A government that can’t keep its own citizens alive isn’t worth a warm bucket of shit. A media system that makes money pretending black and white is a matter of opinion isn’t worth a warm bucket of shit. An opposition that doesn’t openly and vocally oppose rank stupidity and corruption isn’t worth a warm bucket of shit.
And a citizenry that politely lets it all happen to them isn’t worth a warm bucket of shit.
What follows is a rant. You may not need to see a rant right now. That’s cool. Don’t read this, then. Save it for another day. Ignore it altogether. Whatever. This is for me, and the last thing I want to do is add to your burdens. Your job is take care of yourself. Do what you need to do. I’ll be fine.
On the other hand, if you’re in the mood to watch a spleen get vented sit back and come along for the ride.
You know what I hate? I hate that motherfuckers who’ve spent the last — oh, I don’t know — 40 fucking years telling me I was just some soft candy-assed soft-hearted lib’rul who should get on my knees and kiss their rancid knobs of 9mm manly manliness because they were “protecting my freedoms” — are now parading around saying that their “liberties” are at stake because they can’t go get a fucking haircut. Jesucristo en una tortilla, this is worse than those asswipes who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge a few years ago and forgot to bring snacks.
I hate that everyone is sitting around pretending they have to be respectful of people who are perfectly comfortable with the idea of you dying so they can get more imaginary magic beans. Yeah. That’s what money is. It’s something we made up. It only as value because we pretend it does. It doesn’t occur in nature. My cats don’t give a shit about money. Nether does your dog. And SARS-CoV-2 definitely doesn’t give flying fuck about money. Sure, a sociopath is perfectly willing to kill you over it, but Jezus Chrystus w kiełbasie playing along with them is is just fucking stupid.
We’ve never not fought a war because it was too expensive. Money is an excuse, not a state of nature. Death, on the other hand, occurs in nature. At a 100% rate. Sure it’s going to get all of us eventually, but 耶稣基督在蛋卷中1 do you have to help? What kind of sick fuck are you if shifting off someone else’s mortal coil is worth it so long as you can have more magic beans? And just what brand of moron are you if you think that’s something worth debating?
What set me off is that Brian Kemp — proof-positive that shit things can come out of Athens, GA, too — announced last night that he’s going to encourage people to start committing suicide by getting a haircut on my birthday so other people can have more magic beans. My cousin who I love like a sister and has the misfortune to be in Texas right now is having to help plan how to best open a medical library full of books that tell you what a completely fucking stupid idea it is to open a library in the middle of a fucking pandemic.
You don’t have to be civil to people who are trying to kill you so they can have more magic beans. You don’t have to be nice. You don’t have to be cooperative. It’s fine to be a pain in their asses. Not only would they do the same for you, they’re doing worse. Right now. To you.
Just don’t forget to help the people who aren’t trying to kill you. That’s most people, actually. Be a revolutionary. Be kind.
Stay home. Wash your damn hands. Stay alive. That’s your job. Everything else is bullshit, and anyone who tells you different doesn’t give a shit about you.
And you don’t have to pretend they do.
1 And yes, I love Google Translate. Why do you ask?
The Adderall-snorting walking-shitshow has a habit of saying the quiet parts out loud, doesn’t he?
Our people want to return to work. They will practice Social Distancing and all else, and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM! Congress MUST ACT NOW. We will come back strong!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2020
Worse for who, asswipe? And besides Javanka, who the fuck do you mean by “we?”
Where did this quasi-literate shitnozzle get the idea that we give a flying fuck about his problems? Let’s be clear: he’s perfectly OK with you dying to pay for his sins. He doesn’t have your best interests at heart. He doesn’t care who makes his Big Macs. Just as long as they get made.
You really want to go back to work? You think the same people who steal your shit from the fridge are going to wash their hands when they do it? You want to be carried into the ER the day after your local hospital runs out of ventilators? Let me put it this way: you have a better chance of getting COVID-19 than you do of winning the lottery. When you hear the words “save the economy,” just substitute “keep the same people in charge of your life” and see if what you’re being asked to do is really in your best interests.
It’s OK to ask “so what’s in it for me?” The scam only works if you don’t think you have a choice. You do. You’re worth more than whatever your boss gets out of you. Act like it. Your job is to stay alive.
You really want to die so this guy can live?
I honestly thought I wouldn’t say anything more about this. There have been way too many words written about it already and most of them have been pointless. I’m partly doing this as personal therapy, but I also want it as a record for when things go really wrong. My whole life has teetered somewhere between being a cautionary tale and screaming “I told you so!” at people who never learn. This is one of those times I fear it’s the latter.
I’m talking about the mess with the Astros, of course. What else can people talk about? I’ve addressed what the team did and I stand by every word I said. I suppose that once the country you live in has descended into being a third-world-style kleptocracy, you’re going to be pissed off about the circuses because you can’t do squat about the bread anymore. Man, if only people got as upset about the Emoluments Clause in the actual Constitution as this… But that’s crazy talk.
Somebody is going to get hurt. I don’t know if it’s going to be a player getting beaned by a pissed-off pitcher, somebody sliding in spikes-high into a base, or some dumb-ass righteous “fan” seeking a ballistic redress of grievances. But someone is going to get hurt. The Outrage-Industrial Complex is going full bore. We haven’t heard from the hotdog vendors at Dodger Stadium yet, but I’m sure it’s penciled in somewhere in The Athletics editorial planner. I bailed out of all social media back in November, and I’m so glad I did. People are nuts. It’s just a matter of time before someone with an AK-47 goes looking for the basement of the basement-less pizza parlor where the Astros stored all those buzzers.
Here’s “the take” you’re unlikely to see anywhere else: I don’t believe knowing the called pitch in advance helps the batter that much. Computationally the amount of information that provides versus the cascade of real-time calculations that have to be performed in order to place the bat on the ball is way too small. If you can tease out the effect of that little information on the overall task of hitting, you don’t need to be worried about baseball; You need to be worried about your travel plans to Stockholm to pick up your Nobel in Medicine.
I know, I know, I know. Every major league hitter is lining up to talk about how much it helps. I’m sure they believe it. Strongly. And we all know that the strength of an anecdotal personal belief constitutes reliable evidence of empirical phenomena. Ask any Anti-Vaxxer or Biblical Literalist. They’ll be happy to explain it to you. In excruciating detail. Attribution Theory is a thing, y’all.
I’m sure knowing what pitch is coming helps. Except for all the times that it doesn’t. Good luck finding the difference between the two. Sure, you might know slow or fast. But placement? Trajectory? Break? And have I really stolen a sign if the pitcher actually throws the pitch to the backstop? I’ll be happy to look at any evidence that it works, but I’m profoundly disinterested in the opinions of people who won’t wash their socks during a hitting streak. For Jobu’s sake, think for a minute.
And, yes, I know about the L-Shaped screens for live BP. Of course no one actually got hit once in an entire season-and-a-half of systematic sign-stealing during actual games, but they … could have? But remember: it was only wrong if it was a pitch known in advance because of an electronically-stolen sign. Analog sign stealing isn’t illegal, it’s tradition. It’s only when those darn electrons get involved that things go wrong. So be selective in your outrage when a traumatic brain injury occurs.
It’s not that what the Astros did was right. I’ve explained what I see wrong in what they did, and how the punishment they were given was richly deserved. What I can’t — and won’t — accept without saying something is the degree to which people are willing to shut off their brains in order to be sanctimonious.
Somebody’s going to get hurt. And when that happens, no one is going to understand how that happened. This is just my way of telling you that you could see this coming. Don’t try to say you couldn’t. And it will be your fault. After all, everybody who’s calling for automatic lifetime bans for everyone in the organization is clearly fine with collective sanctions regardless of personal participation.
Hey, I don’t make the rules. But I’m perfectly fine applying the ones you make for others to you.
I believe life is hard. The Buddha said all existence is suffering and any Bengals fan can attest to that. I don’t know if everyone is basically good or basically bad, but I do know everyone is just trying to get through the day. Get up and try to make it to night. Try to be better off if you can, but try like hell to keep from slipping backwards. Rinse and repeat. You’re just trying to get through the day. Just like everyone else. It’s never easy. For anyone.
To me the greatest sin I can commit is to make someone else’s life harder. I can’t always make it easier, though I should if I can, but I should never make it harder. What other people do to me is up to them. My actions are not contingent on theirs. I have no obligation to allow someone to make my life harder, by the way, just as I can’t try to make my life better by making yours worse. Make someone else’s life better if you can, but never, ever make it worse.
I do not write the name of the short-fingered vulgarian in the White House. He values it more than anything, so it’s the thing I’ll always deny him. It’s symbolic, petty, and utterly ineffective. That’s my wheelhouse. If clear writing demands the use of a name, I use Don Palmturd (anagram!). Comic Colin Mocherie is a strong proponent of Lord Dampnut and it’s hard to beat. The juxtaposition of mocking nobility with incontinence and impotence is hard to pass up. Mine starts off with a double entendre. It’s a casual nickname sure to annoy someone who uses his full name and middle initial to refer to himself, but also a title of respect — among criminals. The surname juxtaposes shit in the tropics. Like Mar-a-Lago.
They aren’t mutually exclusive names, of course. I like the image of a shabbily-dressed Englishman doorman announcing “The Lord Dampnut, Don Palmturd” and the two-bit Il Douche strutting into the room, jaw-jutting with the smirk on his face. He thinks everyone is applauding him, but they’re really applauding the doorman behind him air-wanking and rolling his eyes.
Don Palmturd doesn’t believe what I believe. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can’t look into the hearts of others and all that, but come on. This guy enjoys making people’s lives harder. He gets off on it. Many of his supporters do too. You ask them how they’re buying any of this crap and they tell you “Ha, ha, ha libtard, we won and you lost.” (Even though they’re speaking aloud they’ll still manage to misspell three words, but that’s beside the point.) It’s an entire political philosophy built around “neener, neener, neener.” They didn’t win. You lost. That makes them happy. That’s all that matters. They believe their lives are better if someone else’s is worse. That’s winning. That’s making America great again.
Nope. It’s not politics, it’s potty training. I can’t fix it. I won’t accept it. I don’t have to.
I actually don’t care who they hate. I don’t care who you hate. Your hatred doesn’t give you the right to make other folks have a harder time getting through the day than they would have had otherwise. Remember, you don’t have to make anyone’s life easier, you just don’t have a right to make it harder. If I consent to let someone else make your life harder, then it’s as if I did it myself. No one gets a free pass. Making someone’s life harder is always a choice. You make that choice and you’re giving everyone permission to do the same to you.
Make no mistake. They will get to you eventually. There are people who currently reside outside the top 1% of wealth-horders who think they’re safe from all this stuff. They tsk, tsk, tsk about everyone freaking out about losing their health insurance, for example, because they get theirs through their employer. As if somehow providing health insurance is something employers will always be required to do no matter what, forever and ever, Amen.
Let’s try a thought experiment. If you have employer-provided healthcare, what would happen if your company decided they didn’t want to offer it anymore? How easily could you change jobs? Remember, you’ll likely be competing with every single other person at your company who does what you do. You that good? What if you’re wrong? And it’s only going to be an “issue” if your company is the first. All someone has to do is be the first. By the second or third it will be the new normal. If you complain you’ll be an entitled whiner-loser-millennial. There will be Wall Street Journal features on the titans of business who disrupted human decency and made the stock market soar. And after all, isn’t that all that really matters?
Of course, it can’t happen. It’s ridiculous. It’d be like an airline started charging you for carry-on luggage! No one would stand for it! Until the FAA becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of United Airlines and standing-room-only flights are approved, of course. Then flight attendants crews will have to be issued cattle prods, if only for appearances sake.
Yesterday the Senate of the United States of America voted to make a few people more wealthy without having the slightest idea how many people’s lives they’ll make worse. Much effort has gone into not knowing because it doesn’t matter. If you think anyone will hesitate to make your life worse if they think there’s even a chance they can gain from it, you’re delusional. You represent nothing they can’t find in a million other places. You are a commodity. Raw material from which wealth can be extracted. Then you’re slag. To be discarded.
So go ahead and say nothing when you see other people’s lives being made worse. They’ll get to you eventually. And you’ve already given the folks who could say something about it permission to say nothing. Good job!
Your time is coming. Get your hating in now. You’ll be too busy later.
Well, it’s finally here. I said I was staying off social media (and anything resembling live media) today, so if you’re seeing this on Facebook or Twitter it’s only because I have my blog set to squirt my posts over there.1 You can leave a comment there, but I won’t see it for a few days. Or you can leave one here. Or you can be like me and roil in a pit of despair. After brunch. And doing some prep for my classes. I’m reasonably certain Monday will still happen. Everything after that is a crapshoot.
Both of my parents died of cancer. I remember what it was like knowing that it was just a matter of time before something awful happened and feeling utterly powerless to do anything about it. Then, when they died, saying to myself over and over “now it’s real” and being unprepared for it. And I’ll never forget getting to the J-School the morning we started bombing Baghdad in 1991 and meeting Doug Barthlow outside the library. “Things are going to be different for the rest of our lives,” he said “We’re going to be living with this forever. It’s never going to be the same again.” That’s what today feels like. It’s a little before 10AM EST as I write this, so technically the world is still sane, but it’s over. I’m assuming the choreography has begun and the orange-skinned homunculus is strutting and thrusting out his jaw like the two-bit Mussolini wannabe he is. He wanted military units and tanks and missiles in his parade, people. That’s fucked up.
Gallons of ink have been spilled and gazillions of electrons have been rearranged so people like me can scream. Today we become that dystopian novel we read. Today we lose all the wars we’ve fought in the past. Today Moscow becomes the most important capital in the world, and they didn’t really have to work that hard to do it. All they had to do was give us the fuel and we were perfectly content to burn ourselves down.
We’re really good at that, the burning ourselves down thing, I mean. I remember that tape that came out from Osama bin Laden where him and a couple of the other planners were talking about the 9/11 attacks. They were as surprised as we were that the buildings actually fell down . They knew they were going to kill a lot of people and we’d overreact and weaken ourselves as a result, but they never let themselves hope it would work out that well (from their perspective). We completely lost our shit. A few thousand guys running around in the mountains of Afghanistan managed to make a country of 350 million people with the most powerful military on earth completely lose its shit. 9/11 sucked, but it was alike giving a gorilla a little paper cut. The reaction should have been “Hey, do that another — oh — 200 or 300 times and you might start drawing some blood. Meanwhile we’re going to piss you off by not changing a bit. Sure, we’ll hunt you down and turn you into a stain that’ll take more than Tide to get out, but we’re going to do it by being exactly the same as we were before. We can make you a footnote and not even break a sweat.” But, of course, we didn’t do that. We chose to become a completely different country. One where the thing we fear the most is fear itself. That’s why the subtitle to this blog is what it is. The people who wanted to destroy the US in the past went about it the wrong way. We were always the best people for the job.
I don’t think there’s some hotline from Moscow to Washington with Putin issuing orders to his poodle. Put a complete fucking moron in the top job and suddenly the United States is way down on Vlad’s “Things-I-have-to-worry-about-today” list. The things my parents and grandparents believed in and sacrificed for become irrelevant today. The zombie apocalypse is upon us. Mitch McConnell’s general appearance aside, the zombies aren’t undead people looking for brains to eat. They’re dead-eyed authoritarians looking for money to take. The country is about to be sold for parts. You will not be receiving payment. But the beatings will continue until morale improves. Or not. It’s pretty much the same to the folks in charge. No one’s asking you to like it. You’re just supposed to comply.
I am, of course, over-reacting. “It’s all going to be fine,” you say, “it can’t happen here.” Hands start waving around and a blanket of vague descends if I ask you, “Really? Why not?” A lot of people are going to be in the streets today and tomorrow saying “This is not OK” and that’s the most hopeful thing I’m seeing right now. As bad as things are — and experience has taught me you tend to dread the wrong things too much and the things that really wind up sucking you don’t dread nearly enough — I find hope in that I know I’m not alone in this. I have found there are a lot of people out there who’ve been feeling like Cassandra. We’ve been on the wrong path for a very long time. You see, the deal with the idea of the USA isn’t that we’re especially good or exceptional people. We’re just regular, flawed, people who aspire to good and exceptional things for everybody. We’re not unique in that. Wanting good and exceptional things doesn’t make us good and exceptional. It just described how hard we needed to work. We mistook the ends for means. The payments for that mistake is coming due. And it’s going to suck.
It’s not going to be OK. That suggests that things are going to be how things are going to be without intervention and all we have to do is sit back a take the ride. If things wind up working out OK it’s because people will have made it OK and probably hurt some feelings along the way. Euphemisms and platitudes aren’t going to cut it. Civility is a great thing when you agree on ends but not on means. It makes it much more likely you’ll get there. It’s important to not jump to conclusions, though. Really, really important. Be sure you’re not really working for the same ends before you abandon civility. It’s hard to roll that back. If you get that wrong you are, indeed, the asshole. Political party labels are useless now. I know many, many, many self-identified Republicans who are horrified at what’s starting. There are things (guns, abortion, LGBTQ equality) we (stridently) disagree on, but we all fundamentally believe in the underlying framework for how that stuff gets worked out (and that it’s always a temporary solution). This isn’t liberal/conservative. Edmund Burke and Barry Goldwater would look at the current GOP and say “what the fuck is wrong with you people?” They’re not exactly relying on time-tested traditions. They’re about to throw a lot of them out. There’s nothing conservative about what’s going on.
So today it all changes. In about half an hour from now we’re through the looking glass. God help us all.
See you on the other side.
1Paints quite a picture, eh? You’re welcome.
I have long opposed the death penalty on the slippery slope principal. Once we enshrine the idea that the State has the right to kill someone, the only thing left to argue is who gets to decide who needs killing. The list of those who decide tends to be people way too comfortable with the idea of doing it and the list that says who deserves killing only gets longer. It’s an awfully big hammer. So tempting to use. Sooner or later we’ll all qualify in someone’s eyes, and you never know who’s going to be put in charge. The usual argument I get into is someone points at some really heinous killer and says “You want to keep this guy alive?” (It’s usually a guy, and I figure in this case the sexism of that construction might get a pass). And I say “No, I really don’t. But I believe what I believe despite the fact that guys like that exist. That’s how important I think it is. Better this guy rot in a cell then say ‘Sure, I trust your judgement about who lives and dies.’ Because I don’t.”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot as it’s becoming clearer and clearer that, domestically anyway, the focus of the incoming administration will be to dismantle as much of the social safety net as it possibly can and sell it off piece by piece. Look at the people being nominated for Cabinet positions. Each and every one has a vested interest in gutting them. People keep yelling about “conflicts of interest” when, in fact, there’s no conflict at all. They don’t believe there should be a social safety net. Their interest is to make sure there isn’t one. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. There’s no conflict.
“What do you mean you have popular prices? You’re the most expensive in town!”
“Well, we like them.”
I think idiot who got elected is only interested in having power and enriching himself and his family. I think his Veep is interested in leading the Republican effort to strip the country down for parts and install a soft-core theocracy that allows you to believe anything you want as long as the only opinion that counts is “What Would White Jesus Do (in our opinion)?”
I’m equally convinced that Russia’s victory in the Cold War becomes final just after noon on January 20, 2017. They won this election. I don’t think that’s because they “hacked” the election. I think they hacked some computers and ran a pretty standard disinformation campaign. I don’t think they messed with voting machines because that’s not the weakest part of the system. That would be the people who do the voting. I do believe there was coordination between the Republican campaign and some Russian intelligence service if for no other reason Rudy Giuliani seemed to know what Wikileaks was going to leak before they actually did it. But that’s not why it worked. It worked because the Russians were very comfortable dealing with Americans as we actually are rather than who we’d like to think we are. Not having to pretend to care really opens up the old day planner.
And in the end we voted for the guy they wanted us to. By “we” I mean, of course, the small number of rubes who had to vote particular ways in particular places to game the horrible system we use to elect a President. But they could have gotten more if they’d needed them. It’s not like the Democrats ran a candidate people actually liked. There were plenty of people out there plenty willing to believe all the pretty stories. Yes, in a sense, Clinton did win because she got more votes. In the other, more accurate, sense she lost. There’s no “moral victory” column in the Electoral College.
At any point in the campaign did anyone ever float the idea that the CEO of ExxonMobil was the best person to be Secretary of State? There’s only one country that benefits from that, and Sarah Palin thinks she can see it from her house. (Hint: It’s not the United States). All the other appointments either hate the departments they’re supposed to run or they used to be a General up until very, very recently. Which is pretty much the way they run things in Moscow. There’s not a downside for Russia in this election. They don’t give a shit about our social safety net either. And they don’t have to pretend to. But we have to care about what they think because our Dear Leader loves their Dear Leader and wants to be just like him when he grows up.
So now we are confronted with the image of buyer’s remorse on a national scale. It’s kind of sort of sinking in for some people, but it’s coming for everyone who voted for him sooner or later. I’m on record (if Facebook can be considered a record) for wanting to be the one to announce to the assisted living facility that I worked on Election Day that the guy most of them voted for is going to touch their Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. And it’s going to be one of those bad touches you tell your grandkids about. Except you gave them permission to do it.
It’s tempting to sit back and laugh. Hey, if you’re dumb enough to vote for a con man, you deserve what you get. You managed to vote for the evil of two lessers. I can’t sustain that, though, any more than I change my tune on the death penalty when a serial killer or mass murderer is caught. I’m not going to oppose cuts to healthcare and the rest of the social safety net because the people who will benefit from them in the short term did anything to deserve it. I’m going to oppose them because it’s the right thing to do. I believe it so much, in fact, I’m willing to fight for it even when you couldn’t be bothered to do it yourselves.
For your sake I hope there are enough of us. Because otherwise, you are screwed. All of us are, but we’ve had longer to get used to the idea.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent to me that Mike Pence took the deal John Kasich was offered. The Grifter doesn’t want to be President. He just wants to be in charge. He wants to be the top of the food chain. As long as he’s El Jefé Anaranjado¹ who gets his cut from whatever money’s being made, he’s going to be happy. He’s going to reward those who helped him and punish those who hurt him. He’s not worried about the details. That’s what he has Pence for. Oh, and how Pence has taken the opportunity! Want to be in the Cabinet? Be white. Be rich. Be opposed to anything that wouldn’t fly in an Indiana town that has more churches than liquor stores. I have this picture in my head of Pence Interviews: The Musical where a chorus of interviewers sing (to the tune of The Spice Girls Wannabe): “Tell me that you’re white, that you’re really, really white…If you wannabe in my cabinet, you really gotta hate the gays…”
We’re going to start hearing a lot about rights soon, especially religious “rights.” I have a complicated relationship with religion. My first and foremost belief is that my religion is none of your business. The second is like unto it: I don’t want to hear about yours. I’m interested in what you do. I couldn’t care less why you think you do it. You have a justification? Yay you! Want a cookie? Regardless of what you do or don’t believe about life, the universe, and everything, the authority of your belief system ends where your skin meets the air. Your moral code has an intended population of one: you. What you do to me matters to me. What I do to you matters to you. Everything else is rationalization.
Here’s what I’ve decided is going to be my standard going forward: No one has the right to make anyone else’s life harder. It’s a good thing to try to make people’s lives easier if you can, but it’s not always possible. It’s never OK to make someone’s life harder,
Life is hard all by its own self. You can do everything you’re supposed to do and try to be good to people and still get slapped upside the head with a metaphorical frozen fish. Make the circumstances weird enough, it becomes a real one. If something can go wrong it probably will. If there’s a bad time for someone to lose hope, that’s when it will most likely happen. If there’s a really bad time to become overconfident, someone’s going to ask you to hold their beer. If there’s any evidence it doesn’t work that way, I’ve yet to see it. Given that the essence of human nature is to screw thing up, the least we can do is not make anything worse for anyone else. When we rise above our natures we might actually make things better. Hippocrates got it right, though. First, do no harm.
If the news from the past couple of years is to be believed, the biggest threat to religious liberty are selling wedding cakes to people who you don’t think ought to get married and signing the legal documents necessary for the same. Forget the fact that refusing to sell the cake doesn’t stop anyone from getting married or that the state gets to tell you what forms you need to sign if you’re an elected official. What you think is going to happen to your soul is your business, not mine, but what you’re doing is making someone else’s life harder just because you want to. That’s not OK. Your life doesn’t get any worse if you sell that cake or sign that document. It goes on just like it did before.
“OK,” you say, “so I want to rob a bank. That guard at the door is making my life harder.” Yes, but you’re planning to make other people’s lives harder. The people in the bank. The people you’re stealing from. That guard is preventing you from making other people’s lives harder.
“Oh, OK, then,” you say, “so what about abortion? You’re making the fetus’s life worse, aren’t you?” Not so fast, Skippy. The fetus doesn’t exist separately from the mother. That fetus is entirely dependent on every decision the mother makes no matter what. Sounds like to me the only one qualified to make any decisions vis a vis the fetus is the mother. Someone does have to decide. It’s just not you. Unless you’re the mother. Otherwise all you’re doing is getting mixed up in something where you’re more likely to make someone’s life worse than better.
So as we enter these dark days ahead — and make no mistake, dark days are coming — hold on to simple truths. Evil isn’t complicated. “Fuck you” is a pretty simple concept. It pays to have simple truths for yourself to hold onto. The simplest truth is this: no one has the right to make someone else’s life harder.
Anyone who tells you otherwise will be happy to make yours harder.
¹The Orange Chief
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
I’m not aware of a circumstance where loss of citizenship is the penalty for a crime. Maybe one exists, but I’m not aware of it. It’s extremely difficult to give up one’s citizenship. Not that I ever checked on it when Shrub got elected the second time…
Antonin Goddamned Scalia said this about flag burning:
“If it were up to me, I would put in jail every sandal-wearing, scruffy-bearded weirdo who burns the American flag,” Scalia said. “But I am not king.”
That’s the lusory attitude I talked about the other day: “I have my strong feelings about this, but I have to work within the system.” Scalia was saying there that he understood and accepted his role in the system. Bush v Gore showed he was perfectly willing the put his thumb on the scales when it was his turn to do so, but he colored inside the lines.
For all you “wait and see” types. He just told you his ends. He’s bigger than the game. He wants what he wants and that’s what’s important.
What do you suppose he’s going to do when he has the means?
And who’s going to stop him?
This is not normal.
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016
He has no proof this happened, of course. He can point to nothing because there’s nothing there. It’s not on me to “prove” millions of people didn’t vote illegally. It’s on him to prove they did. And he can’t do it. Because it didn’t happen. The only reason you write something like this is to delegitimize your opposition in the minds of your supporters. He won the election because of a loophole in the electoral system that was put in place to block the direct popular election of the President. As with most things having to do with the Yam-Colored One, this has been floating around for a little while.
This, in turn, apparently has its roots in a series of tweets from some guy with a Twitter account named Gregg Phillips who claims to have a database of 180,000 registered voters “tagged with non-citizens.” Whatever the hell that means. Other than blustering statements about how the evidence is solid, he’s so far refused to let anyone see it. It doesn’t matter of course. It’s “out there.” It’s already been accepted as truth by the base. Like all stories having to do with the person who I’ve privately started calling The Last President of the United States, the details of this particular train wreck are mostly irrelevant. I’ll only throw out that the “story” begins emerging around the time it became clear Clinton was going to win the popular vote by a large margin. The fact that people keep harping on that and the margin keeps growing and Jill Stein decides to ask for a recounts before she returns to whatever cicada nest she sleeps in until Presidential election season rolls around again has really harshed the mellow of The Hairpiece that Roared. Forget the fact that the rules for being elected President of the United States don’t require you to win the overall popular vote. It’s a wrinkle that’s been in the rules from the beginning. It’s happened before. The popular vote? Sure, it’s nice to have. It’s not required. Them’s the rules. Say what you will about Shrub back in the day. He’d just shrug and say “I won.”
So why is it such a big deal to Herr Twitler? It’s part of a pattern that makes perfect sense if you don’t mind being utterly terrified.
So a couple of the classes I’ve been teaching this semester deal with games. In the process of the crash course I’ve had to subject myself to on game theory, I’ve had the great fortune of being introduced to a delightful book called The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia by Bernard Suits. It’s a deceptively simple book written (partly) in the style of a Socratic dialog using the fable of the Grasshopper and the Ants as its basis. The Grasshopper isn’t an irresponsible slacker here. He’s actually a subtle thinker who develops a philosophy of life that sees Utopia in a life of all play and no work — even when that life leads to his inevitable death. It sounds depressing, but it’s really a book that attempts to refute Ludwig’s Wittgenstein’s assertion that games can’t be formally defined. Suits didn’t care for this position and wrote this book. The centerpiece of the book is his formal definition of a game:
“My conclusion is that to play a game is to engage in activity directed towards bringing about a specific state of affairs, using only means permitted by rules, where the rules prohibit more efficient in favour of less efficient means, and where such rules are accepted just because they make possible such activity.”
Later he sums it up even more succinctly:
“…playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.”
Compare this to anthropologist Mary Douglas’s description of an institution in her masterpiece How Institutions Think:
“Minimally an institution is only a convention. David Lewis’ definition is helpful: a convention arises when all parties have a common interest in there being a rule to insure coordination, none have a conflicting interest, and none will deviate lest the desired coordination is lost.”
Games, conventions and institutions all require willing participation, what Suits called the “lusory attitude.” Lusory is a term that’s pretty common in Game Studies. It more or less means “playful,” but sounds better when talking to colleagues from other departments at faculty gatherings and you don’t want to keep saying ‘playful’ all the time. Most everyone but the physicists will let it slide and who cares about physicists anyway? Screw those guys.
Willing participation. I’ve mentioned it before in another context, but I can’t think of this without thinking about this George Carlin routine:
“‘Cause that’s what they taught us; it’s what’s in your mind that counts; your intentions, that’s how we’ll judge you. What you want to do. Mortal sin had to be a grievous offense, sufficient reflection and full consent of the will. Ya had’ta WANNA! In fact, WANNA was a sin all by itself. “Thou Shalt Not WANNA”. If you woke up in the morning and said, “I’m going down to 42nd street and commit a mortal sin!” Save your car fare; you did it, man!”
Can anyone point out anything the Yam-Man has done that could reasonably be interpreted as wanting to hold the country together more than getting his way? The fainting-couch crowd will gleefully point out that I’m being rude to him. That I’m not showing any respect to the duly-elected Grifter-in-Chief. And you’d be right. I’m not. I won’t. I don’t have to. That’s one of those unnecessary obstacles that’s built into the game. It’s not a bug. It’s a feature. I, as a citizen of the United States of America, have the right to believe that the man elected to be President of These Here United States is a simpering bag of pus with tastes that would make a bordello owner say “Jeez, that’s a bit over the top, isn’t it?” The fact is, my opposition only matters if you favor the less efficient means of putting up with it over the more efficient means of lining me up against a wall and shooting me. He’s not allowed to have me shot yet. Yet.
The most dangerous time for him is right now — before the reins of power are handed over to him. This is not a man who handles pressure well. We have to keep it up. Don’t let the bastard breathe. We don’t have to give him hell. All we have to do is tell the truth and he’ll think it’s hell. But also remember we’re all asked one question every single day: is this country worth it? What are you willing to give up and set aside in order to keep the country together?
Then ask what is he willing to give up to keep the country together?
That’s really the biggest question of all.