What moments may come

One never knows when a moment may come

In this time of fear and stress and panic, sickness and death, heroism and cowardice, wisdom and stupidity, moments, brief moments, can stand out and take on outsized meaning.

I’ve written a bit about some of these moments I’ve noticed. The quiet that seems to have descended on all of us, some of which can be frightening, but some of which can be blissful. I’ve written about the comfort that can come from the most mundane moments in life, and how it can tether you to reality, and help you to keep from drowning in your own fear and panic and those internal voices that threaten to overwhelm you. I’ve written and will keep writing and keep publishing in the hopes that these small personal insights will help the folks that read them, help you all keep your demons at bay, as they help me with mine.

I’m a romantic slob. It’s a part of my nature. I cried in Star Trek II when Spock died. I watch Sound of Music sometimes and turn off my snark circuit, because sometimes you need to bathe in the catharsis of schmaltz. And deep down, I think the most cynical in us needs those moments, just to reacquaint ourselves with the fact that, yes, there is real beauty out there, and it’s okay to appreciate it. It’s okay, in fact, to let it overwhelm you. Even if it’s just for a minute or two, when no one’s watching.

I was walking the dogs and listening to my iPhone on my headphones. As I was passing under a tree, The Beatles’ Blackbird came on, and a bird above me was singing along with it. All through the song I stood there, entranced, the song and the birds on the track in my headphones singing along with the real bird in the tree above as the light was fading slowly from the evening sky.

It was such a powerful moment of transcendent, heart-stopping beauty, right now, amidst so much fear and suffering and death, I just burst into tears from the sudden loveliness of it. I stood there, listening to the bird and the song and a young Paul McCartney singing alone, accompanying himself on the guitar, tears literally streaming down my voice, overcome. Nature, and a bird, and a song, all combined just for a moment of perfection, and I was there.

And I wanted to share it. Share it with you all.

I hugged myself there, on the sidewalk, the dogs waiting patiently, the light still slowly fading, my eyes wet. I paused the music after the song ended and pulled off the headphones. The bird had stopped singing too, as if she had sensed she needed to acknowledge something too. There was a faint rumble of a truck on the road, a ways away. A runner turned into the road heading towards me. A squirrel gave me a look. The dogs waited. The world kept turning, as it does.

Life can be so hard sometimes. And then it can touch us, just like that.

Relieving pandemic stress through the mundane

It ain’t poetry, but maybe it can soothe

I have been in bad pain now for six days.

This is where I would put the cliché “pain and I are old friends,” but you know what? Pain and I are long-time enemies. Pain is mother-fucker, a bastard, a son-of-a-bitch, an asshole. I hate pain. Pain is a demon that has been torturing and tormenting me, regularly, for as long as I can remember, from the usual childhood injuries of course, but mostly through the agony of migraines that started when I was a teen and continue to this day, and post-surgical chronic pain from nerve damage to my spinal cord that requires daily doses of opioids and regular steroid shots and radio-frequency “nerve burns” to keep at bearable level. But it never, ever, ever goes away. Pain has been pounding at the inside of my left eyeball and eyebrow, and clawing at the back of the base of my skull on the right-hand side, for longer than Gen Z has been alive. My neck pain is old enough to vote. My migraines should start getting mail from AARP any day now. Fuck pain.

And for six days now, I’ve been in pain where my migraines are alternating with a flare-up of my neck pain for supremacy. And you might wonder why this is. Well, it’s because I’ve been tensing my neck and shoulders and clenching my jaw.

From the stress.

You feel it too, don’t you? There’s a friggin’ pandemic outside your door. You can feel it, can’t you? Like a damn Stephen King monster, waiting out there for you to make a false move. You just want to walk the dog, or pick up a gallon of milk, or get a 4-pack of toilet paper (good luck with that!), or grab a box of tampons, or whatever, and you feel like you’re taking your life in your hands just by stepping over the threshold, don’t you? Hell, just opening the door! It doesn’t matter that your rational mind is telling you that the virus isn’t airborne and there’s no darn way you can get it just walking Fido down to the mailbox and back. Your panicked lizard brain is screaming at you, all the time. Someone touched your door handled! Someone brushed against your car door! The mailman wasn’t wearing gloves! That cat brushed against an infected person! Unclean, unclean! Stay inside or die!

Pretty stressful.

Right? You hear that voice; you know what I’m talking about. You’re stressed to the gills. My body is expressing it with tense muscles and a clenched jaw, translating to (goddammit) massive fucking pain.

But you don’t have my issues. So maybe you’re sleeping 12, 14 hours a day and thinking, “WTF is wrong with me? No on needs this much sleep!” Or maybe you’re obsessively watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. Or your favorite anime. Or playing Animal Crossing 10 hours a day. Or have read 4 volumes of Gibbon’s Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire and are halfway through volume 5. Or have been playing your piano so much your fingertips are dry and cracked. Or have completed 127 new cels for your next animated film. Or like me, have poured out thousands of new words of text.

(Or on the dark side, beating your partner or your kids. Or buying 20 sacks of potatoes at the grocery store. Or having long talks with your dead father. Or something even worse.)

Stress manifests in different ways in different people. I carry mind physically, partly because that’s how I’m built, and partly because I have an autistic son who needs me to keep it together and so flipping out is really not an option.

I can’t help much if you’re in the darker category other than to urge you if you’re locked down with an abuser to get out. I know it isn’t easy, especially now, and I speak from experience. But please try. Please. You don’t deserve what’s happening to you.

And for the rest of us—those sleeping 14 hours, or watching Cowboy Bebop on an endless loop or re-reading their Jane Austen collection for the ninth time or whatever—I would urge you to have some patience with yourself, show some kindness to yourself. You are going through a period of (literally!) unprecedented stress right now. Unprecedented! Cut yourself some slack. Adjusting to such stress is not something you can do by flipping a switch. If you need to take it slow, take it slow. After all, if you force yourself beyond your limits and snap, you’ll be no good to anybody, especially yourself.

And then, set yourself reasonable goals. This won’t last forever (there; I fell into a cliche, but it’s true), and keeping that in mind will help. You can’t control it, so deal with the stuff you can. Cook. Shower. Eat regularly. Brush your teeth. Sleep regularly. I’ve worked from home a lot in my career, and it’s the little regular things that keep you going, believe it or not. Getting up in the morning. Having breakfast. Showering. Lunch. A break in the afternoon. If you need a nap to recharge, then take a damn nap. There’s a pandemic on, FFS; no one is going to begrudge you a 30 minute break. Bring in the mail. Empty the trash. Walk the dog. Feed the cat.

Anchor yourself in these mundane but very real tasks, because they are stuff of life, the tiny threads that can help hold you grounded to the world, help prevent you from coming untethered. Life is a series of moments, many of them mundane, almost all of them completely unrelated to anything to do with the virus. So do those, and think about them while you’re doing them. Yup, I know it sounds silly, but it’ll help.

This is not profound. This is not the universe in a grain of sand, nor am I the Dalai Lama. This is a time of huge fear and transition and stress, and I am a terribly right-brain, rational person. But it seems to me your dog needs someone who is worried more about feeding her, and your lawn needs to be mowed, and isn’t it time you vacuumed because that carpet is starting to make that awful crunching noise, don’t you think? I mean, yuck, right? And maybe in the mundane, you can find a bit less stress, and a bit more peace.

The quiet

(Image courtesy of CrossPointMinistry.com)

Today I was noticing the quiet.

I have unusually acute hearing. When I was last officially tested in my teens, my dad was still in the Navy and they used one of those soundproof booths where you face the wall, put headphones on you, and have you raise and lower a finger when you hear and stop hearing a sound. My hearing was charted as above average in most ranges and, literally, off the charts in some frequencies. That is, I was hearing sounds before you were supposed to be able to at certain frequencies. And at other frequencies I could hear sounds humans normally couldn’t. Not a dog levels, of course not, but an unusually broad range, and unusually acute through that range.

Mostly, this is an annoyance. It makes it hard to hard to sleep. It makes concentrating difficult, especially during tests. I’ve (unfortunately) passed it on to my daughter, who had to be tested for her dyslexia in a room lit by natural light because the humming of the fluorescents distracted her. I tend to speak so softly sometimes people say I “mumble.” Warning sounds and signals cause my actual physical pain. And so on.

Now sure, this has changed over the years. For one, loud music has dulled my hearing somewhat over time. And of course I’ve learned to live with it. Sami and the kids encouraged me to speak up. You can’t mumble in meetings if you want to be heard. You learn how to deal with ambient noise if you want to sleep. The invention of the Walkman and later things like the iPod was a godsend. But a world filled with a monstrous amount of noise pollution is kind of tough on those of us—for I’m sure I’m hardly alone in this—who have sensitive hearing.

And now, everyone’s quarantined-in-place.

Have you noticed the quiet? The streets are almost empty. Planes are hardly flying. Fewer buses, fewer cars, fewer trucks. Fewer people driving. No teens driving around in big trucks with spinning rims, windows down, blasting out their favorite music turned up to 11. (“Why do they do that, Dad?” Joseph asked me once. “Some of them are just being jerks, honey,” I said. “But some of them just love their music and are wanted to share their joy.”) It’s a lot quieter. Everywhere.

I didn’t really notice that until I went out today to pick up some meds and continue my (still fruitless) effort to buy more eggs. Sure, I had been turning the sound down on my headphones and small speaker that I listen to music on, but I hadn’t been thinking about it consciously. It was when I got into my car for the first time today and my iPhone automatically connected and the next song on my playlist queued up and I actually winced that it made me think.

We all know what it’s like to have been listening to music on the freeway and then the next time we get in the car to have to turn it down. But this wasn’t one of those “turn it down a couple of notches” type deals; I had to cut it in half. I had to turn it from 18 to 9. And even 18 is low for my car. I know these numbers mean nothing, of course, but I usually listen to music with the volume set to 20, sometimes up to 24 depending on road noise, whether it’s raining, or whatever. This would be wimpy by a head-banging metalhead with leather ears, who would crank it to 35 or more on my system. But even so, driving down the freeway on an ordinary day, I would find anything below 16 essentially inaudible.

Today I couldn’t bear to set it above 10. 12 actually hurt my ears.

It’s the quiet, you see. I’ve gotten used to the quiet. To quiet streets, quiet skies, a quiet house. Quiet music on my headphones, quieter shows on my speakers, a lower volume of life. Living in a quieter world. Even the dogs in the neighborhood seem quieter, seem to be barking less. It’s as if my—as if our—collective ears have unclenched from the ambient noise and are able to hear soft voices easier than shouts again.

In amidst the loneliness and fear and incompetence and panic-buying and worry, some amazing things are going on around us. Today, I noticed the quiet. Maybe you noticed it, too. And if you didn’t, maybe now you can, and it will give you a little boost during this tough time.

We’re not so distant as you think

“Social distancing” doesn’t have to mean actual distancing
(photo courtesy of Times of India)

As a rule, I’m a pretty upbeat, happy person. You might not get that impression from reading my blog posts, in which I tend to rant, but it’s true. My friends and family sometimes describe me as a goof, or a dork. I like to joke. I like to deal with difficult situations with humor, defuse tension with comedy. That’s the way I am.

Here in my blog, you’ll see my more serious side, even my angry side, some of my frustrations. Right now, when the world—I mean, jeez, the world!—is facing a deadly pandemic, I want to share more of my upbeat side in the hopes it’ll help.

People talk a lot about how technology atomizes society, how it creates a distance between people. How Millennials are always on their phones instead of talking to each other. How couples go out to dinner and are checking their Twitter feeds instead chatting about their day. How offices are filled with folks with headphones on instead of chatting with each other at the water cooler. And so on. I personally think this is overstated, but I understand the fears.

Technology atomizing society—in the 50s

Now we’re in a situation where not only are people needing to be careful with their physical contacts, but are actually being urged by government entities to engage in “social distancing.” This can be difficult if you’re like me, and a lot of your loved ones—your family, your friends, your family of choice—are hundreds or even thousands of miles away. I’d like to hunker down with my beloveds, but they live in San Francisco and Oakland and Olympia and LA and New England and Georgia and Maryland and Colorado and Montana and England and Vallejo and Santa Cruz and Lake Charles and all kinds of other places not exactly two streets over.

But you know what? We have cell phones with video capability. We have Skype and FaceTime and Zoom and Webex. We have Kik and Google Hangouts and FaceBook Messenger and WhatsApp. We have blogs and FaceBook and Twitter and Twitch and Instagram. We have MMORPGs and online DnD via Roll20 and virtual bridge and chess and backgammon and every other virtual interactive game you can imagine. I played Gō with a guy who lives on the shore of Lake Baikul, for the love of Pete! The very technology that everyone has complained has been atomizing and isolating us can be used to help us stay in contact, can be used to draw us closer together.

Yes, we are in a crisis. People are out there hoarding paper towels, TP, and vegetables (what they’ll do in three weeks with 200 rotting onions and potatoes I don’t know). But we don’t have to be isolated completely just because we’re forced to be isolated physically. Gather together around our technological fire with me and warm yourselves. Share our collective company through this amazing miracle we have wrought together. It is ours to share and celebrate. So let’s do so.

Let’s share it. Together. Because that’s how we survive.

Capitalism and the beer virus

Image courtesy of NewFrame

For several years I’ve been making the point that capitalism is amoral. Not from a Marxist, “evil, evil!” PoV, but merely as an opening observation to help explain why so many rich people (and the politicians who serve them) are evil. I want to be clear that I mean capitalism is not immoral, but amoral. Capitalism has no moral code, good or bad. It is solely about the accumulation of capital, ie money. You can go about that in moral or immoral ways, but the system itself has no moral code. We—the human beings using the system—have to impose that. (Side note: Communism is the same.)

The weakness of that kind of system is when a person or group of people become rich, they become powerful. And if they are evil/immoral, the system becomes immoral, and good/moral people are screwed. Why bring this up (again) now? The pandemic, which I call the beer virus. Yes, it’s a bad joke, but it’s my nature to joke about serious things, and in this case the topic is, quite literally deadly serious, and all the more reason to joke.

At times of crisis, the flaws and strengths of any system (and it’s leaders) are magnified. Right now the leaders of our country are selfish, immoral, power-hungry Republicans. And they are reacting in demonstrably evil, selfish, immoral ways. They have demonstrated this in multiple areas, more happening every day, but for me the classic and most telling is the response of the Federal Reserve Bank, or “the Fed”.

For years progressives have proposed various programs Republicans & “moderate” Dems have insist are “too expensive”. Better healthcare coverage. More generous care for the elderly, poor, homeless, & jobless. Etc. The programs have always been deemed “too expensive.” “Where will we get the money?” “We can’t possibly afford those programs.” “We have too much debt already!” And other similar excuses. (Which always fall by the wayside when they need to finance another war, but let’s set that aside.)

Currently, of course, the world is experiencing a pandemic. China, where it began, has a bizarre mix of a Confucian, authoritarian, pseudo-capitalist system. They are making progress in fighting back the disease. We on the other hand are the most capitalist country in the world, with the most capitalist-friendly government in 100 years (since just before the depression, ironically). And in our response, we’re flailing. Badly.

At first, Trump, his Administration, the Republicans, and his backers on Fox News declared the pandemic a hoax and a plot to throw the election to the Democrats, and the federal government did nothing. Until the stock market dropped a huge amount in a few days. Then the government took action. Not when people were dying in China; of course not. Not when deaths started occurring in Europe. Not even when they started happening here. No; they were bestirred when plutocrats and oligarchs started seeing their funds shrinking. And what did they do?

Trump announced several absurd measures (such as closing the boarders to people traveling from Europe; a textbook case of “closing the barn door after the horses have escaped”), including a tax cut. In other words, he wants a monetary solution to a health crisis. As if you went to the doctor’s office for a measles vaccine and he gave you a Starbucks gift card.

The Fed, meanwhile, promised to pump $1.5 trillion into the economy to bolster the stock market. Again, during a health crisis. People are having to stay home from work, yes. They are being forced to stay home, actually. Will this money help them? Um, no. Again, this is like you going to your boss and saying, “Boss, I need money to tide me over for the next three weeks,” and her saying, “I’m sorry, Nahrain, but the Fed decided to give that money to your bank to keep them afloat instead.” I mean, nice the bank’s still afloat, but doesn’t help you too much in paying the electric bill or buying bread at the grocery store.

So to repeat: Rather than address a health issue with health measures, Trump did so with money. And while insisting we can’t afford to help the sick, the poor, the jobless, and the elderly because “we don’t have the money,” we somehow found $1.5 trillion for the stock market. When the choice came down to helping your elderly mom, or your granny, or your sick cousin, or your brother-in-law with the missing leg who’s homeless because of PTSD after his six tours in Iraq, Trump and the Republicans decided the stock market needed it more.

And the stock market went down the next day anyway.

And this is what happens under a capitalist system. And how it infects and warps everything. It puts thoughts of money first, and of people last. By design. It’s there on the tin: “Capitalism”. “Capital”, ie money, is right there on the label. Sorry to bang on this so hard, but right now we are seeing an extremely stark example of exactly what this kind of amoral system, when left in the hands of immoral, selfish, evil people, can lead to.

Trump and the Republicans have shown the ugliest side of capitalism. They have shown their preference when it comes down to it, down to the basics: Your family, or the stock market. It’s clear by how he’s panicking over perception (instead of the citizens of the country) that Trump is petrified over how people are thinking about his and the Republicans choosing stocks over people.

So ask yourself: Who do you want to live through the next few weeks: Your mom? Or the stock market? I know what my choice is.

Nervous Male Managers

For months I’ve seen a lot of media pointing to the statistic below, almost always in alarm, with the subtext of “How can we expect these poor nervous men to do their jobs?” And my first though is always the same: “Good; let’s go for 100%”

There’s a few things here to consider about these poor nervous men.

First, it’s a *good* thing they’re nervous, not a bad one. It means when they’re dealing with women, either in groups or 1-1, they’re *considering their behavior*. And when the problems happen is when guys thoughtlessly assume their behavior is *just fine*. When they think “Of *course* I’m not doing anything wrong! I’m a feminist! I’m a good guy! WTF are you talking about?” If they’re watching their own behavior, they’re a lot less likely to behave inappropriately.

That’s why I say we should go for 100%, and why I don’t get why the media always cites this stat as if it were bad. It’s *good*. Making managers more self-conscious is *a good thing*. So let’s see more of it!

Second, they’re managers, not delicate, emotionally fragile kindergarteners. They’re not teen boys worrying about how to ask someone out on their first date. Nor are they gay teens dealing with the agonies of coming out. These are grown men in a position of authority in business. Some of them have partners at home, kids, mortgages, bills to pay. Heavy work responsibilities. Are we really worrying about *making them “nervous” because they have to leave their office door *open* rather than closed for their weekly 1-1 with Jane? Seriously? Get over it.

Finally, have some perspective. When you’re marching out to your car in the middle of a dark parking garage one January night, consider Jane trying to do the same thing. Jane is clutching her keys in her fist as a weapon. Maybe her other hand is in her bag, finger on the trigger of some pepper spray. Or maybe she waited to leave until Sarah could walk with her. Or she car pooled so she wouldn’t have to be alone in a dark parking garage at night. I assure you Jane is way more than “nervous” about being assaulted—possibly by a co-worker!—than Joe Manager is about meeting with Jane tomorrow 1-1.

I just mention this because yesterday I again saw this 60% figure mentioned as if it were some horrible thing and I was disgusted. I’ve been a manager. And in my area of tech, tech writing, I work with a lot of women. I’ve had far more women managers than men. I’ve had more women reporting to me than men. So if you’re a man with women reporting to you and you’re “nervous”? Good! Use it as an goad to examine your behavior and make adjustments. Ask your direct reports if they have any suggestings. And above all FFS quit whining.


Sketch of a Moment

Sometimes an image flashes just for a moment, a lucky instant, and gets captured there in your mind. Mostly not, mostly they float away, but sometimes the beauty that is all around us, unnoticed usually, hits us suddenly, is noticed, and is remembered.

She was just six, maybe, or seven, and I was pulling over to get the mail. She lives down the block; her name is Zoe and she’s a delight. I see her in front of her house when the evenings are fine, with her mother, drawing on the sidewalk with chalk or being pushed on her swing. My puppies love her, and I try hard to show a level of interest that’s not too creepy; hard in a middle-aged man in these suspicious times.

And now there was Zoe, moving towards the street! I’m driving! Uh oh! And snap, a moment:

I look over, concentrating hard, because I don’t want to hit her. But she’s not running into the street; she stands, one foot on the curb, right hand outstretched, left hand back for balance, fiercely focused on something just in front of her, not moving.

They float there, three shimmering, translucent spheres, almost invisible, hanging in the air. Zoe’s mom, a big smile on her face, stands with the big bubble paddle still extended and dripping on the sidewalk, watching Her Girl trying to pop the bubbles before they do it of themselves.

The moment is frozen in my mind; just a moment, ordinary and beautiful. The bubbles glittering in the setting sun; her mom’s smile; her intent expression and outstretched hand; my worry turning into pleasure. Only a moment.

My mind is already trying to turn it into a picture, wishing I could draw, or paint. Wishing I could freeze time like a speedster superhero like the Flash or Quicksilver so I could whip out my phone and take a picture. Wishing I had the drawing talent of my friends like Paul or Becky and could take the image in my head and set it down on paper, unburdened by my nerve damage and shaky, poorly-coordinated hands.

All I have is words. Words to convey to you her brown-blonde hair frozen as she moves towards those three bubbles hanging in the air, stops on the curb, weight held on that one front foot as she reaches forward towards the shimmering bubbles. The tables of the two observers on either side: Her mom who initiated the moment, and the lucky man who got to observe it my merest chance and bring it to you, whoever you are, wherever you are, and let you fold it into your mind.

It’s not a painting, or a drawing; it’s my sketch, in words. I hope you liked it.

An election case in point


Well, it wasn’t a blue wave, but it wasn’t a total flop, either. This mid-term election of 2018 restored a tiny bit of balance to the political terrain of the country, with Democrats taking back the U.S. House and some Governorships (I’m particularly pleased by Kansas rejecting the vote-suppressing Breitbart jerk-weed), but Republicans keeping the Senate, other Governorships, and of course lots and lots of members of the court.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about a very, very minor but critical wave that I think has turned during this election: The progressive wave.

(Yeah, yeah; I know it sounds hopelessly vainglorious. Sorry about that.)

Lots of folks—I hope—will be talking about the large (but still IMO insufficient; we have to keep fighting until it’s more than 218!) numbers of women going to the House this year; more than 100. And that’s awesome. But the one I want to focus on is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, just elected as the representative for New York State’s 14th Congressional district.


Why make a hoorah about Ms. Ocasio-Cortez? Well, she’s the youngest woman ever elected to congress, for one. She’s Hispanic, for another. But for me the biggest issue is she’s an unrepentant, in-your-face, vocal progressive. She even has the juevos to call herself an American Socialist, in the mold of Bernie Sanders.

Aside: An “American Socialist” is not someone who advocates total statewide socialism, but rather a mixed system more in the European model. Think Sweden. I will continue to call her a progressive because that’s what I call myself, and because her positions are so close to mine. But if you prefer to think of her and me as “American Socialists”, go ahead. But do not think of either one of us as “socialists” in the mold of Stalin, because that is a canard designed solely to denigrate.

That’s significant all by itself, of course. Because as you might imagine, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez took no end of abuse for her positions from the right-wing media, right-wing politicians, and plenty of sneering, inside-the-beltway and NorthEastern media outlets as well.

The “common wisdom” with this latter group, which has ruled the Democratic Party since the Clinton years, is that you simply can’t win by being too liberal. “New Democrats,” “Neo-liberals,” the folks that used to make up the old “Democratic Leadership Council”…it is an article of faith with them that the progressive base is a bunch of unruly, long-haired, wild-eyed hippies who don’t understand how politics really works, who propose totally nutty ideas, and who don’t have the slightest chance of winning. Only the “adults”—i.e. themselves—understand the “game” of politics, know how to play it, and know how to win.

Of course, the positions of the dirty hippies—higher minimum wage, better healthcare coverage, legal marijuana; that tax cuts for the rich increase the deficit and the debt and don’t help anyone but the rich; that global warming is a catastrophic problem; that tearing down regulation on the financial industry will lead to serious trouble (remember 2008?); etc—have been shown to be right over and over again.

But that hasn’t mattered. “Mainstream” Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer and Chuck Shumer and their ilk (and yes Barack Obama and very much Hillary Clinton) have spent decades making fun of the progressive base. Have colluded with the mainstream press at “hippie bashing,” a favorite Washington D.C. sport. Being right apparently doesn’t matter when you’re on the left (a topic I’ve touched on previously).

Which brings us back to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. She espouses a lot of classic progressive positions from which the “moderate” Democratic Party leadership recoils, and touts them proudly: Tuition-free college; transitioning to renewable energy; single-payer healthcare. Positions that many Americans support, and are only “radical” to Republicans, Democratic politicians, and the mainstream press. (Also on the list: Gun control, and raising the minimum wage.) But Common Wisdom demands you not mention such heretical notions during your campaign, and glory above, Ocasio-Cortez championed them. She highlighted them.

And by doing so, in the face of a total lack of support by the party, she booted out a 10 term incumbent and entrenched party apparatchik who had the support of all the Democratic elected officials in the state, just about. She was outspent by 18-1. The Democratic establishment did all but publicly sneer at her. And not only did she win, she crushed her opponent by 15 points. A 10 term incumbent.

Ocasio-Cortez didn’t have a Wikipedia page until after her primary victory. She was basically ignored by the press. No money? You’re a full-throated progressive? Must be a loser!

Well, now that loser is going to DC.

And this is why I’m talking about Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. She is the acid test for the proposition that people don’t want “real” progressives, they want moderates. That people don’t want anyone young, don’t want women, don’t want people of color. That Democrats should only offer up bland, middle-of-the-road white guys who are essentially Rockefeller Republicans because no one will ever vote for a real progressive.

Guess what, Democratic “leadership”? We will. And we did. And now some of them are going to Washington to hopefully kick some of your entrenched waffled butts into gear. Because we have had more than enough of being condescended to, being sneered at, and being told we were “too leftist”. We’re winning, we’re going to keep winning, and you better get used to it.

Media Framing

When folks talk about how important it is to keep an eye on how media “frames” the news, I can understand people’s eyes glazing over. But let me present a good example here, and maybe it’ll be both clearer, and unsoporific. Consider this article from Wired about high tech contributions: https://www.wired.com/story/tech-workers-overwhelmingly-support-democrats/
What’s the headline lead you to believe? If you’re me, it’s that tech folks spend the majority of their contributions on Democrats, right? “Overwhelmingly” would imply a *huge* proportion. But look at the chart below.
Screen Shot 2018-10-27 at 1.26.56 PM
What’s the actual breakdown? Tech folks spend 1% of their contributions on Republican candidates/causes, 9% on company PACs (which is a whole different post), and 23% on Democrats. So yes, 23% is “overwhelmingly” greater than 1%, sure. But the thing that genuinely surprised me was we spend 67% on non-partisan groups.
67% is a huge amount, nearly 3 times what is spent on Democrats and far more than all other categories combined. And *that* is the real piece of news here. A much more accurate, less deceptive headline would be “Tech Workers Overwhelmingly Support Non-Partisan Causes.” That’s the actual news here.
Is it a surprise that tech people vote for Democrats? No, of course not. So why trumpet it? Why to throw fuel on the partisanship fire and sell more magazines, obviously. Highlighting the findings differently wouldn’t cause that frisson of anger in Republican readers that drives clicks.
And the thing is, IMO the chart shows you how tech workers think better than, “They’re all Democrats!”, which is what the headline implies. We’re not all Democrats. We may be massively progressive—I believe we are—but not to the point where we think our money is best spent by a party that is only nominally progressive and is entirely too close to Wall St., too hawkish, too wimpy to fight for the causes we believe are important.
What would be far more interesting, WIRED, would be if you broke down that other 67% and showed just which non-partisan groups tech workers contributed to. Because that would show what we care about, and that might even show the hidebound Democratic Party what they might actually want to spend their time and efforts on if they want to attract tech workers.
This is IMO deceptive news framing in action, and it happens all the time. (And I know for a fact that reporters are frequently driven crazy by headline writers, who are a different group entirely.)
Do better, media. The friggin’ country is at stake.

Why Pro-choice/Pro-life will never see eye-to-eye

Image courtesy of Mashable

For a long time, I totally didn’t understand the anti-abortion folks.  Yes, they believe a fetus is a person, but the underlying assumption that women can’t be trusted to make this decision, or that women cavilierly just walk into a clinic and use abortion as birth control, just sickened me, honestly.  How could a rational person actually believe that?

And then I realized that it’s because they believe a fetus is a person. I know you know that, but let me break it down a bit.

I think pro-choice people make a big mistake in how they frame the issue.  “It’s about women’s health!” they say.  “The health of the mother!  Do you want to force a woman to bear the child of a rape, or incest, or that might kill her?”  All those arguments make perfect sense to me, but they’re falling on deaf ears.   Because from the moment it is created, the fetus is a person.  Don’t you see?  It a human being, with rights and privileges.  And an abortion is, literally, murder.

So arguing that they shouldn’t force their beliefs on you strikes these folks as absurd; this is murder.   Surely murder is one of the few areas where the rights of the state to enforce laws over-rides everything else?  This is not (as Rachel Maddow puts it) “Wanting the government to regulate every woman’s uterus;” this is merely a logical extension of the government acting against a heinous crime, i.e. murder.

In this context, Roe v. Wade is immaterial; this is murder.  Murder shouldn’t be allowed, period.  Saying that if you support capital punishment but are against abortion is immaterial to these folks; capital punishment is the rightous punishment of the state for committed crimes.  Abortion is murder, and shouldn’t be allowed.  And any danger to the mother, or forcing her to carry the child of rape, or incest?  It’s completely beside the point; killing that fetus is murder, so if a woman has to suffer to save that life, so be it.  If the woman’s life is at risk to carry that pregnancy to term, that’s a risk they should be willing to take to save a life.  That microscopic multi-celled creature is a personto these people, and aborting it is murder, and murder is evil.  Period, end of discussion.  Do you see?

And when you toss in that a good percentage of these folks believe that any sex not focused on procreation, any sex that is engaged in for pleasure only, is genuinely evil, well, it’s an easy call for them.  (And clearly if non-procreative sex is evil, any woman who engages in it is clearly a whore, and deserves what she gets.  I don’t think all anti-abortion folks think that, but I bet plenty of them do.)

Now as we saw in Mississippi in 2012, these folks are not even a majority of the population in one of the reddest states in the country.  But they’re a loud minority, and one which is never going to change their point of view, and which is (as we seen with the heinous murders of abortion doctors) very dangerous.  I don’t know how to fix the problem, but I do know two things:  we’ll never see eye-to-eye with them, and arguing about “women’s health” as a way to change their minds is simply going to fall on deaf ears.  We need to start thinking outside the box.

Yeah, it’s a bummer of a post; it’s a bummer time for our country these days.  I’ll try to be more cheerful with the next one.