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Just Between Strangers

musings tossed into the black void of cyberspace...

Updated: 2017-09-17T06:28:16.048-04:00


It all goes to hell starting tomorrow


Ok, two months without a post, but barely a day without a freak-out. This heap of appointments just keeps getting worse -- who thought that even an Education Secretary could feel like a threat to the future of the nation?!? I can hardly write about it, but I thought maybe I'd feel better if I did a blog dump of everything that's been wiring me up, so here it is. Bad news about the Trump era:Policy hints, competence Remember that call with the leader of Taiwan that threatened to upend decades of diplomacy with China? Trump Team Planned Call With President Of Taiwan For Weeks. Not just a novice mistake -- part of a plan...Congressional Republicans sucker punch American steel workers, scrapping 'Buy America' provision -- sorry, working class!Trump Receiving Intelligence Briefings Just Once A Week. He prefers his briefs only a page long too, with bullet points. This job is just too hard...Trump To Nominate Far Right Lawyer David Friedman As Israeli AmbassadorTrump Meets With Billionaire Donor David Koch At Mar-A-Lago -- let's see what Voldemort can add...Bush EPA Chief Slams Trump's Pick As 'Disdainful Of The Agency'. On the other hand, Here Are All the Climate Deniers and Oil Flacks Who Love Trump’s EPA Pick. Should be great.Trump’s Pick for Interior Secretary Was Caught in “Pattern of Fraud” at SEAL Team 6Trump Prepping Ominous Moves to Gut US Intel CapacityMcConnell Not Following Confirmation Process He Demanded From Reid In '09 -- who cares about ethics anyway? Apparently some Senators agree: things are different for Republicans.No secret safe with Trump when it might interest Putin? Hall of MirrorsGet Health Insurance Through Your Employer? ACA Repeal Will Affect You, Too -- made more overt here. In a new interview, Trump reveals he has no idea what’s going on with Obamacare -- this stuff is easy, right? get 'er done!Trump's (and Putin's) Plan to Dissolve the EU and NATO. -- alliances, peaceful cooperative structures, pffft.Here's a summary of Trump's nominees and their (un)fitness for their offices. waah.Betsy DeVos was asked a basic question about education policy — and couldn’t answer -- but honestly, the ones she DID answer were even worse.Perry Didn't Fully Understand Role Of Energy Secretary At First -- not just promoting sales of US oil; there's all that nuclear weaponry to keep an eye on...Only speculation, but compelling: Maybe the Answer Is That He Can't Divest (because his finances are upside down). Related: All of Donald Trump’s known conflicts of interest in one placeHow the fight against “normalizing” the Trump presidency could totally backfireDonald Trump probably won’t cancel elections, but he could — and is relatively likely to — oversee a sweeping rollback of voting rights. His administration may not throw journalists in jail, but it could easily step up surveillance of domestic protesters. His appointees may not entrench a permanent oligarchy, but it could still — for millions of people in America — reduce the willingness and ability to participate in public life to zero. These wouldn’t flout the law; they’d be under color of it and even in concert with it. But they would, nonetheless, be a tragedy for democracy.Edited to add this terrifying list of proposed structural and funding changes to government: Trump team prepares dramatic cuts to follow a Heritage Foundation blueprint.The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely. Holy cow. Flashes of fascism Trump Surrogate's Jaw-Dropping Claim: 'No Such Thing' As Facts Anymore OUCHTrump Muses That Flag Burning Should Result In Jail Time, Loss Of Citizenship -- citizenship at the pleasure of your ruler...Trump Plans To[...]

This Week in Trump Outrages


You honestly can't make this stuff up -- Trump is well into the Orwellian approach to appointments made so popular during the Reagan years, with lots of people put into agencies whose basic missions they hate. There may be a little sanity injected on the foreign affairs fronts, but domestically, it's all rape and pillage the nation for the banksters and oligarchs, stomp civil liberties for increased profits. Hoo-hah. Most obvious crime, putting Jeff Sessions in as Attorney General, a man considered too racist to be a federal judge, but apparently just right to enforce federal laws on civil rights and all the rest. Sessions also called the American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP “communist-inspired”...Perfect for the Trumpian paranoia world. He's also been characterized as amnesty's worst enemy, so he should be in good position when the interments deportations begin... Then there's presumptive National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who is considered [...]

Looks like it might be time to dust this thing off


I think I started this blog because of frustrations screaming to get out, and I can tell that a Trump Presidency (oy) is going to send me into outrage overload again. But now with some serious fear thrown in. So I think I might as well face up to that and get myself back into the habit of venting here rather than spraying my heartache all over the place by email. Dunno, will see... Things that are scaring me this week:
  • The 14 Features of Eternal Fascism -- it's not hyperbole; it's a degree of parallel that should make us take notice. And be vigilant.

    Related: How quickly the system can be upended:

    That's maybe the scariest prospect of all.

  • Donald Trump’s Transition Team, Or Lack Thereof, Is Causing Real Panic I'm sympathetic to the fact that they ran a small-staff campaign, and that they didn't think they were going to win. But they need to be ready to RUN A WHOLE COUNTRY in a couple of months, so they can't act like angry babies with a shiny toy or we'll end up with a country run by incompetents. As it is, the national security people want nothing to do with Trump (this just the latest; they seem unable to find anybody with experience who will say yes). That leaves some terrible prospects for evil + incompetence. Plus, nobody talking to most of the departments that need staffing, Trump working with no briefings, etc.

  • Here's one member of Congress willing to tell it like it is -- but will anybody listen? I mean, we're already at the point where a new House UnAmerican Activities Committee has been suggested, and the media is still covering the lovable preparations for a transfer of power.

To ten years


(with Spouse, that is, not this dusty rag...)
It is something — it can be everything — to have found a fellow bird with whom you can sit among the rafters while the drinking and boasting and reciting and fighting go on below.
– Wallace Stegner
(via A Mindful Life, many years ago)

Quote of the era


Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
― Isaac Asimov
(via MetaFilter)

Belated Halloween tribute


Did my first-ever box costume this year for Speck, who wanted to go as an iPod. It came out swimmingly, although unfortunately a school costume parade the day before involved beating the thing up until substantial surgery was required before Halloween night itself, to some detriment. I'm trying to be a big person about that...


And yes, we hand-picked all the apps and glued them on -- top and bottom rows are just standard system icons, but we made sure to include a couple of the games that we play together, including Happy Street (mostly my obsession at this point) and Carcassone, which we often play at Starbucks over a pumpkin bread . . .

Quote of the day/season


It is not our job to remain whole.
We came to lose our leaves
Like the trees, and be born again,
Drawing up from the great roots.
- Robert Bly
(via whiskey river)

Quote of the day (Thanks, I Needed That edition)


(image) Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
–The Talmud
(via A Mindful Life)

Never give up


A nice post (short, go read it) in response to the recent revelations about our increasingly intrusive "security" establishment. The take-home quote for me is this one:
Things can still get better. Disappointment is the price of wanting a better world. You need to stop being surprised that no-one else is fighting for it, and start being surprised you’re not doing more.
I'm always surprised (frustrated?) to not be doing more, and I think I'm willing to pay the outrage-exhaustion tax to keep myself in the game. Those who care need to fight.

Privatizing the costs of being a crappy employer


Glad to see California take on Wal-Mart for paying their employees so badly that most of them need public assistance to get up to subsistance living -- that is, for outsourcing their healthcare and some of their wages to the public. I hope that people fighting the arrival of these creeps in their communities bring up the point that while they may provide low-cost shopping, they do it at the cost of impoverishing their employees and the cities where they work.

Somebody had a birthday...


...and there was an actual brunch with Long Unseen friends! and there was great rejoicing.

Thanks to D for always remembering to take pictures, and managing it so well.

Haiku! in major media!


Just happened to catch this story which was part of this morning's Morning Edition -- perhaps the recent phenomenon of NYTimes "haiku" spurred it, or maybe just the annual ritual of appreciating the cherry blossoms in DC. Still, they actually involved members of the Haiku Society of America, so there was more substance than mere syllable-counting to the final selection -- progress!

(image) cherry blossom rain
sound of a love song passes
with the traffic
— Dawn Apanius
(Maybe next time they could invite the HSA membership to contribute as well as judge, but perhaps that is too much to hope.)

Quote of the day


Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
- T. S. Eliot
journal of a nobody
(via whiskey river)

We live in a post-feminist era


HAHAHAHAHAHA! I'd like to say this surprised me, but it doesn't, other than that he would say it so openly. Interior life? Personal agency? feh! You ladies just brighten up the room!

To Speck at 5 years


>Well, it seems that the gaps between letters are getting longer, but it could be that this last one was just delayed by our exhaustion by your being 4. That was a tough year for us – you got more complicated and capable at every turn, but also found every restriction an outrage, were prone to outbursts/assaults fueled by either anger or shame, and were not yet capable of reining in your sometimes biting and kicking-laced tantrums. Your parents managed to weather this, but honestly we often weren't sure we would. Then, the approach of 5 seemed to bring a radical sea change. Suddenly you had periods of affection and telling us you loved us (even when we were pesky, hah); suddenly you were offering to help get dinner on the table, were taking in stride the occasional loss at a game, suddenly you decided you wanted a number of signs of being a Big Girl, from doing away with diapers to blow-drying your hair before sleep to requesting a change from crib quilts to full-sized bedding. You no longer insist on being carried places that are reasonable walking distance, you voluntarily hold hands... we're honestly a little overwhelmed by the number of novelties in the last two months!! Besides the roller coaster of temperment, of course, the last year has brought many other changes. You ask much more complicated questions (replacing "why?" with investigations into how things work and what complicated words mean),you started treating the cats as toys (carrying them around and tucking them under blankets), you became a real reader (although you still prefer sitting next to us while we read a picture or chapter book aloud). You've become an avid gum chewer, taking Mom's occasional mint refreshment to depths of fruity torture. You went through a period of needing ever more arcane tucking of the blankets around your ankles, and then thankfully did away with the whole business overnight (in response to our pleas). The last of your gently mispronounced words has vanished (we don't really remember when), and I think you can now write all your letters and some approximation of all of your numbers. You can swim a few feet unsupported and like to go deep in the pool, but you're also done for a while with lessons at the Y; you climbed your first tree this summer, and have finally realized what fun a trike can be. And you're taking your first ever long trip with a grandparent (away from your parents), and seem to be viewing it as an adventure. Where does all of this leave us? Well, we're wallowing in the enjoyment of time spent with a companionable and affectionate daughter. We love your humor and your ever more curious mind. We're excited about the school you'll be attending in the fall, and a little impatient with the many months it will take before we get there (although a new preschool teacher may help with the interim). We're looking forward to sharing some vacation fun this summer, and maybe even getting to relax a little during it. And we're clearly prepared for the notion that nothing is predictable except change, and hope we can do our best to make it all be for the better.[...]

Quote of the day


Happiness is accepting and choosing life, not just submitting grudgingly to it. It comes when we choose to be who we are; to be ourselves, at this present moment of our lives; we choose life as it is, with all its joys, pain, and conflicts. Happiness is living and seeking the truth, together with others in community, and assuming responsibility for our lives and the lives of others. It is accepting the fact that we are not infinite but can enter into a personal relationship with the Infinite, discovering the universal truth and justice that transcends all cultures: each person is unique and sacred. We are not just seeking to be what others want us to be or to conform to the expectations of family, friends, or local ways of being. We have chosen to be who we are, with all that is beautiful and broken in us. We do not slip away from life and live in a world of illusions, dreams, or nightmares. We become present to reality and to life so that we are free to live according to our personal conscience, our sacred sanctuary, where love resides within us and we see others as they are in the depth of their being. We are not letting the light of life within us be crushed, and we are not crushing it in others. On the contrary, all we want is for the light of others to shine.
- Jean Vanier
Essential Writings

In a Dark Time
(via whiskey river)

Sexism fatigue


Great post by Jezebel on the Acadamy Awards, the frustration with people who can't learn, and the insistence of every schmuck that feminists should spend all their time holding his precious little hand until he understands THE WAY THINGS ARE in even remedial terms.
As though they believe that if they can keep you occupied refuting their flimsy trump cards over and over forever, they can stave off any changes to the culture that keeps them on top.
Sometimes it feels like that. Often. I admire her unwillingness to throw up her hands.

(via a re-tweet by Medley)

A milestone in feminism


(image) Great piece here by Echidne on the 50th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique. A sort of review of the book and its place in the feminist slipstream, as well as the degree to which our issues have or haven't changed in the intervening years. Good writing, worth a read.

Presented without comment


"It’s not that conservative people are more fearful, it’s that fearful people are more conservative. People who are scared of novelty, uncertainty, people they don’t know, and things they don’t understand, are more supportive of policies that provide them with a sense of surety and security," McDermott said.
Brown University press release

Cured that right quick!


Was getting sad that this winter hadn't managed a little more... wintery-ness for Speck -- I mean, I left my jacket at home for much of yesterday!! -- until I read this post from Dooce. Man! did I hate freezing rain when I lived in St. Louis (the first/only place I ever experienced it). Budget 20 min. in the morning to chip a porthole in your windshield ice, and to break the door open; plan to inch the whole way to work, avoiding other drivers as much as possible, etc. Anyway, her account is a riot, worth a visit whether you need to commiserate from a frozen land or remind yourself why maybe a little thaw isn't so bad. She can sure do magic with words!

How my tribe thinks


Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has posted some thoughtful personal pieces about guns in the last week, which I found very thought-provoking and useful. They were based in an attempt to explain/define how somebody could accept the notion of gun rights while still feeling personally uncomfortable -- not morally, but rationally -- with the notion of widespread presence of guns in public life. I find that I relate very much to his viewpoint, and also find in his explorations the seeds of the reason that we find differences on this topic so difficult to bridge. His first piece is titled Speaking for My Tribe, and attempts to lay out how he views the issue and a bit on how he got there. More than this, I come from a culture where guns are not so much feared as alien, as I said. I don’t own one. I don’t think many people I know have one. It would scare me to have one in my home for a lot of reasons. Not least of which because I have two wonderful beyond belief little boys and accidents happen and I know that firearms in the home are most likely to kill their owners or their families. People have accidents. They get depressed. They get angry. This is one of many viewpoints that tend not to be expressed during gun debates, because it's more personal than dogmatic, but I agree that it's a not uncommon position. The second piece follows up discussion generated by the first, and is titled Guns Kill People.My friend Steve Clemons talks in the context of international relations of high-trust versus high-fear relations between states. ... I think something similar applies to civil society. Maybe everyone carries guns but everyone is deterred from firing them in anger because everyone else has a gun and someone will shoot back. But even if we buy that mass gun deterrence vision, that’s a high fear society, not one I want to live in. It’s also not a vision of freedom that I buy into or want to be a part of.This seems to me to get at the heart of the divide. Nobody wants everybody getting shot up by crazy people, but some "tribes" think that the obvious solution is deterrence through widespread arming of the population, while other tribes think that it's obvious to prevent the crazies from running wild or having access to guns. On the pay-walled PTM Prime site, I added this to Josh's analysis: I think you've hit on a really good metaphor here -- that "everybody should be armed" is really a Mutually Assured Destruction approach to public safety, and I'm not sure that's a way that I (or society) want(s) to live. But in that regard, the divide mirrors the Cold War divide about the relative merits of a big nuclear arsenal versus disarmament -- is it more important to deter a bombing or to prevent having so many that accidental launch (via mechanical failure or a crazed actor) becomes more and more likely? I don't think that anybody on either side really ever convinced the other, and it may be that this divide mirrors the Stern Father versus Nurturant Parent frames with which different segments of our culture approach the world. Which is frustrating to think about, but maybe helpful in accepting that there are integral differences at work that can't really be reconciled but can maybe still find some common ground.I personally find that the identification of this divide as one that's not susceptible to rational argument makes me feel a bit hopeless about progress. But perhaps those in the midst of negotiations (Biden??) can already recognize the two positions represented here and find some[...]

Turning outrage into sanity?


This bill seems a great idea to me -- it's a crime that a few small-minded state officials can virtually disenfranchise large swaths of the population on whim or through negligence. Here's hoping that the same energy that drove unexpectedly high turnout this fall will also create pressure to pass this one.

Failure of responsibility


A former journalist takes those colleagues to task for failing to cover climate change as the crisis it is.
In the face of this situation — as much as it pains me to say this — you are failing. Your so-called "objectivity," your bloodless impartiality, are nothing but a convenient excuse for what amounts to an inexcusable failure to tell the most urgent truth we've ever faced.
I sympathize that it's hard to create and sustain a sense of urgency -- crises like Katrina managed coverage for, what, a couple of months? -- but this is the lives of our kids, the future of our species, and time is running out. We *need* to get everybody scared and not take the focus off the issue for today's minor news; unfortunately, the business model of the press doesn't fit well with scaring and depressing everybody. Political leadership, anyone?

(via Medley)



(image) When I saw the Romney photos from the Red Cross, I thought about the inevitability of his emphasis on charities versus FEMA, but otherwise I sort of shrugged it off. Hearing that the entire thing was staged, and in fact wasted the time of real Red Cross personnel, rather turns my stomach. This campaign really knows no shame.

Arbitrary justice and online commerce


I do the majority of my shopping online. Thinking it's time for board games for Speck? to refill an obscure spice? track down that novel I just heard about? It all ends up on my Amazon wish-list (or directly in my Cart, waiting for critical mass), fueling a steady trickle of packages to my home.

(image) So I can only imagine my horror if I were to wake one day to find that my account had been completely wiped from existence! I think I would collapse on the floor -- not just because of the loss of the couple of Kindle books I have, but all that history and planning in my various lists, and where else would I even get half this stuff (one painful web search at a time)?? And to think that such an account termination could happen because of a foreseeable algorithmic misfire just adds to the chill in my bones.

This seems even worse when you consider the number of other accounts that you might have linked to your Amazon account, whether you use them to fund your Kickstarter contributions or record your audiobooks. A lifetime ban could be severely crippling.

I hope Amazon sorts out the kinks in their system and remembers that users (as reviewers and customers) are what has powered their success. We might be afraid to get too reliant on a resource that can so suddenly and pointlessly be pulled out from under us!