that 'how do I respect work colleagues different-from-me' thing, there are likely (there SHOULD be, anyway) a set of resources your Human Resources colleague(s) can point you to, to address issues like why vacations schedules might differ, why a 'no head covering indoors' rule has been changed, etc., and how you can/should accommodate that in the workplace setting.

You might find, if you take your "respectful curiosity" seriously and start actually seeking out those different-from-you voices in print, on video, etc., and reading them and thinking about them, that not only are all members of a different-from-you group not going to have the same experiences and opinions, they may have a very wide array. In some cases, their experience/opinion might superficially resemble your own, especially if you are yourself 'different' from the predominant culture. That doesn't make y'all besties or friends or necessarily fellow-travelers, but it might help you understand in a more personal way.

And hopefully, you'll stop seeing each member of that particular different-from-you group as a generic representative of the group, and see them instead as a person with a unique history, set of experiences, cultural background, etc., that may be shaped by being of that group, but is transcended by their essential humanity, which is the same as your humanity.

At that point, it may no longer be necessary for you to have your "respectful curiosity" gratified, because there are many more important things about interacting as a human being with other human beings who have an experience of discrimination, oppression, and bigotry to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

Who knows, you might even be moved to start thinking about the unconscious biases you have absorbed and whether they're part of your operational 'normal', and how you can be aware of them, and work against them to be less biased.

We can all hope, right?


America's Fundamental Dichotomy

In a nutshell, America has ground to a halt as a nation, as a culture, as a meta-community, because we no longer believe we can have nice things.

Like roads.

Like jobs.

Like education.

And so on, ad infinitum.

And we cannot get past the "we can't have nice things" because there is a fundamental dichotomy between Americans who believe we can't have nice things because racism, and Americans who believe we can't have nice things because of skeery brown folk.

I realized this today when I was talking to a young friend who has had some severe health problems lately, involving several neurosurgeries and some difficult treatments and rehab. Fortunately for her she lives in a blue state that expanded Medicaid, and she was explaining to me a difficulty she's dealing with in trying to balance the work she CAN do (which is mostly 'home help' jobs of various types) with retaining access to her necessary medical care - she can't make too much money or they will kick her off.

That's a different rant, though. What went through my mind was my own history on public assistance, for various periods in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when my daughter was a toddler and her 'other Mom' was struggling with addiction.

Look, public assistance has never been regarded well in America, for a whole raft of reasons most of which make very little rational sense. But back when I was on it, there was a qualitative difference to the processes involved.

Yes, they were bureaucratic and some of them were excessive, redundant, and silly.

Yes, there were periodic verifications needed to ensure you continued to qualify for the assistance.

Yes, there were "case workers" and other public employees whose job was to "help" you do things that would reduce or eliminate your need for public assistance, and some of them were dicks.

But... here's the deal: Back then, although there was a certain stigma to pulling out your "food stamps" at the grocery store, and it wasn't exactly something you wanted to tell everyone about, there was a lot less of the "you must be a waste of oxygen just for being on public assistance" mindset that has gotten baked into every process connected with administering public assistance programs in the intervening decades.

Yanno why?

ONE thing, and I was there when it happened:

Ronald Reagan decided to turn public assistance into a racist dogwhistle to gin up the GOP base, with his toxic burble about "Welfare Queens in Cadillacs". HE was the one who decided that "on public assistance", "brown-skinned" and "lazy slackers cheating the system" should become inextricably linked in the (white) mind.

Nevermind the documented fact that the solid majority of all people receiving all kinds of public assistance was then, and has been ever since, WHITE.

The conflation of "public assistance/brown-skinned/lazy cheater" has become not just a toxic mindworm in the white psyche, but a justification for turning all kinds of public assistance processes into humiliating, punitive, pecksniffery focused entirely on delivering the minimum possible benefit for the shortest possible time, regardless of how counter-productive that may be.

And that white majority of public assistance recipients? Do they rise up in righteous wrath and say "WTF, America, we are your neighbors and human beings with lives and potential who need help and will use it well?"


They say "It wouldn't be such a pain in the ass if it weren't for all those lazy brown-skinned people trying to cheat the system." (And the number of them saying this while trying to cheat the system themselves is painfully ironic, too.)

These are the Americans who believe "we can't have nice things because of brown-skinned people."

And they will never, never, NEVER compromise with the rest of us who know damn' well that the reason we can't have nice things is because racism.

And we won't compromise with them, because. well... duh.

So we just have to try and keep them from perpetuating their toxic delusions into younger generations, and die off, I guess.

At some point, there will be a sufficient majority of us who understand that we can't have nice things because racism, to start actually doing something to change all the baked-in racism in every economic, political, social, and cultural process in America.

I hope my grandson's kids are around to see that.


So this is going to sound harsh...

...and I really don't mean it harshly. BUT...

If you want to NOT GET SHOT AND KILLED and/or not have your family members living with you shot and killed, or your kids in school shot and killed...


If you are a woman and want to maintain control of choices that affect your bodily health and well-being...


Yes, I know it's not easy to just pick up and move yourself, a family, etc.

But there is a labor shortage almost everywhere. You may have a better chance of finding a job, moving now, for one thing. Yes, housing is more expensive in a lot of places, but what really matters?

Think back to the people who left Germany in the 1930s. They gave up everything... and saved their lives, and in many cases, they managed to rebuild their prosperity and ensure a better future for their children, by "leaving home" when it was becoming clear that "home" no longer cared about their well-being, their rights, or their lives.

I'm not sure there are any other good choices right now.


Should we interrupt them?

Nothing unifies a group composed of people with many backgrounds and varying experiences and points of view as effectively as a big, fat, menacing wall to push against.

Whatever minor differences they may have are subsumed in the consensus that the wall MUST come down.

You will see this in action in Afghanistan as without the wall of U.S. occupation to push against, the Taliban will begin splintering and forming factions and fighting among themselves, trying to grab the biggest share of any boodle available, push their specific agenda the hardest, work out vengeance on their particular enemies the fastest, etc. Take it to the bank. It may take weeks or months, but within a year or two we will see information about this Taliban faction versus that Taliban faction and the suffering that chaos continues to inflict on the Afghan people.

For decades, here in the United States, the wealthy and powerful have used the GOP and its cadre of useful idiots to push back against a looming wall of inevitable progress and change that will dilute their hold on power and limit their capacity to loot the economy. By painting the wall with layers of white supremacist, nativist, homophobic, misogynist and other fears, they've unified their useful idiots and kept them all pushing in the necessary direction to distract and dismay and delay change.

Now, at last, they have overreached themselves. Now they are becoming the wall.

The GOP, especially the Austin Taliban, is working diligently to ensure that the House will remain in Democratic hands after the 2022 election, shrewdly assisted by Speaker Pelosi who doesn't miss an opportunity to focus the outrage and demonstrate a tangible response.

They're doing their best to ensure an outright majority for Democrats in the Senate, which is looking likelier by the day.

And now the Supreme Court is publicly destroying the credibility of its own institutional structure.

If they keep going at this rate, when the dust clears in mid-November 2022, we could have:

a) A House majority
b) A Senate majority; and
c) Increasing support for Supreme Court reform.

So, should we interrupt them?

Might be a better use of our resources to spotlight that wall they're building, and make an electoral strategy of it.

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