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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 18,785

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A classic updated for 2021

"No one is an island entire of itself; every one
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod is washed away by the sea, the whole
is the less, just as if a promontory were, just as if
any homeplace of your friends or of your
own were; any one's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in humankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for you."

I don't want them to die.

Not even the MAGAts.

Not even the mean stupid selfish fearful people who have put us all at risk for their stubborn insistence on lies and folly.

The price of stupidity should not be death, but unfortunately it sometimes is.

When dealing with a deadly pandemic, that goes from "it sometimes is" to "it often is."

I don't even want the cynical criminals who benefit from sowing chaos and dissent and misinformation to die.

Although I do want them to be held accountable for the harm they are doing.

They're not at much risk, of course.

They did get vaccinated, before they started spouting lies to the fearful and credulous about vaccination.

Most of them have the resources to stay safe, while those they've deceived are dying in hospital corridors.

I want them held accountable.

Not dead.

Their dupes may never realize the price of that smug sense of "we're right you're wrong", even on their deathbeds.

And I don't want them to die, either.

I don't want the white supremacists to die. Or the homophobes. Or the misogynists.

Or the xenophobic fools terrified of hordes at the borders.

No, I don't want even them to die.

I want them to live. And maybe someday learn.

And if they can't learn, to at least get to the place where they are pretending not to be hateful assholes again.

Because hateful assholery is once again out of style. Frowned upon, in fact.

Live, my fellow humans. Get the vaccine.

The tolling of the bell is becoming too frequent.

And ever more painful by the lack of necessity.

You CAN live.

Those who died last summer didn't have the same choice.

But you can choose.

Sign out of the Facebook Group. Turn off the television.

Call your doctor, call your health department.

Get the vaccine, and live.

You can hate me again later.

It works better when you're alive to do it.

I promise.


I Want My Mom...

She is in the Twin Cities.

I am in New Mexico.

She is 91 and in good physical health but has a mild dementia and increasing loss of short-term memory.

The past 18 months have been a terrible ordeal for her as she's had to move three times.

The first move took her from her familiar home. She didn't want to leave, but she was very much at risk there.

Within weeks of the move to her first independent living apartment in a senior community it was locked down.

She was in a strange place, isolated and lonely.

My sister who lives in the Twin Cities got certified as a home care aide and did her best.

But Mom became increasingly depressed, disoriented, angry and despairing.

The facility wasn't great. Last fall we got her moved to a facility that seemed like it would be an improvement.

It was, but not much.

Mom was still lonely, isolated, increasingly bored as her resources for using a modern television evaporated and her ability to track more complex reading matter was impaired, and she could not go to her AA meetings.

We did our best, buying "Grandpad" video tablets, communicating several times a day, sending fruit, little gifts, reminding her she's loved, not forgotten.

The depression, anxiety, etc., returned and started building up again.

Finally, this Spring - some hope! An assisted living apartment opened up at a community Mom really liked.

And it looked like Covid was about to be licked. We were all vaccinated.

We moved her to the new community in June. She likes it very much.

She can attend community meals, events, exercise classes, etc., because the facility is not locked down.

Mom started doing better.

The esposo and I began discussing plans to drive to the Twin Cities over the summer for a nice long visit, as soon as the Covid new case rate dropped sufficiently along our travel route and in Minnesota.

I really want to see Mom, while she still knows me, while she's enjoying life, while we can do some fun things together, maybe go to the Arboretum or walk around Lake Nokomis.

I don't want her to be locked down again - it takes a terrible toll on her.





I miss my Mom...

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever see her in person again, when she can still smile and light up and know who I am and give me a big hug.


SF Chorus pushes ALL the wackjob buttons with hilarious video... and are getting death threats now.

As a capstone of their Pride celebration, SF Gay Men's Chorus posted a video of their funny/sad/hopeful/loving and very popular number "A Message From the Gay Community". It's about how younger generations are learning not to hate and fear, and features delicious lyrics like "even grandma likes Rupaul / And the world's getting kinder / Gen Z's gayer than Grindr" and lovely, hopeful ones like "Your children will care about / Fairness and justice for others / Your children will work to convert / All their sisters and brothers".

It's beautifully produced. And it ignited the predictable firestorm on hatewing media with the lyrics "we're coming for your children" and "we'll convert your children". But the firestorm quickly escalated to thermonuclear levels as the Qdiots and the KillerJeebus loonies got into the act, painting the song as an open declaration of pedophilic intent. Within 36 hours chorus members were subjected to death threats, doxxing, having employers contacted with accusations that they are sex offenders and pedophiles, etc.

The chorus responded by making the video private, but bootleg and altered versions accompanied by frothing violence-inciting commentary have proliferated all over social media.

SFGate may still have a working link to the original version of the song here:

Extremely Funny SF Gay Men’s Chorus Video Unleashes Torrent of Right-Wing Threats, Vitriol

The Chorus is keeping people up to date on Twitter here:


The video, and the song, moved me to tears as well as laughter. Pretty powerful stuff. So, maybe not surprising that it has terrified the hatewing extremists into a frenzy.


We (homo sapiens) appear to be failing a major evolutionary test.

Keep in mind that in evolutionary terms everything happens very slowly over long periods of time - millennia. As a species, we have speeded up our own evolution to some extent as we have invented ever more complicated tools that have sharply accelerated many survival processes.

We don't "control" the conditions that facilitate evolution; they are too big, too complex, too slow for that. For millions of years, all we as a species could do was experiment with survival options, develop better tools, build cultures that increased our chances of passing on our DNA to new generations.

For all those millions of years, we worked with a balance of self-interest (sacrificing the survival of others to ensure my survival and that of my offspring) and altruism (sacrificing my own well-being or survival to ensure the strength of a community that could improve the survival chances of my offspring).

Over time, the tools and techniques of altruism- the development of cooperative hunting bands, the change from nomadic hunting/gathering to nomadic herding/opportunistic harvesting to sessile agriculture and husbandry, ultimately giving rise to cities and city-states, have paid the biggest dividends in the spread and survival of our species. The more we learned to work together, the more successfully we have evolved economies that support larger populations, the better tools we developed to respond to the impersonal unfocused threats of disease and natural disaster, the better we, as a species, have prospered.

Each advance has been tested, mostly by our own self-interest mechanisms: If one group gets too greedy and exploitive of others at the expense of their survival, that group ultimately is forced to change or die. Empires rise and fall. Power moves from autocracies to oligarchies. Monarchs enable an elite class to support their rule and then are forced to share power with that elite class, which enables a merchant class to support the broader distribution of wealth they require. In time the barriers between merchant and elite classes become more permeable.

Sometimes human groups that observed existential challenges closely, learned from them, experimented with changing their culture and developing new cultural survival mechanisms survived and learned the value of change. Sometimes human groups that clung stubbornly to what worked for their ancestors rode out the existential challenges and had their beliefs in the wisdom of the ancestors confirmed. On the species level the seemingly-random successes of these various strategies improved overall survival.

But over the course of history the balance has steadily shifted towards flexibility, willingness to change, and the embrace of altruism - these two strategies reinforce one another. We build a more complex world; we need a strong, diverse, curious community that values the survival of all to successfully develop and test new ways to meet existential challenges.

And as our species has ballooned in numbers and placed ever greater demands on the resources needed for survival, the frequency and intensity of the existential challenges we encounter has grown dramatically.

Plagues and natural disasters are SOCIAL tests above all - we cannot survive them by running from them. The wealthy few building their elaborate funk holes are whistling in the dark - if the species fails catastrophically, their DNA, too, will ultimately vanish.

We have all the resources of creativity, ingenuity, access to materials, etc., to survive the current crop of existential social tests. But we are failing them, because we are falling back on self-interest and fear-based conservatism to meet these challenges.

It is not too late to turn around.

But it might be, sooner than we think.

We had a good run, I guess.


If you're surprised, you're SO not paying attention: From the "DUH!" file

So [Redacted] and his henchweasels installed their tools in the various investigative agencies, and then tasked those tools with gathering dirt on all and sundry: "Enemies" (Democratic pols, donors, leaders, etc.); "Friends" (GOPpie pols, donors, leaders, etc.), and probably even the coffee vendor cart employees outside the Secret Service garage?

And you're surprised by this?

Oh my sweet, naïve friends and fellow-citizens. Just take a moment to think, and answer these questions:

What, in the well-known, copiously-reported history of [Redacted] and his family for three generations, his business practices, his "personal" business practices, etc., would lead you to believe that he would eschew the gathering of dirt for the purpose of achieving and applying leverage?

What, in the well-known, copiously-reported history of the GOP since the time Nixon connived with Anna Chennault to spike the Paris peace conference and subsequently sent "burglars" to gather dirt on Daniel Ellsberg and various other "enemies", would lead you to believe that the GOP would eschew the gathering of dirt for the purposes of grabbing and holding onto power?

What, in the well-known, somewhat-copiously reported history of America's various investigative/intelligence agencies would lead you to believe they would virtuously draw their metaphorical skirts about them and make a principled stand against the gathering of dirt on this, that, or the other for any reason at all?

And finally--

Did you not know that [Redacted] has been a tool of Vladimir Putin since forever, and WHAT is the standard playbook for Vlad and his Kremlin alumni "security" apparatus besides the gathering and application of "kompromat" to control allies and opponents alike?

And you are shocked, shocked! to find out that this has occurred. Probably shocked and grieved. It must be an aberration, right?

What are you asking Santa for this year, a new unicorn?

No, no, my friends. The thing to be learned from recent "revelations" is not that ::gasp:: dirt-gathering was occurring! Horrors!

Take a moment to adjust your hazmat suit, and follow me into the reeking sewer beneath "the halls of power", while I explain the what, of NOT "how dirt is gathered" or even the WHY of same, but more importantly HOW and WHEN gathered dirt is used.

"Surely," you are murmuring, "if dirt-gathering were occurring on such a scale, and anything really shocking was found, we would already know about it, right?"


We DO. Draw nigh, friends... beyond this door slither and writhe the ball of beslimed eels and snakes that serve as the "brain" of your average intel pro. Listen as they slobber and hiss their accumulated wisdom and experience for you:

Dirt has the most power before it hits the disinfecting influence of "the light". Therefore, to maintain maximum leverage you follow this protocol:

1. Hint that you have dirt, whether you have it or not. This makes the guilty nervous and can result in them leading you to payloads of dirt. It can even make the comparatively innocent nervous, since they're probably aware of your ability to manufacture dirt from thin air. If that isn't enough...

2. Hint vaguely at the nature of some particular dirt you have. If that provides insufficient leverage, go to...

3. Provide specific hints as to the nature some particular dirt, without actual evidence - but imply by the nature of the hint that such evidence exists, and you may in fact have it. At this point, your strategy may bifurcate. For those in the "friends/potential friends/allies/tools" category, you follow a protocol that may involve promises of your silence, promises of keeping any actual evidence you have out of unfriendly hands, etc.

For opponents/enemies, there is a different protocol.

No, not "release the kraken" (expose the dirt/supply the evidence/etc.) That were the action of an honest whistleblower/reformer. No, no indeed. You never do that, except perhaps as a Final Threat or a Sampson-in-the-Temple suicide bomb. (I suspect Jeffrey Epstein's untimely death was arranged to prevent just such an event.)

Instead, you use the dirt you have gathered very carefully, to achieve one of a cascade of strategic outcomes. First and most desirable of course, is to turn them. To use some of the same techniques used on "friends/allies" to make cracks in the opposition. You don't ask much. Small things. Little cracks. You can hammer in the wedges later, as needed.

Failing that, you use the Twilight Bark. This is the system of using backstairs gossip, social media, pet media outlets, patsy reporters, etc., to start rumors, and escalate them into unfounded but credible accusations by shadowy sources, building an increasing weight of belief in "something wrong" that will impair the enemy/opponent's effectiveness.

Then you use tiny bits of peripheral evidence to boost the potential credibility of such accusations, and draw in non-complicit media outlets, reporters, other sources, etc. You dangle the possibility of access to actual relevant evidence in front of them like a carrot, leading them further and further in the direction of "established fact" that your enemy/opponent is dirty AF.

Eventually this may produce leverage to take you back to "turning" them, by promising that no confirmatory evidence will ever see the light of day. Or perhaps not. It makes a nice shiv to keep in your back pocket and keeps them off balance and makes them less effective.

Blechhhh... you may step into the decontam unit now. We will leave that "brain" behind for now. But don't forget that it exists - not in the singular, either. In the myriad, in actual intel agencies, contractors, etc., in consiglieres and 'fixers', in corporate security offices, in the back rooms of gang hangouts, oh, all over this sad, sad world.

I hope you've learned a few things from our brief and unsavory foray, including:

The fact that there is no evidence currently visible/accessible neither confirms nor denies the existence of same.

The fact that no one is talking about it neither confirms nor denies that the dirt has been dug.

The fact that a possible target is not admitting to that leverage being used in any way against them does not mean they are not in fact a target.

There is, in essence, only one really reliable (but alas, unverifiable by actual evidence in the vast majority of cases) way to determine whether a particular individual has been a target of dirt gathering, by whom, and whether leverage has been applied to them:


Here endeth the lesson.


The GOP has a fig leaf problem.

Just about everything they do is motivated by fear.

Fear of people "different" than the terrified whiteboiz and their enablers: Racism, misogyny, xenophobia, etc.

Fear of their own inadequacy and inability to cope without structural privileges: Greed, violence, etc.

Of course, they can't admit to those fears.

So each self-justification involves a fig leaf of "patriotism" or "law and order" or "protecting the unborn" or whatever.

And every time their hypocrisy is exposed for what it is, the fig leaf gets a little smaller, and a little thinner.

Which... isn't good, for them. Eventually, there will be no fig leaf left, and what that exposes, won't be pretty.

Pretty small, but not pretty.


I would like to see each insurrectionist in the justice system required to answer this question:

Ask this question quite seriously, and give them the option of replying on video, or in writing, but require them to answer it in detail. In fact, train questioners to ask the question and any followup question needed to elicit adequate detail in the response.

"Why did you think what you were doing was okay?" (Have the questioner add details from the defendant's indictment, such as "Why did you think spraying a capitol police officer with bear spray was okay?" or "Why did you think smashing a window was okay?" or "Why did you think putting your feet on the Speaker's desk was okay?" )

And when they advance the initial reason (such as "the election was stolen" or "because tyranny" or "Q told me to" or whatever dorkshit justification they cite) the followup has to be, "But why is (thing they did) the okay thing to do in that situation? Why THAT thing?"

Ask non-judgmentally, there are no right/wrong answers here. The purpose is to understand the kind of mental processes that allow an individual to engage in these activities, and provide data - lots of data - for researchers, people in the justice system, sentencing judges, potential drafters of regulations/laws, law enforcement analysts, etc.

It would be valuable, if (I imagine) depressing information.


"American Fascism": Towards a militantly democratic Democratic Party

Today one of my favorite bloggers, John Scalzi, published this post:

Reader Request Week 2021 #5: American Fascism

It is not a terribly long read but it is long-format blogging. And very worth a read, and worth following all the various links as he draws a stark case for America's current wave of apple-pie fascism. Snippets:

In a larger sense, the history of the United States is a history of Will to Power, competing neck-to-neck with what we prefer to see as our more noble and democratic Power to the People. What is “Manifest Destiny” if not Deus Vult in mid-18th century dress? Did the US not essentially pick fights with Mexico and Spain for land and political influence? Did it not ignore whatever treaties it made with the Native Americans whenever it felt like it? Did it not rise to prominence on the labor and pain of African slaves, and tear itself apart because the South decided it was better to gamble on a quick war to keep those slaves, than to imagine them as people? And then, having freed those slaves, did the US then not engage in a century-long effort to keep those slaves and their descendants as legally close to a slave state as possible? Did the US not likewise demonize and restrict the rights of Chinese and other Asians? In the end, who benefited from the United States, who still benefits from it, and how was it managed that only they received the vastly largest share of the benefit?

If you know the answers to these questions, and yet still wonder how the United States might not be immune to fascism, the likely problem is that you’re hung up on the word “fascism” rather than the conceptual, social and political elements that allow for fascism. “Fascism” is a brand. Authoritarianism is the substance inside the can. The United States has had all of the ingredients for authoritarianism as long as it’s existed, and we make a fresh batch of it whenever we feel like it.


Creeping fascism has been the goal of the US Republican Party for a while now, what with its policy of steadily eroding and ignoring democratic norms, and its strategy of creating economic and informational insecurity to scare poor and working class whites, with the goal of inflaming their systemically-inculcated bias toward racism, for the benefit of the wealthiest of its party members, and to retain power even (especially) as the majority of US citizens have left it and its political interests behind.

And it certainly got a boost in that from Donald Trump! If someone like Mitch McConnell is the GOP’s ego, Trump is its id, a loud, proudly ignorant racist and buffoon who doesn’t give a shit about democracy, admires dictators, was enraged he wasn’t treated as a king, and who ended his presidency with an attempted putsch against his democratically chosen successor. Trump may not have come into the White House as a fascist, but he certainly left as one. His party — with some notable exceptions — gave him aid and comfort in his transformation and in his attempt to overthrow democracy in the United States. Moreover, it is now actively, unapologetically and with full fervor attempting to curtail the ability of United States citizens to participate in the democratic process, in a manner we haven’t seen so openly since the time when the Nazis were looking for a legal model for the persecution of the Jews and everyone else they found inconvenient. That is in fact actual fascism. You could say fascism has captured the GOP, but that ignores that fascism (and specifically, white christianist fascism) was always the plan, from at least Newt Gingrich onward. The Republicans meant to get here. And now they are here.

I was already well on the way to "fully awake" in this perception, but reading it booted me the rest of the way. America is in grave and immediate peril of becoming a fascist state.

And then I looked at the Democratic Party.

As Scalzi pointed out, we have our own history of proto-fascism, we are not Angels of Light unalloyed. Leaving history aside, though, are we even equipped to fight this fight?

Two tendencies concern me:

1. "Stay firmly in the middle to attract and keep a majority of voters." This is actually relatively sound doctrine in normal times when an imminent, existential threat doesn't menace the structure of our democracy. People are generally leery of change and a substantial centrist block of people are okay with SOME change, in baby steps, carefully tested a little at a time (I won't debate the silliness of this POV here, it's real and it's a biggish part of the electorate, though.) But not with, you know "radical" change, all at once, with potentially-unknown outcomes, etc. And

2. "A truly progressive agenda is our Only Hope." This is also, essentially, sound doctrine in the sense that the existential threats are not limited to political ones... climate change and all its sequelae including recurring pandemics, economic disruption, population migration, etc. are sure to kill us if we don't deal with them intelligently and vigorously. BUT...

We cannot do the second without having the political power to do so. And the first is no longer an effective way to get, and keep for long enough to enact real, life-saving change, the necessary political will and its mandate to power. No, it's not.

But I don't believe we can use the second as a rallying cry to get that mandate, in part because the fascists have done a thorough job of spiking those guns with propaganda, fear-mongering, water-muddying, etc.

Instead, I think we need to militarize the Democratic Party in the direction of the actual threat that prevents progressive action: Fascism itself, and the Fascist Party of America, otherwise known as the GOP.

There is no shortage of evidence. There is no shortage of cautionary illustrative examples of what happens to the people when fascism wins. We can no longer afford "moderation" or even "compromise" with a Fascist opponent.

It has to be about Democracy, and saving Democracy in America.


The thought of them nailing Gaetz with the Mann Act makes me delirious with delight.

The Long, Colorful History of the Mann Act

The Mann Act, perhaps more than most laws, was clearly a product of its time. At the turn of the last century, the Industrial Revolution had taken hold and the old order of rural, largely male-dominated America began to fade. New technologies, such as the typewriter, allowed many women to support themselves financially for the first time, and many flocked to the cities. The modern notion of dating was born.

With these changes came concerns about the country's moral underpinnings. By 1907, a full-fledged moral panic set in. There were rumors, taken as truth, that women were being forced into prostitution and shuttled around the country by vast networks controlled by immigrants, who were arriving in the U.S. by the millions. The plague of "white slavery" was on everyone's minds. Muckraking journalists fueled the hysteria with sensationalized stories of innocent girls kidnapped off the streets by foreigners, drugged, smuggled across the country and forced to work in brothels.

It was into this charged environment that the Mann Act was born. Signed into law by President Taft in 1910, the Act made it a crime to transport women across state lines "for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose." It was that last clause "for any other immoral purpose" — that would prove the most problematic and give rise to concerns that the law enabled the government to legislate morality.
(emphasis mine)

The Mann Act has a long, ugly history of being used as a tool of racists. Thinking about it being used to take out a racist tool is like... cosmic justice.


Finding my Way to Definition: Racism versus White Supremacy

I'm always very leery of sharing my thoughts, as a white person, on things that are visceral lived experience for non-white people. YET... I am a participant in that lived experience, too. A contributor to it, and I have a responsibility to think and learn and change.

Is there a difference (from a white person's standpoint, and please take that qualification as read for this entire post), between racism and white supremacy? I think so. Short version, "racism" is a somewhat non-voluntary cultural implant. "White supremacy" is an embraced, fear-based ideology.

I grew up and learned everything I know in a racist culture. Racism was baked into EVERYTHING I learned. Every book I read, every television show I watched, every subject I studied in school (math and science, yep, them too - maybe not in the base processes but in the understanding of who does it, who's good at it, how it's done, what it's used for... yep, racist as hell. Misogynist, too, but that's another post...)

Racism was baked into the attitudes and beliefs of everyone I knew, everyone I loved, everyone I learned from. Even my older relatives who supported the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement in my childhood, and explained to me the injustice of racism and the evils of Jim Crow... were racist. My mother's mother voted Democratic and thought Rev. King was "a great man and a great leader for the Negros" but when we drove through her old neighborhood with her in the car it was perfectly natural to her to say "Look at all the (epithet)s who've moved in here, now!"

I don't think I could possibly have avoided being racist. The best I can do is try to unlearn it as much as possible, check my own attitudes, question my own motives, and keep trying to change and be as anti-racist as possible. This is a challenge, but compared to what those who live the experience of racism as its targets must deal with, it's pretty easy. I have the privilege of slacking off. People with brown skin do not.

Racism is unambiguously toxic, vile, and destructive. This is not an apology in any way for racism. Nor is it a plea to "don't blame me, I was raised racist" which is bullshit. Unless I'm trying ALL the time to NOT be racist, I'm part of the problem. Being part of problems is a human condition, we are all part of one or more problems in some way. It's not an excuse and it's not justified, but it IS human, and our common humanity, even in our differing flaws, can be a door to change and understanding.

White supremacy, though.

Now that's something else. That's the EMBRACE of racism as the foundation of a fearful, hate-filled ideology motivating active perpetuation and expansion of institutionalized dehumanization of non-white people. No matter how they try to dress it up as "appreciating Western Civilization" (!) and the achievements of white culture (so many of which were appropriated from or based on the achievements of other cultures, but they'll never admit that!) it advances a hierarchy of human value in which everyone not-white has less value.

And that is a consciously-embraced, voluntary evil.

Is there a gray zone, a territory between not examining and rejecting your own racism, and actively embracing hate? The people who just don't want to be bothered, and get all defensive and negative when asked to change, and retreat into blaming those who are demanding the change?

I think so. I think that in that gray zone lie some choices... and those choices can be influenced. Defensiveness is a natural reaction to being confronted with our own flaws. Many things influence whether we choose to harden that defensiveness into rejection, and end up embracing an evil, or allow ourselves to be drawn into awareness of our flaws, examination of their cost to ourselves as well as others, and consideration of change.

Of those influential factors, fear is almost certainly the most powerful.

It isn't the responsibility of those demanding change to make it palatable, or not-fear-provoking. It wouldn't be possible, either, because what provokes fear varies from person to person. But an awareness of the process of hardening racism into white supremacy may be helpful in understanding how to structure responses and communications.

This is a long haul. Can I do anything in a short lifetime, to contribute to change?

Only if I don't give up. Only if I keep examining, keep learning, keep trying.

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