Category Archives: Categorization

The Justification for the Explanatory Pause

Code Switch is one of those podcasts that I make a point to listen to even when the titles make me cringe. This is one of those episodes that I cringed through while at the same time having some relevant old white guy points I really felt were worth addressing.


The podcast hosts bring on Hari Kondabolu (whose podcast Politically Re-Active isn’t one I listen to) to talk about why he takes a break in the middle of a subject riff in order to explain the subject matter being discussed.

He refers to it as Hold Up, Wait a Minute which is amusing, the right move for a podcast that is humorous in nature. However the title of this podcast Explanatory Comma had me yelling explanatory pause at my headphones by the end of the episode.

In my opinion, the breaking point for when/when not to explain things is entirely subjective. If the audience member knows about the thing, they will think you are talking down to them. If the audience member doesn’t know, then they will be lost if you don’t explain it. I knew who Tupac was, so was not lost during the previous episode of Code Switch that dealt with him but didn’t explain who he was.

On the other hand Hari Kondabolu says Tribe Called Quest and stands on his outrage at having to explain that this was another music reference. I know it is a music reference now, because I went out and looked it up and realized that my ignorance on the subject is a product of not having any interest in Rap, Hip Hop, or any other form of music that wasn’t Rock or Classical or the Country music my mother made me listen to as a child.

All of us are products of our experiences. If our experiences don’t include your experiences, then any attempt to connect will be fruitless unless a common ground of conversation can be established. So you have to take time to explain to the audience so that you can bring them along with you if you want them to go where you are going by the end of your narrative. If you don’t do that, they get bored, stop reading/listening/watching and your attempt to communicate fails.

When you can’t see your audience, the curse of the A/V field, you have to attempt to gauge what your audience will understand without your providing an explanation. Which is largely what this entire episode of Code Switch is about.

But I didn’t start writing this entry to talk about why explanatory pauses are necessary.

What I wanted to address was making sure that you don’t take time to explain things that really shouldn’t have to be explained. All of us have our own lives, our own heuristics, our own foibles and our own prejudices. Most of us are smart enough not to air our dirty laundry or (as Hari Kondabolu quite pointedly says) force our white supremacy onto the rest of society.

There are exceptions, the entirety of the FOX news team springs immediately to mind, but generally we keep our thoughts to ourselves because, hey, everybody is busy and why burden a total stranger with the bullshit in your life? Right?

On the other end of the spectrum we have something like the TED talk below;

Now, I’ve made a few attempts to line out what I think on the subject in the talk. Tiptoeing through Gender IssuesPartnership by Any Other NameHomophobia In Denial. Before you come to any snap judgements about what I’m about to say, I’d suggest that you take an explanatory pause and go look at what I’ve said before, so that what I’m about to say doesn’t strike you as callous or unfeeling.

When I look at that couple I do not see the complex characters they want us all to accept them as. What I see is a perfectly average couple who clearly love each other. If I’m passing them on the street, serving them food, or any of the dozens of jobs of the people they will encounter every day, none of those people will have the time or the desire to understand and accept these two as what they see themselves as. There comes a point where you have to rely on your gender presentation (clothing, hair style, scents, makeup, whatever) to communicate all the myriad things you think are important as a first impression. You cannot go back and make a second first impression, and an angry explanation about why your presentation should have been understood will be accepted just as well as the FOX news junkie who goes around insisting that Santa is white.

This TED talk is an example of the dreaded internet oversharing. The needy posts on various social platforms that start with “Let’s see who reads this” or “if you really are my friend”. The entire TED talk is an explanatory pause; and frankly, I’ve contested a few of the belabored points in the talk.  Contested them because, in the end, no one really should care that much about you unless they are having sex with you. You aren’t having sex with the entire internet and if you are you probably need therapy of a different kind.

A Queer Version of Love and Marriage goes over the line from explanatory pause into the realm of browbeating. If you are in an educational setting like a podcast or a TED talk, then you are going to get things explained to you that you probably already know. That is what the 30 second jump button is for (if your podcast app doesn’t have that, go get this one) if you don’t have the patience to hear something explained for the 97th time, skip ahead 30 seconds. But if you are getting a gallon of milk at three in the morning, don’t expect the cashier to know your preferred gender pronoun. Just pay the person behind the counter and say “thank you” and walk out. He’s got mopping to get back to and he really doesn’t care about your frustrations.

When I’m listening to a podcast about Code Switching I expect to have musical references, as well as many other references, explained to me. That is why it is called Code Switch. Because we are trying to Switch the Code; Race and Identity Remixed. Understand the other side. Broaden our understanding of the human animal. Can’t do that if we don’t understand the references. Hope I’m being crystal clear here.


I edited the first sentence in the second to last paragraph to be more clear as to where the line between explaining and over-explaining is, or where it is for me. Your Mileage May Vary, as the saying goes. Damned indefinite pronouns, the bugaboo of all attempts at clear writing.

Earlier on I changed the last paragraph to link the FAQ for Code Switch so that anyone who disagrees with what is being said can just go to the FAQ and educate themselves.

The most amusing thing about writing this piece, about my initial response to pushback against White Supremacy being attached to everything white people do, to the explanatory pause being denigrated as a distraction from the actual storytelling, is that the overwhelming number of negative attacks have come from White Knights who feel obliged to jump in and defend minorities from aggression. As if Old White Guy points are always going to be aggressive. Or White Supremacist. As if minorities aren’t capable of defending themselves in a battle of words and ideas.

May I always resist the urge to come to the defense of someone whom I consider to be my equal and does not appear to be losing a battle of words. All Social Justice Warriors should be compelled to adhere to that oath.

If Gene Demby (whose sole response was two characters “NO”) feels that the explanatory pause is an interruption to his storytelling, I would suggest that he might want to take some time to talk to Jad Abumrad of Radiolab fame and get a feel for how he explains while not appearing to explain. Because explanation is a necessary part of the equation if you want to broaden your reach. Widen the appeal. Another suggestion from a humble listener.


I’m still listening to Code Switch several months later. Currently I’m looking forward to the last installment of the look back at the influence of President Obama. I have an opinion piece on that subject which I title Obama Best President Since Eisenhower. No, I am not subtle. Not in the least.

The last episode put a bug in my ear about the miscommunication of what Code Switch means to black people and why it might mean something different to white folks. I talk in code to old white people; old being my age and older (yes, there are older white people than I am) I will occasionally put on a filter for children that aren’t mine as well. I have found that being dead honest with the children of strangers can be more troublesome than being dead honest with old white folks.

However Code Switching takes on a whole new meaning when you take things like this into account,

The Green Book, or to give it its full title, “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” was first published in 1936. It was a revolutionary publication which listed restaurants, bars and service stations which would serve African-Americans.

Traveling during the Jim Crow era was difficult for African Americans. In the South, “black code” laws targeted them for loitering. In many towns, black travelers risked death if they stayed past sundown.

Travelers came up with their own ways to avoid violence and humiliation. One was called ‘The Green Book’ created by Harlem postal worker Victor Hugo Green. It was an invaluable tool to help black people plan a safe route across the country.

Alvin Hall’s BBC program ‘The Green Book’ documents this little-known aspect of racial segregation.

When you might be lynched or shot for simply driving into the wrong town, knowing what the code is takes on a whole new meaning. I know this. I knew this. But knowing isn’t being. While I know that I don’t speak freely (to not speak in code) around parents, children, people who aren’t into SF or video games or recreational drug use (legal. All my drugs are legal now. Have been for at least 25 years. I have the prescriptions to prove it) the downsides of slipping out of code for people like me are radically less life-ending than for people who face the possibility of death at the hands of people who hate them just for existing. Which is why a Code Switch takes on much more weight for minorities than for people like me.

My apologies for approaching the subject with less gravity than it probably deserved. I still see the refusal to explain as a missed opportunity to connect; but truthfully there is little use in telling me about one more artist whose rap I probably won’t be interested in either. The explanation for how I lost my music (and with it the appreciation for pretty much all music) is a story I haven’t tried to write down yet.

Another time, perhaps. 

Why I Admit I am Poor

I admit I am poor because it is the truth. I admit I am poor because it places me in the group that shares the most to gain from the current reversal in political power. Watch this 10 minute video and try to understand the concepts presented in it.

The only thing that keeps me from being the preferred victim in this system is the color of my skin. This is why Black Lives Matter.

I don’t make racial arguments on this blog very often.  I don’t make racial arguments largely because of the points made by the host of the video.  I was virtually homeless for years. I have been poor all my life. The only things I’ve ever had going for me was the color of my skin, and my ability to think clearly and deeply. Only one of those is something I can do anything about.

Poverty is what we all share in common. Nearly half of the US is poor.

I don’t make racial arguments because they are divisive, and I am not proud of the history of race as my white skin would have that history be told. I support Black Lives Matter every time I hear the group derided, even when black people aren’t around to hear it. See it. I do this because I know we are fellow travelers. We share a common human bond.

The real separation, the real dispute, is between the haves and the have-nots. Just as it has always been down through history.  Make no mistake, there is a war on poverty in the US.  It just isn’t the war you think it is.

Tiptoeing through Gender Issues

I’ve been a fan of John Varley’s SF since the Wife first introduced me to it. Common in most of Varley’s work is the idea that sex was something you could change on a whim. That you might actually simply choose to be sexless as a statement (which lead to other perversions) that you could become female in order to have children (something I might have done) but then reverse to male in order to have more strength for work later in life if strength was something you needed. The idea that sex was a irreversible state you were assigned to at birth would be a foreign concept in a Varley future. The one part of Varley’s futures that I really didn’t have a problem with.

I’m starting with the subject of John Varley’s futuristic SF because I want there to be no confusion about my overall intentions while discussing this subject. The subject of gender, of sex, and changing it. This is about categorization. I’ve breached this subject a few times now in other places, and I’m not convinced that the overall subject, false categorization; the creation of groupings which don’t actually exist, really is understood as the point of it all.

This is not about nature, or about god. There isn’t some stamp that is placed on us at birth that says we have to be either female or male. Sexual attributes appear on a curve, just like all other attributes that we possess. Some small percentage of people identify more with the opposite sex than their own external appearance. Some even smaller group have sex organs for both sexes.

I mentioned in a parenthetical above that I might have opted for changing my sex to female had that been an option, for the purpose of having children.  This is a true statement.  The Wife has problems with the birthing of children.  Had she been born even a generation before ours, she probably would have died in childbirth; which is a very sobering thought. So sobering that I would have willingly changed places with her in order that we could have the children we both wanted, and save her the risk to her health. But that wasn’t possible. Still isn’t possible. If it were, it would be possible for her physiology to be altered in a way that allowed her to have children without dying, without my having to change my sex.

But would I do it anyway? I’ve always been a nurturer. Played with dolls as a child.  My mother had to explain to me why I couldn’t take my dolls to school with me. How the other boys would not understand and would make fun of me.  Giving up the dolls did not change who I was. I’d sooner spend an hour rocking a baby than doing almost anything else. Had I needed to carry my own children to term I’d like to think I’d have done it, despite the pain involved.

I’m not afraid of being mistaken for female, on the other hand. If you put a wig and breasts on me (as on most men) I’ll look like a dude with a wig and breasts.  Just like most men will.  So my status as male is secure; so secure that I would look stupid trying to be anything other than male.

I can understand being personally convinced that you are in the wrong body. I understand the quandary, or at least like to think I do. I’m just not willing to concede that gender is a thing. A thing that can be altered. A thing that can be altered without altering the sex of the person.

This fact is easily demonstrable. If you gave the people who want to change their gender the option of simply modifying their birth certificates (which in a general sense is impossible) the vast majority of them would probably change the sexual designation on their identity papers and give up the gender argument.  It is only the documentation’s immutable status that  makes this entire argument so convoluted.

Hawaii is now allowing people to change their sexual designation on their birth certificates without having to undergo surgery. Only time will tell if this fixes the problem of sexual designation for public purposes. Personally I don’t think the problem will go away until there aren’t restrooms separated by sex; removing the requirement to declare sexuality just to relieve yourself. I know a lot of women who don’t like this idea (yes, dear) and yet I can’t think of any other way to address the inequality presented by separate restrooms.

Documents are fallible, as humans are fallible. Some drunken buffoon on duty at the delivery ward at night can’t uncross his eyes and figure out if the baby in front of him is male or female, and writes the wrong identification out on the birth certificate. Maybe the child just has ambiguous genitalia. Who knows? What is certain is that people are being asked to live their lives as one sex, when they know that they are not of that sex.

If you accept that the sexual role you will want to play as an adult can be determined by an outside observer at the time of your birth, then you might as well assume that there are also innate designations of dominant or submissive; that BDSM roles are also assigned at birth. That you might not want to play either role, or find the concept that you will have to play one or the other role insulting is beyond the comprehension of the record keeper. Obviously everyone will be in one group or the other. It has to be that way, right?

The birth certificate as an unchangeable document just doesn’t add up to a rational system capable of being defended, from a sexual designation point of view at least. What if you are physically capable of handling any role at birth? What if no sexual role mentally suits you as an adult?  What if you think that role-playing should be left to fantasy and not real-world interactions?

Gender isn’t a thing.  Gender is a perception. More than that, gender is the perception of an observer, the identity the observer assigns in their head when dealing with other people. Gender is the presentation that you attempt when you dress in a particular fashion.  Wear your hair a particular way. In the choices of accessories.  You cannot dictate what gender someone will assign to you before they meet you. It is the interaction which will define how they deal with you as a person. You can prime that interaction with overt displays of the gender you want to be seen as, but that doesn’t (especially for men trying to be women) mean that you’re going to pull it off without looking silly.

It is actually easier to pass as a man than it is as a woman. Most men (as the Wife has discovered) will treat the unknown other as an equal, as a guy, if the woman simply acts like a man. Dresses like a man. Even if she is curvy.  It was common in earlier times when gender roles were more strictly defined for women to pass themselves off as men. To simply assume the role of male, and do it so flawlessly that most men they dealt with never knew.

Jason Robert Ballard/FTM Magazine

We hold ourselves up to ridiculous standards of beauty. We idolize and worship the prettiest among us as if they are representations of ourselves.  It is a fantasy that a regular person can ever match the beauty of models, as if even the models look that good in poor lighting.  This is not a trans-gendered man, this is just a man. More of a man than I ever have been, if static beauty is a measure of manliness (could do without the tattoos, but it isn’t my body, so knock yourself out) Just as this person is a woman. What this is, more than anything else, is an error in record keeping; a bug in the process of sexual identification which needs to be addressed. This is a manifestation of the worship of documentation as some immutable testament to what is good and natural instead of serving as a reference to what is real and substantial.

Geena Rocero

I’ve been barraged with this lately from many different corners. It’s been on Skeptoid. I’ve argued about it on Facebook. It’s in my e-mail newsfeed. I’ve watched several TED talks on the subject. The celebration of the trans-gendered, and the labeling of the rest of us as cis-gendered. The idea that a minority can dictate to the majority what labels that majority will wear is farcical on its face. Never mind the fact that it is an invented label and not a correct usage of the terms. Just trying to give fair warning here.

On top of that, just exactly how do you determine who the cis are?

I’d like to speak to all the lumpy old people out there for a minute or two. You know who you are. You remember how, when you were growing up, everyone told you that you had to do this or that, or you weren’t manly? You had to paint your face, be happy and agreeable, like to clean house (or at least pretend to) or you weren’t feminine?  And you, being who you are, either hesitantly agreed, said nothing, or offered a rebuttal; but then went on to ignore everything said on that subject by others and just went on to live you life like you wanted anyway? Are you trans or cis? Dom or sub? Do any of the many labels others want you to wear matter in the slightest? Or are these labels annoyances that you’d just as soon not have to deal with?

Just because the majority don’t go around complaining about the gender stereotypes they are saddled with, doesn’t mean that they are cis in any measurable way.

I’ll happily give up gender specific pronouns, given alternatives that don’t sound forced in conversation. I have no problem using they instead of he or she. Their instead of hers or his. Don’t have a problem with mixed-sex restrooms since I hate urinals in the first place and won’t use them. Wouldn’t put them in restrooms that I designed unless told to. I don’t see the problem with allowing people to change their sex designation on their identification.

I’m just not willing to accept that gender is a thing separate from sex. Not willing to adopt an invented label just because people who want to change their sex have been forced to wear the label trans. I’ll happily support your right to not have to wear that label, either. Not going to start loving sports, hating house cleaning, or conforming to the myriad of gender stereotypes that are out there in the world.  I’m not cis. I’m not trans. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t presume to put labels on me that I don’t freely adopt. That statement should echo with quite a few people out there.

My children have friends that are struggling with this issue right now. Children and young adults who want to know what labels they should put on themselves. A few of them I’m actually quite worried about. To them I want to say STOPDon’t harm yourself.  Be who you are, don’t try to change to fit some perception that other’s hold for you. We love you just the way you are. There is no need to change. To pretend. Just be. Try to be happy, if you can.  Experience all the joy you can wrap your head around. Good advice, no matter what label you want to hang on yourself.


I expected to get pushback from the trans community because I thrash that communities insistence that there is a thing called cis.  Instead what I got was a whole lot of hell from non-trans people who kept insisting that trans was a problem.  I continue to disagree with those people.  No matter the source of pushback, no matter the source of the attempt to label non-trans as cis, there still isn’t anything called cis.

The reason why there isn’t a thing called cis is the same reason why there really isn’t a thing called natural; at least in the experience of everyday average human beings. The reason why cis and natural are not things you can define is because there is no default property or state which is then modified by biology or human intervention. There is just the world as it exists in all its riotous varieties of life and experience. Human modification of things from their natural state renders objects that are in many ways still natural since humans are themselves creations of nature. Something manmade is not necessarily something that is unnatural.

There were several comments on this post that were lost when I shifted commenting back to Blogger comments from G+ comments. This was an unanticipated and unavoidable outcome from my perspective. I hadn’t realized that comments would actually disappear from G+, I figured they’d stay there and you just couldn’t see them on the blog. I was tired of having to fight pitched battles on G+ that were visible on the blog and I was equally tired of seeing my posts to G+ show up as comments on the blog posts I was promoting on G+, so I migrated back to the Blogger comment structure which also allowed me to write comments with HTML code that would display properly. Things change and loss of information is always a potential outcome during change. The form this blog is published under is likely to change to a more mobile friendly framework shortly, and that itself may cause some information to be lost. My apologies if this troubles people who like things to stay the same. However, those comments are gone, gone, gone and that leaves me struggling to grasp the arguments that I can no longer reference for clarities sake. My apologies if I tangent while trying to present the argument thrust at me previously, an argument that is now lost.

There is a common misconception among the people who believe in concepts like cis or natural; the misconception solidifies with conscious modification of whatever the thing is. A thing that was natural becomes unnatural. A thing that was cis is now trans. This misconception manifests in belief that genetics are absolute and deterministic. That XX yields women and XY yields men and there is never a miscommunication. That if you have a penis you are a boy and if you have a vagina you are a girl. This kind of rigid codification is not the reality of life as it occurs, but I couldn’t explain or produce an exception to the presumed rule that was thrown at me. Until now.

Listening to LatinoUSA today I was introduced to the concept of Intersex.  Intersex people can be male, female or both simultaneously, or even neither as the case may be. These individuals have been the subject of millennia of mistreatment by both society and the medical community. Mistreatment that is only now being rectified, and then only in places that honor the UN declarations on human rights for the most part.

By Jonathan.MarcusOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

It is possible to have sexual development produce these vague outcomes because a fetus doesn’t have any sexual variation until after the seventh week of gestation. Specifically, the story in the LatinoUSA piece was of an individual suffering from Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome producing an outcome of externally male appearing genitals but with no ability to produce secondary sexual characteristics at adulthood because the male sex hormones had no effect on her cells. She was subjected to corrective surgery against her wishes in her teens, surgery which made her female, the gender she identifies as today.

There are several different scenarios that will lead to a fetus not developing along expected male/female lines producing individuals who fall into one of the other two possible sexual outcomes neither/both, outcomes which don’t actually have accepted labels or words to define them. Yet. But what this information does provide is an explanation of how you can be of one genetic type and not be of the sex for that genetic makeup.

Given the potential permutations of complex organisms like humans beings, it is quite likely that any number of LGBT people could have some form of intersex affectation that has never been discovered. Many people who want to be identified as cis may actually be affected by one of the many diseases and syndromes that lead to what was once seen as a serious handicap requiring emergency surgery to correct as soon as possible. In the end it benefits us all to accept that there isn’t a clear-cut dividing line between boys and girls and to end these ridiculous rules of separation along sexually predetermined lines. We harm ourselves in trying to set such rigid boundaries to our own sexuality.

Homophobia In Denial

I think I was being too subtle;

Queerest Thing Happened? What does that mean?”

Let me see if I can explain this to the slow of mind.

People used queer to describe homosexuals because the idea of homosexuality scared them.  This fear is born of latent homosexuality, fear that you are homosexual.  Ergo calling something gay because it upsets you means you experience latent homosexual feelings.

To put this bluntly; if you are a man, you like to look at other men’s butts. No point in denying it, we’ve caught you looking, so just admit it and we’ll get on to the next point. 

You’ve been taught that there’s something wrong with finding other men…
(or women, if you are one. Not as much of a problem with women, so I understand.  Being a man I don’t want to speak out of turn, so I’ll offer this up as an explanation of my sexism on the subject)
 …attractive.  Consequently you think that there should be some kind of punishment involved for people who find members of their own sex attractive enough to actually engage in sex acts with them.

This isn’t about christian teachings. I know it’s not about christian teachings because, as Jim Wright points out here, the law that mentions homosexuality is 39th in the book of Leviticus;

No Messy Hair is more important than don’t have gay sex – seriously, go look at your bible. It’s right there. The fact that you own a fucking comb is more important to God than not having gay sex.

It’s 39th, and almost none of the other rules are things that christians feel the urge to make laws about.  No wine for Catholics and no dogs as pets.  I just can’t see that list as being anything worth losing any sleep over.

Having a verse in your holy book to point to that explains your reaction does not lend credence to your latent homosexual fears. It just makes you look silly when the other laws in the book are things that you’d either get awards for today (sex with three generations of the same family, here’s your trophy) or laughed out of culinary school for proposing in the first place.  Much less follow them yourself, privately. Go ask any number of prominent church leaders who lead closeted private lives about it if you don’t believe me.

It is a fact that a small percentage of the population are afraid of the biological imperatives that they feel. In some cases that’s a good thing.  You really shouldn’t go around murdering people who call out your latent homosexuality just because you feel an overwhelming desire to do so.  Some of those feelings are harmless, however, and mean nothing. Indulge them or not, it really makes no difference.

It was accepted tradition in Western society that there was something wrong with homosexuality.  It wasn’t just laws in the bible, because the tradition predates the christian church. When civic law became a thing, that law was adopted because of the tradition. And why not? Look at the way they live, there’s clearly something wrong with them.

Never mind that ostracizing individuals causes the very problems that are attributed to the behaviors in the first place.  Research has shown, time and again, that creating an outgroup leads to the kinds of behavior patterns seen in the homosexual community. So it’s not them, it is the rest of us. It is us and our need to see ourselves as better than them.

My daughter, very rightly, pointed out that not everyone who uses the word gay to mean bad is a homophobe. I get that as well. Not everyone who thinks that there is something wrong with homosexuality is actually afraid of finding other men’s butts attractive.  The vast majority of us really don’t notice. We just accept that the things we’ve been taught are true, even though they aren’t. Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing wrong with being a homosexual, if that’s what you want to be, if that’s what you are. There is no clinical evidence that shows harm in just being a homosexual. There is no social reason why homosexuals would be any different than the rest of us, if they were simply accepted as part of the ingroup.  The majority would be ok with that, if we simply knew the truth.

Homophobes are a tiny little subset of the larger whole.

You know the kind of group I’m talking about, a minority that wants the rest of us to behave the way they feel comfortable. So the next time you misuse the word gay to mean bad, ask yourself if you actually like that guy’s butt or not. Because that is the signal you are sending. The next time you stand up and denounce homosexuals ask yourself if that guy over there (you know who he is) doesn’t actually turn you on and that scares you.

Because if the answer is no, then you aren’t a member of that group, and you really shouldn’t be doing their work for them.  Let them haul their own baggage. Put the shoe on the other foot. Perhaps it’s time that we call out the homophobic for the sick individuals that they are, and prescribe for them some of the treatments that they have demanded we subject others too. Ostracise them, see how well they fare without the rest of us.

With the shoe on the other foot, maybe we can finally put this contentious issue to rest.

Obama Best President Since Eisenhower

In an argument on DC’s forums last year, amidst all the caterwauling, hair tearing, and general hatassery concerning the President and the upcoming elections, I proposed the following; that Barack Obama could well be considered the best President since Dwight D. Eisenhower.  I said it at the time largely because I like to take a devil’s advocate position, but also because I’ve become quite weary over the last 6 years listening to idiots run down the sitting President.

Generally, I’m right there with them.  I mean, given the track record of Presidents in recent history, it’s not hard to thrash a President and have a receptive audience.

I first started paying attention to politics when Carter was in office. I couldn’t vote back then, but I thought Carter was getting a raw deal leading up to the election of 1980. His policies weren’t anything to brag about, but the weakness of the President and the country that conservatives railed about was largely an illusion that they invented simply as a tool to use against him.  As history has demonstrated, Reagan didn’t know anything more than how to hit a mark and say a line (mostly) correctly; and people in his employ did negotiate with the Iranian hostage takers. In 1984. Again? Who knows.

(Courtesy information aesthetics website)

Reagan’s term in office was hardly anything to brag about either; in spite of what armies of conservatives say otherwise.  Yes, it’s true, the Berlin wall fell on his watch, but that falling had almost nothing to do with US policies in the region, and everything to do with ham-handed bureaucrats behind the iron curtain, and a Soviet President elected to usher in a new era of openness demanded by the people. What Reagan should be known for, the albatross that he should wear, is Reaganomics or trickle-down economics; which has been shown to be a complete failure and has actually contributed more to economic instability than any other action committed by any other US executive in modern history.

Reagan’s real legacy is the S&L debacle, brought about by loosening regulations on financial institutions, almost exactly as predicted by people opposed to that action.  The Iran-Contra affair that I mentioned previously barely moves the needle compared to the destructiveness of Reaganomics.

But Ronald Reagan was popular and was elected to two terms.  His popularity even earned his Vice-President, an almost political unknown named George Herbert Walker Bush, a term as President. But the damage done by Reaganomics continued to plague the nation, and not even a short, victorious, righteous war to stymie the aggression of a Middle Eastern dictator could secure him a second term in office.

As a peacenik, someone opposed to war in general if not in principle, George H.W. Bush’s willingness to go to war didn’t earn any points with me.  None of the things his successor said or did made me believe he was any different.  Bill Clinton’s term in office benefitted from the investment of the LBJ administration in space technology, in the form of microchips that were finally small and powerful enough to drive the information technology revolution that we are in the middle of; which makes his term in office seem halcyon in hindsight. But his willingness to involve the US in every correct world event (with the exception of Rwanda. Which he says he wishes he’d gotten involved in as well) lobbing missiles like they were footballs at every hotspot on the globe, provided the grist for the mill of anti-American sentiment around the world.

Packing a bomb which exploded on 9-11.  That’s the take-away that history will draw from this era, the post-post WWII decades. When the US fumbled the ball handed to it by the old-world European powers, and let someone else take up the lead internationally (who that will be remains in question) the election of Bush II will not be remembered for what Al Gore supporters would like it to be remembered for, but for the results of America being asleep at the wheel internationally almost since the end of the Vietnam war.

Bush II didn’t steal the election, he simply won it on a technicality. So he got to be the guy in charge on the day when the buzzards came home to roost.  The saying roughly goes we get the best enemies money can buy and we made the enemies who attacked us on 9-11; both figuratively and in reality.  We trained a good number of terrorists to resist the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, including some who later worked for Al Qaeda, possibly even OBL himself. The administration was warned but ignored those warnings, and then set about fighting a war that would end up being the longest in US history, and arranged for that war to occur based on false evidence.  In the process the Bush II administration destroyed American credibility on the world stage (whatever was left of it) torturing innocent people who just happened to be in a warzone at the wrong time.

To finish off his term, Bush II (prefer W? Use that) also failed to act on the looming financial crisis (also about which he was warned) and consequently handed the election of the next President to the Democrats, who could have run the proverbial yellow dog, and it would have won.  If it hadn’t been for Sarah Palin’s circus show, there wouldn’t have been anything of interest about the election of 2008.

With that as a backdrop, you can imagine what I thought of Barack Obama going into his first term.  Don’t get me wrong, I voted for him in the primary in a vain (?) effort to throw the election his way instead of towards Hillary Clinton (I have no use for political dynasties) but I voted straight Libertarian for my last time in that general election. Held my nose and voted for a Republican in Libertarian clothing. Won’t be doing that again.

But Obama pretty much did what he promised.  Oh, I know, he cratered on a lot of things that privacy advocates and conspiracy mongers think he should have taken a hard line on.  But he has ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without looking too ridiculous in the process; and no matter how much saber rattling the Conservatives do, the anarchy currently afoot in Syria/Iraq doesn’t amount to much in the scheme of things unless you happen to have business there.  Happen to live there (if you do, you have my sympathy. But do you really want to help Bashar Assad stay in power?  Really?) It managed to win them seats in the midterms, blowing out the possibility of a more productive congress in 2015, but in the end they remain on the wrong side of history.

Why, you ask? Why are they on the wrong side of history?  Why would Obama be considered a good President? Because the general trends are predictive and obvious.  I tripped over them even if you, dear reader, did not.

Since the Cold War ended and we blithely went on unchanging in or priorities, the Old World powers found their legs and stood on their own again.  If you want to visit countries with the highest ratings for health, productivity, happiness, etc., look no further than the old economies that hard liners in the US still wrongly dismiss.  Proof of this can be found by the ease with which Germany absorbed the poorer provinces of Eastern Germany, long held back under Soviet rule.  How the French absorb refugees into France at a rate that rivals the US.

Canada’s adoption of the Canada Health Act hasn’t proved disastrous for the Canadian economy as predicted. It’s services continue to improve at an impressive rate, leaving the US in the dust. Even Mexico City has better healthcare than we have in the US, finally making the claims of liberal agitators like Micheal Moore truthful, if only in hindsight.

The writing is on the wall, has been on the wall for sometime and US citizens apparently never noticed. Socialized medicine, for lack of a better appellation, appears to be the future.  The notion that individuals can pay for health services as needed and build the kind of infrastructure that the average person wants (emergency services, research, etc) has been effectively shown to be a pipe dream; and that systems can and do function with the amount of complexity required to provide services in a timely fashion.

Ergo we will all be charged something to provide the services we all say we want but don’t want to pay for; or rather, underestimate the cost of.  But that subject is beside the point I’m trying to make, and I don’t want to be distracted from it.

Every President since and including FDR talked about doing something about healthcare in the US.  Every President since Truman has actively asked for and/or crafted legislation to fix the US healthcare system. Barack Obama, in the face of the stiffest opposition faced by any President in US history, helped to craft compromise legislation that at least advances the goal of universal access to healthcare for the first time in US history.  No one likes it, to be sure, but it appears to be working all the same.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is out this morning and reveals that 15.9 percent of American adults are now uninsured, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months of 2013 and has shown improvements in every major demographic group with the exception of Hispanics who did not advance. 

Courtesy; Forbes “The Real Numbers On ‘The Obamacare Effect’ Are In-Now Let The Crow Eating Begin”

If it continues working, if we actually expand on the basis set down by the Obama administration, What then? When Presidents back to the time of Truman tried to get this done?

Why Eisenhower? Because Eisenhower was the last President to put his name on a fundamental change that was positive to the US as a whole. LBJ might have done this with his Great Society, but his term was marred with Vietnam (which could have been avoided) Eisenhower managed to avoid any major conflicts, and established the Interstate system with funds Congress had given to the military.

I’m not planning on doing an exhaustive search back though 60 years of Presidential history just to make my point.  Truthfully, when I first proposed the idea, I just stated best President in our lifetimes. I was born in the age of Kennedy, and while his ending was tragic, what LBJ achieved in his name was of more importance than anything he did aside from not starting World War Three during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the grand scheme of things that is what he will be remembered for, aside from his words that took us to the moon on LBJ’s watch.

Which is really all that matters to history.

LBJ might pull a close second, even with Vietnam on his record, but that just really speaks to the lackluster nature of our leaders post-WW II, not to any high achievement on LBJ’s record.

What’s funny is, I’ve heard similar talk in the news media of late, which is why this subject came back to mind. Obama took the shellacking of his party in stride, decided he wouldn’t sit out the last two years of his Presidency and play golf; at least not yet anyway (If you ask me he’s earned it, having taken less vacation than the last two Presidents) and took his Presidential pen in hand (something else he’s done less than recent Presidents) to reduce the suffering of people who it was in his power to help.

It is noteworthy that every president since and including Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower has taken executive action on immigration without facing threats of lawsuits, government shutdowns, impeachment, or loss of executive authority

The title caught my eye Every President Since Eisenhower.  Well that’s interesting.  Not a recommendation, but at least a true observation on the obstinacy of Congresses across the years. So I went looking farther.

A piece from this time last year in the New York Times lays the case out pretty well;

Mr. Obama, barring tragedy or resignation, will get to serve eight years, but his margin of victory last November was not overwhelming. He won 62 percent of the electoral vote, which ranks 16th among the 30 presidents who sought re-election after their first terms. Mr. Obama’s electoral vote percentage was better than any of the 10 first-term losers, of course — but among the 20 winners, it exceeded only James Madison in 1812, Woodrow Wilson in 1916, Harry Truman in 1948 and George W. Bush in 2004.

That’s just going on percentages. Puts him in the running with Clinton, well below Eisenhower or LBJ in historical importance based on electoral percentage.

But that’s a little dry, don’t you think? Surely it means more than that, historical importance? More than the President’s popularity with the voting public?  Not necessarily.  Specifically, I have a hard time believing that Reagan will maintain his high rating (historically ranked 10th in importance) even with his overwhelming second-term victory percentages, given the looting that his administration ushered in and is only now coming to light.

Still, the cost-cutters will be hard pressed to nay-say Barack Obama’s place in history if he stays on course through the rest of his term;

Courtesy Forbes Magazine

You are reading that right.  Obama most conservative federal spender since…
…Dwight D. Eisenhower. Don’t hold your breath waiting for your conservative outlets to spin this the right way, they won’t; or they will take Heritage Foundation’s tack on the subject and insist that Bush II’s war costs should be saddled on Obama. In any case, the groundwork has been laid. My work here is done.


When I say that Obama is the best President since Eisenhower, it’s not a compliment to Obama or Eisenhower. I just want to make this point clear. It’s an observation on just how predatory our government has been in the past, continues to be at present. Imagine what US society would look like if Americans thought of themselves as not engaged in a zero-sum competition with their fellows? If we elected a government that actually focused on common welfare and not killing perceived threats to our ever-diminishing piece of the pie?

That is how Obama is different than his predecessors since Eisenhower, or at least since Carter. This is the first time the military agenda hasn’t dominated every second of the sitting Presidents time. The first time in decades that any social advancement has been registered; or more precisely, the first time the downward slide of the average American has been noted publicly.

We (as citizens) should build on that, rather than be distracted by the same-old glittery glamour of sabre-rattling and outright warfare that has come to be synonymous with US policy since WWII.

Torture; Because a Spade is a Spade

I have resisted writing on this subject because; frankly, it’s black and white to me.  As a matter of course you treat innocent people (people not convicted of a crime) as if they haven’t done anything wrong. People are in the wrong place at the wrong time, even when you’re fighting a battle in a third world country.

This view puts me at odds with most law enforcement, even in the US, where any visit to the holding cells for people recently arrested will result in horrified outrage at the treatment of people awaiting processing. But depraved conditions in the local holding pen because of the tight-fistedness of local government is nothing compared to intentionally causing physical and emotional pain to people simply because we can, because we are in charge and want to assert our authority.

There is an excellent essay up on Stonekettle Station right now on this subject.  Jim Wright has the experience to back up what he says when it comes to the subject of taking prisoners in a time of war, of just how hard it is to take a high moral road when you really are in the thick of it.

I, me personally? I would do whatever it took, including torture, if that was the only way to save the city, if that was the only way to save my family, if that was the only way to save you. As a military officer, yes, I would. Absolutely. I wouldn’t order my men to do it, I’d do it myself. I shove a hose up the bastard’s nose and turn on the water. I’d shoot out his knees. I’d cut off his balls. You bet. If that’s what it took. I’d do it without hesitation.

And I’d do it knowing I was breaking the law, and I would expect to be tried for the crime and sent to prison.

I would.

Because even if I saved the day, I’d be wrong. 

Good intentions do not justify evil.

A just cause does not justify injustice. No more than if I donned a cape and tights and drove around Gotham in the night killing criminals without trial or due process. 

(courtesy Jim Wright @ Stonekettle Station)

It’s worth noting, in our depraved current era, that not even Batman killed the subjects he pursued in the original comic books.  The same is true for all the heroes of previous generations.  They didn’t kill, they didn’t torment, they didn’t torture. That was what the villains did. That was why the Punisher was a villain when introduced in the comic sphere.  Because he killed, he tortured. He was evil.

Nowadays our heroes are not heroic in any sense of the word.  Sports stars pummel their wives unconscious on video and go unpunished. Beat their children to the point that they need medical attention, and expect to be let off without suffering consequences. Police officers are filmed strangling and shooting unarmed men, and remain unprosecuted. Politicians don’t even flinch at being caught in hypocrisy any longer. They just explain it away as some thing they said but didn’t really mean.

I only have one response for people who think we should be subjecting prisoners to torture, which is what enhanced interrogation techniques are.  You can be seen as free of hypocrisy, supporting the systematic use of torture, if you willingly undergo it yourself. I mean, if innocent people can be subjected to this kind of treatment, then anyone should be able to undergo the treatment without ill effects.

Christopher Hitchens thought waterboarding was no big deal, until he allowed himself to be waterboarded. here’s the video of it;


(courtesy Vanity Fair & Christopher Hitchens)

I expect Dick Cheney to submit himself to waterboarding, or to the Hague for prosecution for war crimes.  He should do so within the week.  Unlike someone subject to waterboarding, I wouldn’t suggest you hold your breath waiting for that.

Queerest Thing Happened

Well that’s gay!

Friends of my children have been putting those particular words together for years now.  It has always driven me to distraction. My typical response runs along the lines of “how was that a joyous event?”  or “They do appear to be enjoying themselves” I’ve almost never been able to let that one pass.  What they mean to say is “that went queerly” or “that makes me feel weird”, but their undereducated little brains cannot retrieve the proper words to express themselves clearly.

Gay≠Queer, Gay≠Bad, Gay≠Stupid

Gay is not queer, queer is not gay. Queer; as any decent dictionary (not Wikipedia btw. Wiki is consumed with slang usage, the nature of a popularly edited tome) will tell you, means strange or odd, or when used as a verb means something akin to spoiling. It was thrown as an insult at homosexuals and transgendered people by backwards thinking troglodytes who were made to feel strange or odd by a man wearing a dress or acting feminine. If those groups wish to label themselves as queer now (much the way christians adopted the insulting term for followers of christ as their name) that would be their business.

In much the same fashion, gay does not mean homosexual, even though most dictionaries now list that as its primary meaning. Gay means happily excited or lighthearted and carefree.  Case in point; when the Flintstones themesong encourages you to have a gay-old time they are not suggesting you become homosexual;

They want you to enjoy yourself lightheartedly; a perfectly cromulent way to define an episode of The Flintstones. So when friends of my children (or gaming troglodytes on the internet) exclaim “well that’s gay” in response to something that frustrates their primitive brains, I can get a bit snippy. Your latent homosexuality (homophobia) causing you to to be set queer towards homosexuals does not mean you get to call your reaction “gay”. Gay is something you enjoy, not something that pisses you off or scares you.

In that sense (a sense of joyous engagement) homosexuals who want to label themselves with the word gay are welcome to it. But can I have queer back, please?  I mean, I like the word.  It easily defines the feeling you get when walking through a graveyard at night. When someone is watching you and you can’t figure out who it is.  It’s a good word, just not an insult to be hurled at people who are clearly enjoying themselves.


As my daughter observed on Facebook; yes, I have been reported on World of Warcraft for suggesting that someone insulting the english language by transposing the words gay and queer should pull their heads out of their asses and understand word meanings.  Ironically their complaint was that I was insulting homosexuals by using the word queer
What people choose to label themselves with is not a concern of mine; has never been something I take seriously or give meaning to.  People call themselves all kinds of things in the course of their lives, almost never do they actually adopt the entirety of what the word really means (Objectivist and Libertarian spring immediately to mind) or actually even have a clue what other people adopting the label really believe. 
The rant my daughter was on about on Facebook (the one that inspired this piece) concerned the word retarded.  As someone who was labeled slow for most of his childhood, it’s another subject I can get snippy about. Having a learning disability, being retarded in development (retard means to slow; it is an engineering term) is one thing; being called a retard is no different than being called stupid, uneducated, or dumb (although dumb has many other insulting meanings as well) it is insulting to be so labeled, and people should be challenged when they offer base insults to people they disagree with.  It is ad hominem, and beside the point of argument to be insulting to your opponents.
However, when you call a console retarded, I really don’t see the point of being offended personally.  

So, How Many Planets are There, Anyway?

I started this entry several months ago, when the latest planet-sized object beyond Pluto’s orbit was located. At that time the astronomers were hemming and hawing over whether they were going to call it a planet; but since they called Pluto a planet, they pretty much had to call this discovery a planet as well. I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. It appears that event has now taken place.

‘The other shoe’ is the IAU definition of ‘planet’. They recently formed a committee to come up with a definition that could be applied to all solar systems, and now they are floating that definition amongst their peers, looking for acceptance.

This new definition would yield 12 planets for this solar system, based on current knowledge. Some astronomers think this number could go as high as 24.

Personally, I think the astronomers are missing a key point in defining what is or isn’t a planet. Anyone who looks at the orbit of Pluto (or the Plutons, as the new definition refers to them) and contrasts it with the orbits of the ‘classical’ 8 inner planets, can probably get the point I’m trying to make here. Pluto is clearly not of the same nature as the rest of the planets. It’s orbit describes a body that is more akin to a comet than to a planet. The definition of planet should reflect this.

A planet should first and foremost be formed from the original accretion disk of the star that it orbits, or follow the same orbital pathway that the star’s gravity and spin dictates. Anything of planet size that doesn’t conform to this plane should be referred to as a ‘planetoid‘; of planet size, but not truly a planet.

Of course, this kind of level-headed thinking on the subject would yield no new planets for current and future astronomers to hang their names on, so I’m not looking for any of them to notice the argument at all, human nature being what it is.

Call me old fashioned, but I really think these types of defining moments should reflect the need for clarity, not the desire for self-aggrandizement.

Standard American Mutt

Every time I take a survey, I get pissed off. Why? Because in every survey, the bean counters in charge of it want to nail down exactly what group I’m a part of, so that they can massage their numbers to get the answers they want. Amongst the male or female, married or single, how much money do I make type questions, they inevitably ask “what is your race?”

Hell if I know, I’ve never done a genealogy on my family history. The subject is about as interesting as watching paint dry. My skin’s white, sure enough. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Ancestry determines what type of blood runs in your veins; and only working with the surnames of my grandparents, I can claim German, French and English blood. Who knows what else has been thrown in there over the last couple of hundred years? In my estimation that makes me a Standard American Mutt.

‘Race’ is an illusion anyway. The behavior attributed to ‘race’ is nothing more than ethnic culture; the absorbed societal norms which influence the thinking of an individual, and culture changes from generation to generation (and the people who wish to preserve their ethnicity are fighting an losing battle on a constantly shifting slope) The genetic differences between the ‘races’ are no greater than the genetic differences between individuals of the same race. So what does it mean to claim membership in a particular race? Bragging rights?

Beats me. I’m proud to proclaim myself a ‘mutt’. Now if I can just get the people printing forms and writing surveys to include Standard American Mutt as one of the choices…

Generation Cusp Humor Conundrum

Reading Knappster today, ran across a reference to all the new buzzwords that the corporate geeks have come up with in the last few years. When ‘the wife’ was working for Dell, I remember a good many of those being spoken with a straight face.

Yeah, them Gen-Xers are funny; and I tend to think of myself as a Gen-X rather than as a boomer (when I think about the meaningless labels that get affixed to indefinable groups of people that happen to have been born in particular years, that is) Having been born in the early sixties, I get the pick of which group I want to be in, since the ‘generations’ that they claim to represent overlap in those years.

My wife, on the other hand, thinks of herself as a Boomer. Her parents grew up in the depression and didn’t have children until late in life; so she tends to see herself as being part of the post-war (that would be WWII for the knee biters out there) boom generation. It makes no difference when I explain that we were in grade school during the ‘summer of love’, she wants to be a Boomer.

Just so long as she doesn’t ask me to give up my unearned ‘X-er’ angst, I won’t point out to her that women’s lib and tie-dye both had their time already (and it’s over; the women won, OK?) and I guess we’ll continue to agree to disagree on the subject.

These days I feel about as old as a Boomer should feel (at least in my estimation) Especially when visiting a site like “I Was Your Age Twice” (which I have been, for quite a few people out there; and the number grows, daily) and laughing my head off at a good bit of the content there.

Gen-X I may be, but I can still rant with the best of them ‘older’ farts.



2017. I have now lived long enough that infants born in the last years of Gen-X can be happy about being on the cusp of the next generation, which I understand they are calling “Millennials”. Happy to be able to claim either generation as theirs, or neither if it suits them. Well isn’t that precious?

Allusionist 39: Generation What?

I will soon be seeing the third generation since my birth spawn and get old enough to complain about the state of the world. I am beginning to understand how this can get tiring to witness.