A Message I Wrote Tonight to Dev Davis, who Wants to be My Mayor, about Tough Love

Edit for context: Dev Davis wants more cops as part of her solution for homelessness – although saying that finding shelter for the homeless is a county problem.

This whole ‘tough love’ thing is based on some pretty shaky premises. Underneath it all, you are saying it’s a county problem, solved by county programs. Not your budget, and if the county falls short of helping these people then lets get some more cops to move them out.

Your assumption is that if the county safety net misses someone, they WANT TO BE HOMELESS. They want to live each day without running water, or shelter, a good meal, or even the protection of the police you want more of to protect US from THEM. They must not want access to health care. So your “love” is to kick them around until… what? What even is your ideal outcome?

The entire idea that withholding services from people who have NOTHING will make things better is laughable.

Go down to the river, Dev. Meet those people. Children, elderly, purple-heart vets. Tell them to their faces about your tough love.

1

Donald Trump Accepts the Presidency of Ukraine

First of all, I’d like to say — and you know who I’m talking to — that elections should always have tanks. They’re so cool! And Black Lives matters doesn’t drive tanks. And if you defund the police they won’t have tanks either.

But Ukraine is a place I know. I love Ukraine. I sent my best pal Rudy over to make sure the country was “secure”, and “paying me.” Ukraine loves me right back. So when they asked me to be their president I had to say yes. I couldn’t let them down, not after what they’ve been through the last few years, with the nazi president who is jewish and all.

All of Ukraine is thanking my best friend Vlad! And they should! Because he is a genius to think of invading a country saying it was a peace-keeping mission! It blew my mind what genius stuff that was! No one has ever done that before in the history of mankind! So then Vlad said, “You know what, Ukraine? You deserve the best president in the world. You deserve Donald J. Trump.” I was flattered, a little bit, but not too much, because I am the best president and I have never lost an election without tanks and I will make Ukraine special.

When Vlad asked me I wasn’t sure at first, because America needs me too, but the women here are completely hot. At my reception there was one woman and I thought looks like I’m getting divorced again but even better I think she won’t tell.

Also, while I’m the president of something, I can’t be tried for the countless instances of fraud I’m being investigated for.

When I was American President I knew all about that Ukraine place. My buddy Vlad explained it all to me. They stole Hillary’s emails, did you know that? Ukraine did that. Vlad said so himself. Despicable. Russia would never do something like that. Vlad told me, and he’s a genius.

But now I am president here and I promise this country, if it’s really is a country, will not be the Mexico of Russia. Because we all know what Mexico is like, and I’d never be president of something like that. There will be no taco stands in my Ukraine.

There are people who say I should not be president of Russia Ukraine who think this is bad but it can’t be bad because I will be president and I am almost a big a genius as Vlad. Some days I am! and Vlad says “Donald you are such a smart man” and I know it’s true because he is a genius.

I am a genius too, and now I will make everything better here in Ukraine. Somebody told me I tried to extort this country once, but I don’t remember anything like that, and if I did it was because of Crooked Hillary or that Vlad told me to. It is time now to:

MAKE UKRAINE GREAT AGAIN

2

A Reminder

These are gravestones for soldiers who fought for the United States of America. These are “the troops” that everyone is so eager to support. These soldiers lived through conditions that no modern US soldier has ever known. They were as likely to die in a friendly camp as during battle.

What were they fighting for? They fought and starved and marched and died to keep idiot hooligans from waving confederate battle flags in the halls of Congress. You are looking at the graves of soldiers of the United States Army who gave everything to preserve this nation, and anyone who glorifies the slavers whom they fought is a traitor as well.

Happy belated January 6th, my friends.

3

Trump’s Virtual Impeachment

Today a handful of executives yanked Trump’s megaphone out of his hands. Given the circumstances, it was the right thing to do. I was gleeful when I heard the news. But still, a handful of executives took the megaphone out of the hands of a major political figure. That’s… unsettling.

Given the Circumstances. Ultimately, Facebook and Twitter and the rest had no choice, and that is not their failing. Although the platforms are (currently) shielded from legal liability for things people say through their services, when someone promotes violence, someone must be held accountable. Currently, the individuals who promote hate and violence on those platforms are doing so in secure anonymity or implicit immunity.

You can’t protect both the platform and the individuals who use it. Someone must be held accountable.

The tech companies are seeing how that is shaking out. The party of individual responsibility is shrieking that they are being censored for irresponsible speech, but will block every effort to hold individuals responsible for what they say online. On the other side, the Democrats are intent on finding someone to blame.

Ultimately, I don’t see any way forward that doesn’t hold individuals responsible for the things they say. That means that when someone named RegularJoe456 posts a comment promoting violence, that Martha Haas, the person who lives behind that name, is held accountable.

And Fer Feck’s sake, let’s all understand that inciting violence and threatening someone’s life are not free speech. Never have been, never will be. Also libel and slander laws still apply on the Interwebs. Free speech does not mean you can say whatever you want without consequences. Free speech does not mean a company is legally required to publish your bullshit.

There can be no freedom without responsibility. And until people are held accountable for their speech on the Internet, the companies that enable that speech will have no choice but to police their platforms.

5

Blam!

“EMBRACE ME!” the hand grenade cries.

About a year ago, I wrote that the impeachment of Donald Trump would provide Republican leadership with a historic opportunity. I asked you all to picture people rowing a canoe in choppy waters, while a fizzing hand grenade rolled around their feet.

The paddlers are, of course, the Republican Party, and the hand grenade is, of course, Donald Trump. The Democrats came along and said, “We INSIST you throw that fizzing hand grenade out of your boat!” (About the fizzing – many hand grenades have fuses; once the pin is pulled and the lever is flipped, there is fizzing, for a few seconds before detonation.)

The Republicans had a choice: Save themselves or defy their opponents. They chose to defy their opponents. They picked up the hand grenade and held it to themselves.

Now the hand grenade is detonating, and while I thought the worst-case scenario for the Republicans was losing the senate, in fact there is a much worse outcome. For them. I’m kind of stoked.

Midterm elections almost always swing against the sitting president. In normal times Republicans could dream of recapturing both houses of congress two years from now. Heck, they made pretty good progress in the House of Representatives this year. They won key legislatures to keep their flagrant gerrymandering alive.

In fact, there’s only one thing that could change that outcome. Things would actually be looking pretty good for Republicans now, were it not for the hand grenade detonating in their canoe.

I am in the short term simultaneously frightened and gleeful at the passing events. Tomorrow the “Sedition Caucus” will go on record, putting their names on an attempt to nullify the certified votes of the people of the United States of America. Outside Trump will wave his tiny fists in the air and the Proud Boys will answer.

Donald Trump is no smarter than any other hand grenade, and cares for the people around him even less. Now he’s so far off the range that Tom fucking Cotton is sounding like a reasonable person.

You had your chance, kids. The Democrats gave it to you on a silver platter. Now you simpering, spineless, cynical anything-to-please-the-base cowards are going down with the ship.

2

“Cancel Culture” My Ass

Let’s cut straight to the bone. Robert E. Lee was a traitor to the United States of America. He led armies that killed thousands and thousands of US servicemen. You can’t say “I support the troops” and “General Lee was OK” without being a hypocrite.

But now, as his effigy is removed from places of honor throughout this nation, crybabies are accusing us of engaging in “cancel culture”. The implication of this phrase is that we are rewriting history, changing the past, and removing inconvenient truths.

That is the opposite of what is happening. When I was growing up, General Lee was a genius general who reluctantly chose to fight for the cause of slavery. Here and now, I call bullshit on textbooks that were edited to pass muster in Texas and the south. Would a court let me off for reluctantly murdering someone? No. Lee had a choice, he made it, and he is a traitor.

What is being canceled is the alternate history that made confederate generals into great men. (Many of them weren’t even very good generals.) What’s being canceled is our willingness to overlook the flaws of our founding fathers. What’s being canceled is our communal agreement to forget uncomfortable facts.

The wing-nuts who coined “Cancel Culture” want to make you think there is a liberal cabal intent on erasing facts. But that’s not what’s really happening. There is a liberal cabal all right, and they are dedicated to adding facts to the debate. If those facts make people uncomfortable, too fucking bad.

What the wing-nuts call Cancel Culture is all about addition, not subtraction, and it is a good thing.

2

So, This Donald Trump Guy..

There’s a reality TV star making all kinds of headlines lately, saying the most bizarre and flat-out crazy stuff. People have been calling him a liar for decades now, but that misses the core of it: When he speaks, at that moment, Donald Trump believes what he is saying is the truth.

It is a particular skill some people have, that everything they say is by definition true. The words might come out of his mouth from a place somewhere around his gonads, but by the time those words get out of his mouth, into his ears and from there to his brain, they are simple truth, wrapped by his wisdom and galvanized by his intellect.

Bonus reinforcement if a major media network slavishly parrots the nonsense.

By now Trump is surrounded by a hand-picked bunch of slavish sycophants who only feed him selected information that reinforces his entrenched beliefs. Those simpering toadies present only the data that reinforces Trump’s delusion — a positive result in a questionable poll, or an anecdote from someone who got laughed out of court. The laughing-out part is not part of the presentation.

All Trump hears is “facts” that prove him right, and Rupert Murdoch makes sure he sees that same nonsense on his television screen. If one carefully hears only that information, then one could come up with some pretty whacked-out ideas.

Trump has made sure that the only voices he hears are the ones that feed his delusion. Part of the delusion is that he can ignore that he has done that. It just so happens that the “best people” are the ones who tell him what he wants hear.

But I have to give credit where due. While Trump says things he (at the moment) believes, based on the nonsense his staff is feeding him, he’s not above using the moment to bilk his supporters. The money people are giving him for his shameful court challenges is going straight into his pockets. If he makes enough, maybe is pal/creditor Vlad won’t have to break his legs.

2

In Parting, a Nod to Operation Warp Speed

If you’re not familiar with the name, “Operation Warp Speed” was what the Trump administration dubbed its all-out blitz to partner with the pharmaceutical industry to create a coronavirus vaccine. And historically, even given the head start we had working on other similar vaccines, OWS has been a pretty monumental success.

Had this been part of Trump’s coronavirus response, rather than the entire response, we might actually be (guardedly, with qualifiers) saying nice things about our president right now. Had our president not amply demonstrated that his only interest in the vaccine was to be a feather in his cap to get him reelected, we might be a little more inclined to give credit where due.

But despite the fact that Donnie has once again demonstrated that he doesn’t care whether people live or die, he did do this one thing right, if perhaps for the wrong reason.

Goodbye, Donnie. I hope your prison tweets fracture the Republican Party beyond repair to give room for a new ethical conservative voice to rise. But thank you for Operation Warp Speed. Perhaps it will come in time to save a few of the people you would otherwise have killed.

2

I Voted Today

I was careful to deposit my ballot in a drop box that was not a fake. It seems the Republican Party in California has admitted to putting out drop boxes falsely marked as “official”.

That… appalls me. Sure, voter suppression has long been a favorite tactic of the aging-out Republican minority to stay relevant, but to literally steal ballots is another level entirely. If no one spends serious jail time over that, I will not vote for a Republican for the rest of my life. (I had previously vowed that no Republican would get my vote until they got rid of Trump. Later in this rather muddled episode I will also introduce other ways Republicans can lose my vote. It comes down to “run honest campaigns and stop lying.”)

For fifty years the Republican Party has leaned more and more heavily on dirty tricks to stay in power. And the corruption has worked itself deep into the courts, as well. Take Texas. There’s a rule there right now that there can only be one ballot drop box per county. That means one drop box in Houston, a city of you-look-it-up millions of people. A judge ruled that this was a silly rule that had no justification other than voter suppression. Then other “conservative” judges overruled that rational decision.

They said pretty much, “you’re lucky to have drop boxes at all!” while ignoring the fact that in some (traditionally Republican) places there’s a drop box for every few thousand people, while in traditionally Democratic places, there’s a drop box for hundreds of thousands or even millions of voters. It’s just ridiculous.

But even that’s not stealing votes. And yes, in Pennsylvania seven Trump votes and two others were stolen and the election officials in charge immediately did the right thing and there was no cover-up and we can all talk honestly about it.

The California GOP says these “official” drop boxes are a “service”, but it undermines the provenance of the votes placed in them. I put my ballot in a box with a seal on it, and it will be recovered by an election official, and will never be “off the reservation.” I put my signature on the envelope, I put it in the box, and it is not touched again until it is in the hands of election officials. If someone else drops off my ballot in an official box, it requires another pair of signatures on the envelope. So, legally, none of those ballots in the GOP boxes should count. Thanks for your service, Republican Party!

Rambling on, I am encouraged by the huge turnout of early voters. Many of those motivated to vote early are those who have reason to believe that shenanigans are afoot, and before intimidation and suppression can really ratchet up in urban communities they are getting their votes in. Getting votes counted on Election Day will also affect the inevitable rants our current Presidential Embarrassment spews out.

January 20: the day Twitter can suspend Donnie’s account.

Meanwhile, the Senate might flip. Mitch will still be there, barring a miracle, and I wouldn’t bet against Lindsey, for all I hate them both. But they will be hoping that the populace forgives the Republicans for the last few years of criminal looting of our nation.

They will find no forgiveness from me. I will vote for no Republican at any level of government until Mitch and Lindsey are purged from the Republican roster. Oh, yeah, and Tom Cotton, too. He’s worse than all of them. No party with those people will ever get my vote. Ever.

Someday I will be an issues and governance voter again, I hope. I just need there to be more than one party playing that game.

My best-case scenario, which I genuinely think is possible, is that the Republican Party implodes and in that void the Democratic Party schisms. I’ve mentioned it before; already the best, most honest debates about the future of our nation occur within the Democratic Party. I would love to watch a throw-down between Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Joe Biden, when they didn’t have to be nice because the Republicans were watching.

Take away the dinosaur party, and the Democrats split in a nanosecond. Somewhat less likely is that Actual Conservatives form a meaningful party, or take over the Libertarians or the smoking remains of the Republican Party, and offer their voice to the discussion. I would have no problem with that, either. I just want to hear debate with substance, honest disagreement between parties who want a better nation but disagree on how to get there. That’s what politics is supposed to be.

We can disagree. We should disagree. That’s the thing people don’t seem to get. But it has to be honest. Stealing votes is not debate; it is oppression.

And dang, I got so caught up in the national stuff that I’m having to amend this post to talk about local issues. First: Uber can’t just spend money to counter a law it doesn’t like. Second: although it will destroy an entire genre of fiction, cash bail is evil, and I hope it ends in my state.

I voted for a couple of bonds (now is a favorable time to take out a loan) for long-term projects, but not bonds for spendy-money, and I voted for open space. The idea that protecting open space affects homelessness is disingenuous, pretty much a lie, which is when I stopped reading the “against” arguments. In generaI I voted against tinkering – “yeah the law says this, but this is better!” And of course I followed the money. The money doesn’t lie. When prison guards ask you to make laws that put more people in prison, it’s time to step back.

I voted today. If you disagree with me, you better get your ass to the polls.

2

Health Care and Global Competitiveness

It’s those damn liberals, again, shouting about how access to medical care should be a right, about how no one should die because they don’t have insurance. We know the real problem in this country is JOBS! It’s just plain cheaper to move manufacturing to Asia.

Consider this: when unions in this country won health insurance from employers, it seemed like a great victory at first, but it was a disaster. It let our society off the hook. If you are worthwhile, if you are employed, then you will be taken care of. The rest of y’all are just freeloaders.

Now, imagine you are going to start a manufacturing facility somewhere. It’s well-documented that American workers are very productive. If you’re selling the end product in the United States, there are plenty of other cost savings, from transportation to tariffs, to reward making your widgets right here. No one wants to pay freight for the widget, all else being equal. (We will leave rational energy policy as a way to equalize world trade for another day.)

But to make your widgets you’re going to need workers. If you open your plant in the US, you will have to pay those workers a 1970’s-level wage, and you will also have to pay for their health insurance. If you open your plant almost anywhere else, the health insurance burden is lifted. The government of that country is covering that.

Universal health care in this country would make it a lot cheaper for companies to do work here.

“But!” you say, and I nod as you say it, “universal health care creates a tax burden and that will hurt those same companies!” And that is true. At that point, the companies have a choice: recognize that the tax burden is offset by their savings on payroll, and further understand that their taxes are going to support Americans no matter who they hire so they may as well get value out of those taxes by hiring Americans, or the companies can leave, and go somewhere else that also has universal health care.

Kids, any company that was going to leave over this issue already has. What remains are the companies that want to stay. Let’s make it easier for them. Nationalized health care means real jobs.

2

Keeping it at 50

If Kentucky chose to secede from this great nation, I might be all right with that.

Kentucky is a beautiful place, and friendly (to people like me). Yet while they hate Mitch McConnell, they will vote for him anyway. Because R. Swap the letters after their names and change nothing else and it would be McGrath in a landslide.

If Kentucky left, maybe we could swap in Puerto Rico. The island isn’t nearly as liberal as the press would have you believe, so it would be no surprise if a Republican senator (maybe even an actual conservative) came from there. But I have to think that whoever they send to represent them would be better than the Kentucky Kountry Klowns that we have now.

3

It was Supposed to be a Day of Triumph

As I write this, I am sipping, breathing the last of my 18-year-aged scotch whiskey. I have been looking forward to this day for a long, long, time. A project I have been working on is going live. And… there’s no euphoria.

The project is not truly finished, but it has reached its most significant milestone, and from here on out “finished” will be a gradient. Software is that way, sometimes. At the end of the day this is not a triumph of coding but a triumph of finally defeating a bureaucracy.

A big day. A day I have been looking forward to. Whiskey I bought accidentally and have no regrets about. I’m on the patio, watching a tiny crescent of a moon chase the sun toward the horizon, the air not awful, the breeze is rustling the leaves of the tree over my head.

But the triumph, anticipated for more than half a decade, seems small now, in the face of all the other stuff. I don’t want to make today’s events about me, because they are not, and deserve their own space. So I will not go into them here, except to say I am sad and angry and exhausted, and January 20, 2021 seems a long, long way away.

3

Hockey Stick

How will the future treat the year 2020? Here in the middle of it we see a wannabe dictator trying to usurp the world’s largest economy, we see hundreds of thousands dying from the novel coronavirus, and we see marginalized people shouting for reforms that actually mean something.

Big things. Things I am passionate about. But honestly, I think fifty years from now the human race will look back on 2020 as the hockey stick year. I knew this year was coming, but I hoped I would be old enough that I would not have to witness the aftermath. It seems I am not so lucky.

The Hockey Stick. It’s a reference to a graph of global temperature that gets gradually worse until a threshold is crossed and things get really bad really quickly. The graph looks like a hockey stick.

This is the year “Fire Tornado” was added to my vocabulary. Vast swaths of forest are being converted to atmospheric carbon dioxide, in a feedback loop of disastrous consequence. “But forest mismanagement…” you say. Fine. But the fucking tundra is on fire. Permafrost is melting, and Putin’s pipelines are rupturing.

The only way through this is with strong leadership and a full-on investment in adaptation. Our planet is heating up, there’s no getting around that now. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Important to note here, that Putin and Trump’s other “friends” make their money from oil. Apparently they don’t give a fuck about their children. Or your children. Or anyone under the age of 60. Because those rich bastards are woking really hard to live like kings now and screw the consequences. Apres moi, la deluge. In the case of Florida, it’s far more literal this time.

Here we are. Forests burning, hurricanes wailing, rivers flooding. Glaciers sliding into the sea faster than ever before. Not unpredicted. Our coastal cities will do what they can to suffer the sea level rise, but the storm surges will destroy them. I said, after Katerina, (quietly, to myself, or maybe in this blog), that we should not bother rebuilding that city. It is lost, like Miami, like much of Manhattan. Dead cities.

It is time to stop playing what-if games and understand that humanity is facing its most grave challenge ever. It is a challenge many human civilizations have failed before, but this time the peril is global. The planet we got comfy on is gone. It is time to suck up petty nonsense and accept that our only way out of this mess is forward.

2

Idiot

I spent the evening poking at the keyboard, trying to wrangle a new Tin Can story, the first in that series for years. But I couldn’t get my head in the game. First it was sports, then it was politics. Scandal broke around the president today (again), but it was a scandal he could easily have avoided were he not a narcissistic idiot. It was Bob Woodward, for crying out loud.

So I was trying to get my head to a creative place. After being distracted by the surprisingly-compelling Tour de France coverage of stage 12 (kid from Switzerland taking his first ever TDF stage and looking like a beast in the process — he was zooming down narrow, poorly-paved roads fast enough to challenge the lead car, only to mash up the next hill, while the Big Names launched futile attacks and fell farther behind), I turned off the television and set to writing.

And checking the news. It seems that our Stable Genius President sat down with Bob Woodward, a journalist instrumental in bringing down Nixon. They didn’t talk just once, oh no. Not five times. Eighteen times Donald Trump talked to this guy. And our President went on to tell this Journalist, on the record, a bunch of astonishing things.

I will not go into the astonishing things here. Mostly it’s stuff we already knew, but this time it came directly out of Trump’s mouth.

Instead, let’s discuss what a monumental idiot our fearless leader was to have the interviews in the first place. I imagine a conversation somewhat like this:

Bob: Hello, Donnie?
Donnie: Yeah, that’s me. [Donnie doesn’t ask who Bob is, because if Donnie doesn’t know who he is already, the guy is not important]
Bob: I’m writing a book about you!
Donnie: That’s great! Beautiful! All the best writers want to do a book about me. When will you be done?
Bob: Well, that’s the thing, Donnie — if we want the book to be awesome, it needs more of you in it. I need to talk to you. Get inside your head. Really feel the genius.
Donnie: Call me any time. Except when I’m golfing.

Jared or Ivanka could have stopped him; they didn’t. They just let him spend hours talking to Bob “Watergate” Woodward about whatever crossed his mind at the moment. And Bob, bless his heart, was not hostile. He actually tried to guide Donnie around the worst land mines, to give Donnie an escape hatch. Donnie would have none of that.

This episode shows a new and different kind of stupid for our president. Sure, he’s always been a sucker for flattery and a racist and a liar and honestly pretty stupid, but before he’s at least shown enough intelligence to not spill his guts to a man who has already brought down a president. This isn’t Entertainment Tonight.

3

Perspective

I think, as the death toll crosses a politically-minimized 150,000, that we have to accept that the horror we felt when we watched the towers fall was about the buildings, not the people.