Our Current Situation: Transition Time

I think I have the hyperventilation under control. My panic has subsided. The future still looks grim and uncertain, but I have a better grasp on Our Current Situation. At least, how things came to be this way. I’m still all out of solutions.

However, re-posting links has become tedious instead of educational, so I’m stopping.

For the next four months I’m turning my attention to writing. Here are the goals for this blog for this summer —

-A new story posted every full moon;

-A record of all the books I’m reading in 2017;

-Tracking the word count on the novel-in-progress (see Writing Project Progress in the right-hand column);

-Linking to author interviews, short stories, reviews, and stuff about the craft of writing;

-Regularly posting short-short stories, flash fiction, prose poetry, and other odds and ends I compose as exercises;

-Updates on my New Year’s Resolution of staying in tune with the moon;

-Posting whatever the hell else catches my attention or motivates me to write something.

Above all, this has to be a fun space for me or it’s not really worth the time. In a recent interview Stephen Graham Jones answers a question about how he manages to be so prolific.

“For me, if the novel’s real, then it’s always fast. If it’s slow, then that means I’m having to force it, that it’s not happening on its own, and, man, writing, it shouldn’t be work, should it? It’s playing with dragons. It’s not mowing the lawn. It’s hiding from the world. Let’s keep it fun, I say. Let’s make it an escape. I’ll build my fort, you build yours, and tomorrow we can trade.”

So. For the next few months I’m building forts, playing with words, and having fun.

Moonlight landscape with Hadleigh Church by John Constable after Rubens 1796
Oil on Canvas
(Private Collection)

Our Current Situation: Trump and the Moon

MOON MINING: I wouldn’t mind seeing a greater human presence on the moon. If I ran the zoo we’d be building an observatory on the far side of the moon right now. Or, we might be dropping remote-controlled robots that people on Earth could manipulate through the web. Could it be that our current administration might encourage NASA to initiate a moon mission sooner rather than later?

Motherboard reports that “the transition team asked for an update on NASA’s efforts to survey the Moon for valuable minerals and gases using resource-prospector drones.” NASA is amenable to the idea and responded with several projects it has in the works to accomplish more moon research.

“NASA envisions a future in which low Earth orbit is largely the domain of commercial activity while NASA leads its international and commercial partners in the human exploration of deep space,” the agency wrote in its response to the Trump teams’ inquiry.

Maybe the jobless coal miners can get jobs mining asteroids. The future!


MOON ORBITING: NASA also recently reported that it is interested in building a “crew tended spaceport in lunar orbit,” aka a Deep Space Gateway.

“This deep space gateway would have a power bus, a small habitat to extend crew time, docking capability, an airlock, and serviced by logistics modules to enable research. The propulsion system on the gateway mainly uses high power electric propulsion for station keeping and the ability to transfer among a family of orbits in the lunar vicinity.”

Kind of like the ISS, but orbiting the moon and allowing crew to prep before a lunar landing, or before venturing deeper into space to the asteroids or to Mars.


MOON TOURISM: SpaceX claims it will fly two tourists around the moon in 2018.

“We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the Moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a Moon mission.”


MOON HATING: Sam Kriss writes in The Atlantic “Why the Patriarchy Hates the Moon.” He uses the Cold War plans by the US and the USSR (independently) to nuke the moon as a launching pad to explore the moon as “as an object of fear, hate, and distrust.”

“In the early modern witch-hunts, an emerging capitalism’s great war against its women, the nexus of the witch’s unbearable powers was held to lie somewhere in the web of connections between the body, the menstrual cycle, and the moon above us. The Malleus Maleficarum, the great and hideous Catholic treatise against witchcraft, insists that demonic powers are “deeply affected by certain phases of the Moon.” And in most of Mediterranean traditions that congealed into the ideologies of the west, lunar deities tend to be female.”


MOON DESTROYING: Bob and David have the technology to blow up the moon.


EDITORIAL: When I was young we went to the moon. As a child I assumed this was the new normal. I imagined I would come of age in a world that progressively gained greater purchase in the void. To some degree that has happened. The International Space Station is so common-place it’s rarely newsworthy.

As I’ve grown I’ve lost much of my youthful idealism about NASA. I was taught that it was a benign entity, separate from the war machine, but of course, that’s not the case. I also have a deeper appreciation now of human misery and am more sympathetic to the arguments that spending money on healthcare maybe should be a higher priority than sending spaceships into the Oort cloud. I continue to argue for the value of pure research, but I understand the situation is more complicated than I once believed.

I have mixed feelings about a Trump administration success in near space. I’d love for moon trips to be a regular thing in years to come! That would be a signal that my childhood fantasies can come true. But, knowing how such a thing came to pass might forever ruin the taste of that victory. On the other hand, we’d have people living on the fucking moon!

Our Current Situation: Resist

SE HABLA ESPAÑOL: Guess who is moving south of the border? American business!

“After Donald Trump’s election, the flow of manufacturers setting up shop south of the border dwindled to a trickle. Ford Motor Co. and Carrier Corp., caught in Trump’s Twitter crosshairs, scrapped plans to move jobs to Mexico in two very public examples of the slowdown.

“But now the pace is picking back up.”


RESISTANCE SCHOOL: The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on Resistance School and gives a shout-out to Tampa.

“Some faculty members also tuned in. Among them was Aaron D. Walker, an assistant professor of communication at Florida’s University of Tampa.

“Since the inauguration, Mr. Walker said he’d seen activism swell in the Tampa area, particularly among people who weren’t previously activists and therefore didn’t have a good grasp of best practices.”

If nothing else, the readings are worth reading or re-reading or re-re-reading.

Readings for Session One

Readings for Session Two

Session three and four readings have yet to be posted.

“[T]he school’s purpose is not just fighting Mr. Trump’s agenda, Ms. Seervai said. “Resistance School is about much more than one man,” she said. ‘What we’re doing is equipping people to think about their progressive values and take actions to defend them.'”

Check out the Resistance School.


GOOD JOB, TAMPA BAY TIMES!: Our local paper did some good reporting on the disparity between black people being shot by police and white people being shot by police. Spoiler Alert! Black people are shot a lot more often.

Why Cops Shoot

Unarmed. Not wearing a seatbelt. Running away. Police are more likely to shoot If you’re black (though, I am not a fan of the weird animation for moving through this story.)

CJR reports on the story.

“The Times’ graphic argument leads readers to back a custom database of the 827 police shootings that took place in the state between 2009 and 2014. Each shooting is summarized, mapped, and linked to shootings with which it shares characteristics—whether a victim was armed, or complied with officers, or fled.”

MORE LOCAL PAPER GOODNESS!: Congratulations to Laura Reiley, food critic at the Tampa Bay Times for her Pulitzer nomination! Her biggest hit last year was a story about the deceptions surround local food sourcing. From Farm to Fable.

The 2017 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Criticism: Laura Reiley of Tampa Bay Times

For lively restaurant reviews, including a series that took on the false claims of the farm-to-table movement and prompted statewide investigations.


THE TRASH OF WAR: For reasons that in retrospect seem completely random I wondered earlier this week about what happens to the trash generated by the US military. Turns out there was an interesting story on this topic in the New Republic last November.

The Things They Burned

“Everything—all the trash of the war—was thrown in a burn pit, soaked with jet fuel, and torched. There were hundreds of open-air garbage dumps, spread out across Afghanistan and Iraq, right next to encampments where American soldiers lived and worked, ate and slept. The pits burned day and night, many of them around the clock, seven days a week. There were backyard-size pits lit by patrols of a few dozen men, and massive, industrial-size pits designed to incinerate the endless stream of waste produced by U.S. military bases. Camp Speicher, in Iraq, produced so much trash that it had to operate seven burn pits simultaneously. At the height of the surge, according to the Military Times, Joint Base Balad was churning out three times more garbage than Juneau, Alaska, which had a comparable population. Balad’s pit, situated in the northwest corner of the base, spanned ten acres and burned more than 200 tons of trash a day.”

And then, because we love our troops so much, we let them breathe in these noxious, toxic, cancerous fumes, let the ash cover them and everything they owned and the places they lived, and then rejected their claim for treatment. We. Are. The. Best!

“On its public health web page, the VA has posted a terse, official statement about burn pits. “At this time,” it reads, “research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to burn pits.”

“This statement is untrue, in the way that official statements are often untrue: not because it contains an outright lie, but because it twists the meaning of everyday words like research and evidence.As the VA knows, there has, in fact, been significant research into burn pits by reputable scientists at established academic institutions, who have published their findings in major, peer-reviewed publications. And that research strongly suggests that long-term health problems among veterans may well have been caused by exposure to burn pits.”

Apparently, this was a big scandal in 2010, but I wasn’t paying attention. (And, poking around the Internet and various news sites, it’s been reported on continuously for more than a decade.)

The use of burn pits was limited in 2009, but the practice continues.


THE THINGS THEY POKED: Fortunately, the VA and DOD have found a solution. Stick pins in soldiers. Take that, cancer!

“But use of the technique [battlefield acupuncture], once practiced by fewer than a 100 military doctors across the services, is rapidly expanding through a vigorous training program supported by DOD and the VA.” – source

“Dr. Seuss monsters”: The quackery that is “battlefield acupuncture” continues to metastasize


MOONSHOT: Since my New Year’s Resolution was to get in tune with the moon I think I’ll do a special edition of Our Current Situation next week about Trump and the Moon.


The 2017 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Editorial Cartooning: Jen Sorensen, freelance cartoonist

Our Current Situation: Off the Beaten Path

INTRO: This week I want to veer off into some rarely mentioned resources. I figure you already read Salon, or Slate, or Vice, or Vox, or whatever your news spin of choice, and don’t need me pointing to articles about filibusters or chemical warfare.

We are immersed in information. All answers are only a Google search away. They may not be the right answers, but they are answers. And, the human brain is greatly satisfied in locating any answer, regardless of accuracy. Our acceptability threshold is low.

This means that well-meaning professionals working diligently to provide high-quality information are ignored. News organizations don’t call upon them, and their results don’t rise to the top of the search results page.


TAX-FUNDED RESEARCH YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE: The Library of Congress runs a research service for members of Congress called (predictably enough) the Congressional Research Service. The CRS is not allowed by law to share its work with anyone other than the requesting member of Congress. The loophole here is that members of Congress can share the research reports with anyone they choose. The Federation of American Scientists regularly contacts members of Congress and asks for reports and posts them at Congressional Research Service [CRS] Reports.

Here’s a search tip. When you’re looking for a reasonably high-quality explanation of a current issue, search the keywords for the issue and add the term CRS. This helps bring Congressional Research Service reports to the top of the results list.

Example: A search for Chemical Weapons might bring up a Wikipedia page and a multitude of news sources, but a search for Chemical Weapons CRS should bring near the top of your results —

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Issues for Congress” (Sept. 30, 2013)

Chemical Weapons: A Summary Report of Characteristics and Effects” (Sept. 13, 2013)


Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Progress and Continuing Challenges” (Brief Report) (Oct. 1, 2014)

These are a little dated, but it indicates how long Congress has been struggling with this issue.

In January 2017 the CRS prepared a report titled “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response.”

It’s a treasure trove of information. Highly recommended.


40 TOUGH JOBS: The Political Appointee Project published their “40 Toughest Management Jobs in Government.” This is a good guide to the jobs Trump should be filling first.

The Political Appointee Project is a project of the National Academy of Public Administration.

“The Academy is an independent, non-profit, and non-partisan organization established to assist government leaders in building more effective, efficient, accountable, and transparent organizations. The Academy’s unique feature is its 800+ Fellows—including former cabinet officers, Members of Congress, governors, as well as prominent scholars, business executives, and public administrators. Our Fellows have a deep understanding of financial management, human resources, technology, and administrative functions at all levels of government, and direct most of Academy’s studies.”

Their work can be a little dry, and they’re as understaffed as anybody right now, but there’s a ton of great, practical advise here on running a government.

Compare this list with the Washington Post’s Appointee Tracker. The deputy positions are among the most challenging jobs in the federal government. Trump has not nominated a candidate for nearly every deputy position. This is willful sabotage.


NEOLOGICAL STUDIES: I don’t think neological is really a word, but it should be. Neology: The study of the new. (Oh, wait! It is a word, but with a different meaning: “the use of a new word or expression or of an established word in a new or different sense : the use of new expressions that are not sanctioned by conventional standard usage : the introduction of such expressions into a language.” Whatever. My definition is better.)

It’s a shame that our most forward-thinking government institution is DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). DARPA may be best known for giving us the internet (AP Style says you don’t have to capitalize it anymore), but its also been instrumental in human-computer interface research (moving prosthetics with your mind!, robot and drone technology, and onion routing.

There are very few organizations willing to think such far-out thoughts (experimental space planes, exoskeletons, and starships for interstellar travel). We’d be better off if the blueprint for our future was not in the hands of the military.


PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE: Weird spike in mortality statistics.

Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century

“This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis.”

Maybe Trump voters are the last gasp of a dying breed.


VOTING DATA: Interesting set of voting data to dig into if you’re into that sort of thing.

Creating a National Precinct Map

“This map tells many particularly interesting stories on which I’ll elaborate in future posts, but suffice to say that most of the precinct swing can be explained by one variable: education level, perhaps augmented somewhat by race and ethnicity.”

We have an epidemic of willful ignorance and gross miseducation.



“It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.”

~Confucius (551-479BC)

I have zero idea if this is a legit quote (or legit accurately translated quote), but I endorse the sentiment.



(h/t Sean Bonner)

EDITORIAL: I think the 5 stages of grief template has been largely debunked, but I find myself in the we-are-eternally-fucked-and-wallowing-in-willful-ignorance-and-every-institution-is-failing-us-but-we-had-a-good-run-i’m-just-going-to-drink-this-bourbon-sit-on-the-beach-and-watch-the-sun-set-except-i-have-decades-before-i-can-retire-and-things-are-so-fucked-up-i’ll-probably-never-be-able-to-retire-I-should-just-say-fuck-it-but-I-don’t-want-to-be-poor-again-being-poor-sucks-so-I’m-going-to-keep-working-and-mourn-silently-but-I’m-still-drinking-this-bourbon stage. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s the stage I’m in.

If there are so many transgressions, and so many bad people, why are none of them ever punished? Good people work really hard and evil still flourishes. Things suck here and we have it GREAT. Subscribe to the Human Rights Watch weekly newsletter if you want a reminder of how much worse it could be.

So, I’ve been thinking lately about Neal Stephenson’s “Innovation Starvation.”

If you haven’t read it, it’s Stephenson’s lament that there are no more grand ideas in literature anymore. Specifically in science fiction. Let me concede immediately that there are huge problems with his essay, but, putting those issues aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about art as a template for new ways of understanding the world.

If the law won’t save us, and journalism won’t save us, and non-profits won’t save us, and protest won’t save us, it’s up to poets and comic book writers and science fiction writers and comedians. That’s where we’re going to get a new narrative for the future. (Really, it’s up to us all tapping into our human compassion and finding ways to let that drive flourish, but until then the poets and writers and singers of songs will have to carry the burden.)

And, right about the time I’m thinking this I come across this essay by Cory Doctorow about his new novel Walkaway where he writes:

“Stories of futures in which disaster strikes and we rise to the occasion are a vaccine against the virus of mistrust.”

And so, that’s where I’m turning my attention when I’m feeling bleak. Stories where humans rise to the occasion.


Excerpt from The People, Yes by Carl Sandburg.

The people yes
The people will live on.
The learning and blundering people will live on.
They will be tricked and sold and again sold
And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds,
The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback,
You can’t laugh off their capacity to take it.
The mammoth rests between his cyclonic dramas.

The people so often sleepy, weary, enigmatic,
is a vast huddle with many units saying:
“I earn my living.
I make enough to get by
and it takes all my time.
If I had more time
I could do more for myself
and maybe for others.
I could read and study
and talk things over
and find out about things.
It takes time.
I wish I had the time.”

The people is a tragic and comic two-face: hero and hoodlum:
phantom and gorilla twisting to moan with a gargoyle mouth:
“They buy me and sell me…it’s a game…sometime I’ll
break loose…”

Once having marched
Over the margins of animal necessity,
Over the grim line of sheer subsistence
Then man came
To the deeper rituals of his bones,
To the lights lighter than any bones,
To the time for thinking things over,
To the dance, the song, the story,
Or the hours given over to dreaming,
Once having so marched.

Between the finite limitations of the five senses
and the endless yearnings of man for the beyond
the people hold to the humdrum bidding of work and food
while reaching out when it comes their way
for lights beyond the prison of the five senses,
for keepsakes lasting beyond any hunger or death.
This reaching is alive.
The panderers and liars have violated and smutted it.
Yet this reaching is alive yet
for lights and keepsakes.

The people know the salt of the sea
and the strength of the winds
lashing the corners of the earth.
The people take the earth
as a tomb of rest and a cradle of hope.
Who else speaks for the Family of Man?
They are in tune and step
with constellations of universal law.
The people is a polychrome,
a spectrum and a prism
held in a moving monolith,
a console organ of changing themes,
a clavilux of color poems
wherein the sea offers fog
and the fog moves off in rain
and the labrador sunset shortens
to a nocturne of clear stars
serene over the shot spray
of northern lights.

The steel mill sky is alive.
The fire breaks white and zigzag
shot on a gun-metal gloaming.
Man is a long time coming.
Man will yet win.
Brother may yet line up with brother:

This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers.
There are men who can’t be bought.
The fireborn are at home in fire.
The stars make no noise,
You can’t hinder the wind from blowing.
Time is a great teacher.
Who can live without hope?

In the darkness with a great bundle of grief
the people march.
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the people
“Where to? what next?”

Our Current Situation: Building Trust

TRUSTING JOURNALISM: Jay Rosen is convinced people will pay for high-quality journalism and building trust is the key. Inspired by a Dutch news organization he’s working to develop a US news organization built on trust (and grant funding). This is what a news organization built on reader trust looks like.

I agree with Rosen that some sort of subscription model will probably be necessary to build a trustworthy news site. I’m less confident about the vision he puts forth. I hope it works! At they say, it’s a process.


TRUSTING COMMERCE: You know journalism is in dire straits when people trust advertisers more than they trust reporters.

“…61% of people trust the advertising they see…”

“…68% of Americans don’t trust the news…”


FRIENDLY TRUST: Of course, it may not matter if Rosen builds a reliable news source since people trust people more than they trust organizations.

“The main factor in determining a reader’s trust in an article appears to be who shared it, not the news organization that published it, according to a study out Monday from The Media Insight Project,…”


WITCH POWER: Is Fox News worried about witches?

“After one of their spells worked just days ahead of the American Health Care Act’s defeat, a group of self-proclaimed witches are set to cast another “binding spell” on Sunday night in an effort to kick Trump out of office…”

One. Of. Their. Spells. Worked.

Fortunately a devoted follower calls out this fake news.

“This is such BS. Trump is covered by the blood of Christ to which no evil can stand. If he has trouble it is not from witches”

Who needs trustworthy news when we have Fox?


TROOP TRUST: Most people trust the military.

And why wouldn’t they?

Military Members Stole Millions in Afghan Rebuilding Effort

“John Sopko, head of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), said Thursday evening in a speech at Duke University that his team identified nearly $1 billion in questionable costs and funds that could be put to better use.”

Though, I guess $1 billion misspent out of $117 billion isn’t so bad.


TRUMP TRUSTS NEWS: In this interview with TIME, Trump excuses his bullshit by saying “I’m just quoting the newspaper.”

TRUMP: Well that was in a newspaper. No, no, I like Ted Cruz, he’s a friend of mine. But that was in the newspaper. I wasn’t, I didn’t say that. I was referring to a newspaper. A Ted Cruz article referred to a newspaper story with, had a picture of Ted Cruz, his father, and Lee Harvey Oswald, having breakfast.

TIME: That gets close to the heart…

TRUMP: Why do you say that I have to apologize? I’m just quoting the newspaper, just like I quoted the judge the other day, Judge Napolitano, I quoted Judge Napolitano, just like I quoted Bret Baier, I mean Bret Baier mentioned the word wiretap. Now he can now deny it, or whatever he is doing, you know. But I watched Bret Baier, and he used that term. I have a lot of respect for Judge Napolitano, and he said that three sources have told him things that would make me right. I don’t know where he has gone with it since then. But I’m quoting highly respected people from highly respected television networks.

By that logic…Hairy Space Alien Lives on Donald Trump’s Head. I’m just quoting the newspaper. Maybe ICE will expel his hair?



EDITORIAL: While my professional conferencing annoyed me more than inspired me this year, I did come away with a silver lining. I know where to focus my professional attention next.

At the conference I attended Roxane Gay mentioned in passing (responding to a question about the demise of Toast), “No one will pay for content.” I think she wasn’t fully cognizant to whom she was speaking. Within that room were representatives of institutions that pay tens of millions of dollars every year for content. Depending on who was in the room it could be hundreds of millions.

Every. Year.

What they are paying for is trust. They are trusting that there is a structure in place that weeds out inaccurate, invalid, untrustworthy information, and promotes accurate, trustworthy, valid information. They are paying for information that most accurately interprets the natural world and the human experience. This system isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we’ve come up with so far. My professional task for the foreseeable future is to see how that scholarly trust developed, what its current challenges are, and how it can be improved.

So, at least I have that to look forward to.


Our Current Situation: Out of the Loop

Yesterday was a travel day and I lost track of what time of week it was. No politics this week! Instead I’m professional conferencing and thinking about where I want to focus my professional attention.

If I WERE paying attention to our current situation this week I imagine I’d be bracing myself with a bourbon or two.

Our Current Situation: You Are Creating the Future

BEYOND TRUMP: The issues are more important than Trump. Trump’s election turned a spotlight on some of the worst elements of this nation. This is good, because those elements have always been there, but now they are exposed for all to see. This is bad, because it helps normalize the hate and inhumanity.

What future do you want? What does the world look like 20 years from now? Are the prisons overflowing? Are we at war? Does the future seem bright or dim? Work toward your future.


RIGHT ON THE RIGHT?: This is unsettling. I agree with the CEO of Newsmax. How is that even possible? I’m so discombobulated I can’t even link to the Newsmax page. Here’s the Vox explainer. It’s not my favorite health care plan, but I’d be impressed it this gained traction among other conservatives.

  • Ditch the Freedom Caucus and the handful of Senate Republicans who want a complete repeal of Obamacare. They don’t agree with universal coverage and will never be placated.
  • Find a few parts of Ryancare II [i.e., the AHCA; Ryancare I refers to Paul Ryan’s longstanding desire to privatize Medicare] that can win passage in the House and Senate with either GOP support or bipartisan support. Declare victory.
  • Rekindle the bipartisanship in Congress that President Obama destroyed. Impanel a bipartisan committee to report back by year’s end with a feasible plan to fix Obamacare.
  • Reject the phony private health insurance market as the panacea. Look to an upgraded Medicaid system to become the country’s blanket insurer for the uninsured.
  • Tie Medicaid funding to states with the requirement that each pass legislation to allow for a truly nationwide health care market.
  • Get Democrats to agree to modest tort reform to help lower medical costs.
  • While bolstering Medicare and improving Medicaid, get Republicans and Democrats to back the long-term fix of health savings accounts. This allows individuals to fund their own health care and even profit from it.
  • ***

    PERSISTENT RESISTANCE: Don’t forget to check out the Resistance Calendar.


    ALERT TIP: Go to Google News. Search for Your State & legislature (and put it in quotes, so for me it’s “Florida legislature”.) Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the button Create Alert. Set up your alert (say, for once a day). Now, you’ll get emails when a news source mentions Your State legislature. This is one way to keep track of you local state government.


    WORD OF THE DAY: Teratocracy – Rule by monsters.

    Jamais Cascio contemplates teratocracy in three posts from 2011/2012.

    Fear of Teratocracy

    “The real test of whether a society that uses a plebiscite to determine leadership is really a democracy is whether the losing party accepts the loss and the legitimacy of their opponent’s victory. This is especially true for when the losing party previously held power. Do they give up power willingly, confident that they’ll have a chance to regain power again in the next election? Or do they take up arms against the winners, refuse to relinquish power, and/or do everything they can to undermine the legitimacy of the opposition’s rule?”

    Teratocracy Rises

    “It’s the business of the future to be dangerous, as Alfred North Whitehead said, and you don’t get much more dangerous than attacks on the legitimacy of democracy. By no means is it guaranteed that this movement will win; in fact, I think it’s more likely than not that they prove unable to get rid of democracy, although they are more likely to weaken it considerably, at least for a time. But that they are willing to attack the fundamental philosophy of the modern state in such blunt language, and have the resources to do more than just write noisy blog posts, suggests that this fight will be neither brief nor insubstantial.”

    Teratocracy Triumphant

    “American democracy is shifting from debates over policy to debates over legitimacy.”


    THE WEEK’S MOST STOMACH-CHURNING MOMENT: Sean Spicer laughs about Trump’s blatant lying and the press room guffaws along with him.

    Throughout the campaign Trump disparaged the jobs numbers as ‘phony.’ When the first jobs report of his presidency is positive, they are suddenly not phony.

    They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.



    SIX YEARS OF SYRIAN WAR: The protests that sparked the Syrian Civil War were held on March 15, 2011.


    MASS INCARCERATION: Excellent snapshot of our current prison system.

    “This report offers some much needed clarity by piecing together this country’s disparate systems of confinement. The American criminal justice system holds more than 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 901 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 76 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories. And we go deeper to provide further detail on why people are locked up in all of those different types of facilities.”


    SHRINKAGE: Trump has instructed OMB Director Mulvaney to shrink the executive branch of the government. Remember Clinton did this in 1993 and tasked Gore with leading the ‘reinvention of government.’ Gore’s plan, despite Congressional resistance, eliminated thousands of field offices, reduced the government workforce by 24,000 employees, and saved billions of dollars. ‘Small government’ Republican voters, of course, voted for Bush who instigated one of the largest (if not THE largest) spending increases ever in the federal government. I expect Mulvaney will recommend cutting Executive Departments to the bone and for it to have very little impact on the overall budget.


    WINNER WINNER: Congratulations to Ken Fisher AKA Ruben Bolling for winning the 2017 Herblock Award.

    Our Current Situation: Impunity

    IMPUNITY: Exhausted from the villainy of the world. Some days there doesn’t seem to be any way to stop the bad guys. So what if Wilbur Ross is helping the Russian mob launder their money? At worst, he’ll be fined. So what if cops are killing people at an accelerated rate in 2017? No one will investigate.

    And on, and on.

    This post about fighting Trump Fatigue Syndrome came at the right time.

  • Understand this is a long-term fight that won’t be resolved immediately.
  • Don’t let Trump set the agenda anymore.
  • Be mindful about media consumption, especially social media.
  • Take some time off, and be okay with not always knowing the latest about everything that’s happening.
  • ***

    THIS RABBIT HOLE SEEMS NICE: I spent the last week trying to wrap my head around the Trump/Russia scandal. It got sort of obsessive there for a few days and led to the burn-out mentioned above.

    I created a comprehensive timeline. It’s 82 pages long. I was going to post it today, but I need to step away from it for a little bit to let the conspiracy madness fade away. There may be something to see there, but so far it seems mostly like opportunism, personal agendas, and coincidence. There’s no doubt there’s some unsavory business going on, but it’s not clear to me that it rises to an impeachable or incarcerable offense. These are amoral billionaires fiddling with the levers of power for their own benefit. Their army of attorneys allows them to act with impunity.


    TRUMPCARE: I guess we’ll call it Trumpcare now.

    “A White House spokesperson, however, was more emphatic. “It’s not Trumpcare,” the spokesperson said Wednesday. “We will be calling it by its official name,” the American Health Care Act.”

    Except the honest-to-God real name of the act is “World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017.” (thx to AW for the link.)

    The link take you to Congress.gov to see the official short title of HR1275 mentioned above. The act is officially titled: “To eliminate the individual and employer health coverage mandates under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to expand beyond that Act the choices in obtaining and financing affordable health insurance coverage, and for other purposes.”


    WE STILL HAVE SLAVES: Slavery in the US did not end with the Civil War. People in the US are still enslaved today. In recent years the FBI has successfully prosecuted cases in Long Island, NY, Chicago, IL, Seattle, WA, Georgia, Arizona, Kansas City, MS, and El Paso, TX. Now accusations have surfaced that the ICE forced detainees to work for $1 a day.

    Note, however, that this is not a Trump thing (at least, not yet). This happened under Obama’s watch.

    “The lawsuit, filed in 2014 against one of the largest private prison companies in the country, reached class-action status this week after a federal judge’s ruling. That means the case could involve as many as 60,000 immigrants who have been detained.”

    Because of course it is, the private prison corporation at the center of the scandal is based in Florida.


    PUBLIC HEARINGS: Public hearing on the Trump-Russian ties start March 20.

    “Nunes also said Tuesday that his panel’s first public hearing on the issue would be held March 20 and that former members of the Obama administration had been asked to testify — including former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired by Trump in January after refusing to defend his travel ban executive order in court.”

    Senate questioning starts sooner and behind closed doors.


    THEY HAVE JOBS: And while all the attention is on wacky, inexplicable tweets the White House is hiring a slew of bigots and lunatics.

    “Much about the role of the beachhead teams at various federal agencies is unclear. But close observers of the early weeks of the Trump administration believe they have taken on considerable influence in the absence of high-level political appointees.”


    THEY DON’T HAVE JOBS: While at the State Department positions go unfilled.

    “With the State Department demonstratively shut out of meetings with foreign leaders, key State posts left unfilled, and the White House not soliciting many department staffers for their policy advice, there is little left to do.”


    EDITORIAL: Recently I shared Molly Ivins’ insight with a friend and I thought she was going to cry.

    Molly Ivins, I told her (paraphrasing), said the struggle was here before us and will be here after we’re gone, so it’s important to find a way to have fun while we’re fighting.

    “It lasts that long?” She looked so mournful. I thought I was saying something obvious and uncontroversial.

    “Sure. Civil rights, opposing wars, gay rights, transgender rights, freedom of speech battles, fighting against polluters, and white-collar criminals. You know, there’s always a fight.”

    She nodded and seemed somewhat relieved. I think her first response was thinking that Trump would be doing his shtick forever.

    Well, he may be. He might be front and center until he’s shuffled off this mortal coil, but he’s not the the biggest problem in the world.

    The biggest problem is, as it has always been, and always will be, the fight for human decency.

    In a recent essay I can’t recommend highly enough Rick Perlstein makes a case that ‘smartness’ has supplanted fundamental human decency as a moral barometer in the US. I couldn’t agree more. Being smart is no match for being good and decent and caring about other humans, no matter how different they seem.

    “I fear the plutocracy of wealth, I respect the aristocracy of learning, but I thank God for the democracy of the heart that makes it possible for every human being to do something to make life worth living while he lives and the world better for his existence in it.” — william Jennings Bryant

    Fighting the good fight is part of the human experience. And, since it was here before us, and will be here after us, it’s important to not let it exhaust us or to diminish our fundamental decency. Keep your head up.

    Our Current Situation: The Power of the Powerless

    REINVENTING THE NEWS: It’s no secret there are substantial problems with news, ‘the media’, journalism, etc. The right criticizes and mocks MSM (mainstream media) while the left criticizes and mocks ‘corporate media.’ The Venn diagram overlap here is large. Yet, our news structure continues because of the misbegotten notion that if they are pissing off everyone, they must be doing something right.

    It’s time for a reinvention.

    Let me recommend James Tyner’s “Dear news media: Create news for people who have never read a newspaper” as a good place to start.

    “For young people who are just trying to learn about the world around them — people who were previously uneducated about Medicaid or who owns which conglomerates or the history of elections — it’s important to provide information that is as complete as possible. And more importantly, it’s important to show diverse perspectives that are unlike those they already hold.”

    My dream news media combines C-Span (for primary source civic information), Wikipedia (for background and context and history), Vox (for explanations of unfamiliar topics, preferably something a little more neutral that accurately explains the various positions held by the different players), dedicated journalists (to doggedly investigate), and smart pundits to offer their perspective on how this fits the bigger picture.

    I’d also like a pair of pundits, clearly marked ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ that attempt to make their opponents’ argument in a way the opponent agrees is a fair interpretation.

    I’d also like some follow-up. How did the story end up?

    The newspaper was once ephemeral, tomorrow’s fish wrap. This had a profound, and in many ways, negative impact on news/journalism/reporting. Online news is persistent and should do a better job of providing civic information and education that’s of value to everyone.

    More student suggestions can be found here.

    POWERFUL: I’ve been reading Vaclav Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless,” and it’s well worth reading as a reminder of what life is like under a totalitarian government, and the power the people have to resist.

    “You do not become a ‘dissident’ just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.”


    PRAGMATIST DEMOCRACY: In my parallel news universe pundits interview Christopher Ansell so I have a better understanding of what he means by ‘pragmatist democracy.’

    “Drawing inspiration from the philosophy of Pragmatism, this book argues for a new “problem-solving democracy,” where public agencies build consent for public policy by engaging the public in active problem-solving. More so than legislatures, public agencies serve as linchpins between popular sovereignty and on-the-ground governance. For pubic agencies to play a different role in democracy, we must re-imagine how they function as organizations and interact with the public.”


    MONEY MONEY MONEY: Tom Perez is now chair of the DNC and there’s a lot of work to do. The Republican Governor Association is out-raising the Democrats, and have already started raising money for Virginia’s governor race.


    BARBARA JORDAN: “We are a party of innovation. We do not reject our traditions, but we are willing to adapt to changing circumstances, when change we must. We are willing to suffer the discomfort of change in order to achieve a better future. We have a positive vision of the future founded on the belief that the gap between the promise and reality of America can one day be finally closed. We believe that.” — 1976 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address


    GOVERNOR TO SENATOR: You’ve probably seen this tale of Trump’s dinner (and his childish taste for overdone steak covered with ketchup) but what I found intriguing was the presence of Governor Rick Scott. Scott will be term-limited in 2018 and Trump wants him to run against democratic Florida Senator Bill Nelson. Nelson’s not a flashy Dem, but he’s a good soldier and a reliable vote. I doubt there’s anyone in Florida who could beat him in a primary, but I’m not certain he wins against Scott.


    THIGH-HIGH POLITICS: Lauren Duca continues her consciousness-raising at Teen Vogue with a regular column titled Thigh-High Politics. In this edition she points us to the handy Resistance Calendar by Michael Moore. There looks to be about 35 organizing/protest events today across the nation.


    MISINFOCON: Excellent wrap-up from MisInfoCon.

    Find out more about MisInfoCon here.

    “At MisinfoCon, a summit this past weekend hosted by the First Draft Coalition, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, and Hacks/Hackers, the focus was on an immediate and executable range of actions: checklists, educational campaigns, tech solutions, community engagement projects, diversity efforts, and improving business models.”


    AGAINST EMPATHY: Understanding is important. Empathy? Not so much.

    “I want to make a case for the value of conscious, deliberative reasoning in everyday life, arguing that we should strive to use our heads rather than our hearts.”


    OUT OF TIME: That’s it for this week. It’s already a long week, and it’s only Wednesday.

    Our Current Situation: Florida Man Still President

    FLORIDA MAN: I realized that with Mar-a-Lago and his frequent appearances in Florida that Trump is peak Florida Man.


    MEANWHILE…: While the news cycles are full of The Donald’s latest buffoonery he’s hiring people like Heather Wilson to be Secretary of the Air Force. Politico has the most in-depth review of Wilson’s career. Allgov has a summary version. And here’s a Project on Government Oversight report from 2013 about her illegal profiteering.

    “Heather Wilson, a former Air Force officer who was once named one of the most corrupt members of Congress, was announced on January 23, 2017, to be President Donald Trump’s choice as Secretary of the Air Force.”

    I’m sure this will be a great boon to the Air Force, given that it’s already full of disgruntled workers. (It may also be a good time to invest in Lockheed Martin.)


    SERIOUSLY, READ THIS: I cannot recommend this piece highly enough: 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump

    “Trump’s bizarre, inconstant, incompetent, embarrassing, ridiculous behavior — what the left (naturally) perceives as his weaknesses — are to his supporters his strengths.”



    SAME AS THE OLD BOSS: Obama loved Trump’s new Deportation Czar, Thomas Homan, the current acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Homan won the 2015 Presidential Rank Award, the government’s highest civil service award, last year for setting records for numbers of immigrants expelled.


    JUST IN CASE: Florida Representative Alcee Hastings introduced an bill for Authorization to Use Force in Iran on Jan. 3 of this year. Just in case. Hastings is a Democratic representative and boycotted Trump’s inauguration. Digital Journal has more.


    IDLE THOUGHTS: Trump and Rubio had dinner on the 15th. On the 22nd Rubio is meeting with delegates from Germany and France. Germany and France are part of the P5+1. We’ll need their support for an expanded war in the Middle East.

    “Senator Rubio is traveling overseas this week to attend multiple bilateral meetings with heads of state and senior government officials in Germany and France, two countries with upcoming elections who are facing concerns about Russian interference. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Appropriations Committee, and Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Rubio is conducting this official oversight trip to discuss the U.S./E.U. relationship, NATO operations, counter-ISIS activities, foreign assistance programs, and Russian aggression in Europe.”

    I hope I don’t fall into some rabbit hole where everything looks like a conspiracy to start a war with Iran, but, you know, it has me worried. Did I mention another Florida politician has already filled a bill for a Authorized Use of Military Force in Iran, just in case?

    Also, Trump is on board with the Defense Department’s desire to expand the military.

    “Trump’s proposals for the military during his presidential campaign were drawn heavily from the conservative Heritage Foundation, and could cost between $55 billion and $90 billion per year, according to outside experts. The plan included adding tens of thousands of soldiers until the service reaches 540,000, expanding the Navy’s fleet to have at least 350 ships, adding about 100 Air Force fighter or attack jets until the service reaches 1,200, and increasing the number of Marine Corps infantry battalions from 24 to 36, which would include thousands of Marines.”



    LISTENING: Sam Altman asks 100 Trump supporters some questions to learn why they voted for him, and what could turn them against him. Interesting narratives. It’s clear from reading this how much of their worldview (and mine as well) is shaped by media diet.

    “The left is more intolerant than the right.” Note: This concept came up a lot, with real animosity in otherwise pleasant conversations.

    “Stop calling us racists. Stop calling us idiots. We aren’t. Listen to us when we try to tell you why we aren’t. Oh, and stop making fun of us.”


    EDITORIAL: If you read the conservative press then it’s easy to see where the canard of the left’s intolerance comes from. It’s easy enough to cherry-pick individual comments from ‘the left’ to make them seem full of hate and bias, and that’s exactly what the right-wing press does. Of course, the holier-than-thou attitude of those on the left doesn’t help any. One thing I wish my allies could have learned from the last couple of decades is a little fucking humility.

    I’ve mentioned before that Fallacy of Composition is a non-trivial problem when it comes to our political division. Those on the right don’t like being associated with the worst offenses of the right (while they may be racist according to an IAT, they probably don’t harbor overt racist thoughts at the forefront of their brain).

    Inferring that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole.

    Logical Form:

    A is part of B
    A has property X
    Therefore, B has property X.

    Similarly, most of the left doesn’t like to be clumped together with black-bloc anarchists, or closed-minded haters.

    BUT, we all engage in the Fallacy of Composition when bitching about ‘those others’.

    We need to stop doing this. Yes, there is a lot of racism, sexism, transphobia, and religious intolerance among many on the right, but it serves no one by using broad labels.

    So, today’s tip — be specific.