Character Investment

Facebook Memories has served up the hack job I did on Star Trek: Beyond when that trailer came out. I’ve run across it more than once now, enough times that I feel I should at least mention how wrong I was about the film somewhere on the blog. The trailer I saw on Facebook, shared on Facebook, was not the first trailer, but trailer number two. This trailer.

Star Trek Beyond | Trailer #2 | Paramount Pictures International

When I shared the trailer I simply paraphrased from Abramantions Multiply: It is still an Abramanation. The possibility of suckage is high.

The damn trailer has the Bad Robot logo on it. I consider that to be fair warning of impending suckage after the disaster that was LOST seasons 4 through 6. I suffered through all of LOST, the Abramanator will not trick me into liking his work again. I tried. I really did. I tried to make sense of those last seasons of LOST. I tried watching the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Then I declared Trek dead. The Nutrek reboots are bad in many ways, as I and others have gone into great detail to describe in the past. Details that long-time readers of this blog will know about. They are bad in ways that a lot of popular movies are bad these days (Star Wars 7. Mad Max 4) but also bad because of the disconnect with the universe that Gene set out to create.

However, I did finally break down and watch Star Trek: Beyond, just as I watched Star Trek: Into Darkness edited for television and wished I could have my two hours back. After watching Star Trek: Beyond I had to admit that not all Nutrek sucks ass to an equal degree. In fact, Star Trek: Beyond really does try to go beyond, to leave all the previous attempts to tell grand movie stories using Star Trek as a vehicle, and just try to do a Star Trek story as a movie.

Simon Pegg penned a decent little story when he wrote the script. The actors playing the parts delivered their usual best work; and since they weren’t working from the Abramantors crap scripts, the resulting blockbuster spectacle is pretty watchable from just about any perspective that you might come to it. It’s not even bad Trek, per se. There are some points that I might object to from a purist standpoint, but those points can be overruled by watching any number of classic episodes that diverged from Gene Roddenberry’s strict guidelines for how the Trek universe manifested itself. At least one of the episodes that breaks his rules is one he wrote himself. So there are flaws that a purist might take exception to, but anyone trying to watch it with disbelief suspended and a willingness to let the story progress unprotested (how to approach watching any film) will probably walk out of a showing counting it as time well spent.

So, apologies to the cast and crew of Star Trek Beyond. For the first time since First Contact they produced a show that was truly worth watching. They produced a payoff for all the fans who have hung on through decades of bad filmmaking. The characters we’ve loved since the sixties finally felt like they might actually be the same characters that we fell in love with, even though they were portrayed by different actors.

Paramount should try to make sure that Abrams’ company logo does not appear on any more Star Trek properties if they want to win fans back to the show. Abrams has burned too many bridges among the fan community to be welcome even producing films that have any kind of fan following. This should have been clear after the failure of Star Trek: Into Darkness. When he screwed up Star Wars after screwing up Star Trek, it has to be painfully obvious that he screws up everything he touches.

I mentioned it more than once on Facebook.

But when all is said and done, it’s just another summer dark ride. Lots of great stuff to look at, lots of things exploding, lots of spectacular FX, and when it’s over, you get out of the chair and go pee. There’s not a lot here to argue about. There’s no moral dilemma.

What attracted me to classic Trek is that the show was about something. Every episode had a chunk of idea in it, big enough to chew on for a while.

Too much of what passes for entertainment today is about justifying cruelty to someone else. Not enough is about sitting down and finding a way to avoid the violence.

And I wonder if that’s a reflection of what we’ve become … or one of the reasons we’ve become what we’ve become.

David Gerrold

Breaking the Western Mythos

New York Times

From the ACLU: “Two nights ago, an armed civilian militia organization describing itself as the ‘United Constitutional Patriots’ arrested nearly 300 people seeking safety here, including young children, in New Mexico. Other videos appear to show even more recent arrests…”

That’s where I’m going. Right there.

This is the myth, the heroic white cowboy legend, that Trump’s generation sold itself, an America that never was, small, limited, SIMPLE, where problems are solved with a gun and rope and all a good woman needs is a rough man to defend her from the savages outside of town.

When those who call themselves conservatives today talk of conserving “our” history, well, that’s the history they mean and they would erase anyone who does not fit their myth from it — or relegate the rest of us to the help or comic relief.

Stonekettle

If you look below the surface of the Western mythos you will find rare gems of television and Hollywood gold, like the 1950’s television series Maverick. I stumbled across this series a few years ago when James Garner died. I need to backtrack a little bit here.

I grew up watching detective stories at my dad’s feet. He had a weakness for cop dramas. If Hawaii 5-0 or Dragnet or any one of a dozen other shows I could name was on, he was watching it. I didn’t care much for most of the cop shows he watched, but the detective shows like the Rockford Files always intrigued me. Rockford, being an ex-felon, ex-cop, never carried a gun. In the world constructed around the character of James Rockford, it was a liability he didn’t want to have to answer for. If he needed a gun he seemed capable of taking one from whoever was threatening him.

It came as a surprise to me, learning more about him after his death, that the lack of a gun was a limitation that he demanded be written into the stories that he took part in. He felt that the gun was a crutch, it allowed the writers and the actors an easy way out of any situation. Just shoot your way out and you were the hero. Those weren’t the kinds of stories that James Garner wanted to be known for. This was true of Maverick as well as being true of Rockford Files. Guns were only carried by bad guys and lawmen, and the Mavericks had to learn how to turn a losing hand into a winning one by using their minds and the gullibility of the people around them. Rockford couldn’t carry a gun or he would go back to jail, so once again the stories had to be a little more clever in order for them to be interesting to the viewing audience.

Sure there were fistfights and concussions galore in both series, but this was the sixties and seventies. You had to have something to keep the audience watching back then. Dialog was simply not enough to keep them entertained. But the heroes of the series didn’t win because they were the fastest with a gun. They came out on top because they were smarter than their opponents were.

The more standard Westerns never kept my attention as a child. The closest I came to watching standard fare back then was watching The Big Valley or High Chaparral. I can watch Clint Eastwood in virtually any film his production company made and enjoy myself, but shows like Bonanza never held my attention. They were all too predictable.

Comparing what I call a Western with what the average Western looks like, is like saying that Lost in Space and Star Trek are equal because they are both science fiction television shows. I know, this insistence on distinction with a difference makes me an outlier, not the subject of the Stonekettle Facebook post I quoted at the beginning.

I get it.

…And yet there were five seasons of Maverick. There were six seasons of Rockford. A second Maverick series. A Maverick movie. Someone is watching Rockford right now somewhere out in TV land. There has to be a significant number of people like me out there. Like us out there. The question is, are there enough of us? Enough to change the myth? I still hope so.

Facebook comment expanded for the blog.

Twitter Trolls

Nothing about this man is real. I’d be willing to bet pretty much anything on that fact. His marriage to the Banshee Queen, his opinions about Trump’s mental health, his education and pretty much everything about him is probably fake. If the man exists at all, I imagine he lives in his mom’s basement playing fortnite and QQ’ing every time some twelve year-old ganks him.

If you believe anything he or his purported wife or her employer says, your head rings like a bell when you strike it. He is a troll. He’s a troll’s troll trolling Twitter trolls. The only thing to be gained from noticing this floating turd in the American toilet bowl of modern politics is this; his mere existence bears out my opinion that even listening to the noise around the Orange Hate-Monkey makes you more stupid. Bullshit is bullshit, no matter who is shoveling it.

I generally despise Twitter and only stay on the platform in order to cull the news from news organizations through my aggregator of choice, Nuzzel. That is the only real function Twitter serves. To give the average user the ability to troll the media directly.

I Passed! Most of you will not.

A majority of Americans could not pass a recent citizenship test conducted by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. This held true in every single state except one.

The survey was conducted Nov. 14, 2018-Jan. 3, 2019 among 41,000 adults, using 20 history-specific questions from the practice tests for people taking the citizenship exam. The margin of error was 1 percentage point.

Axios

In what passes for normal behavior for me, I immediately tracked down the test in question and took it myself. I wanted to know what kind of questions were on the test. Was this a realistic test of knowledge about American history?

That was no slouch of a test. Many questions required puzzling out exact years and distinguishing lists of names from other very similar lists of names. If every immigrant has to pass this kind of test, my hat is off for them. They have every right to be here. Come right in.

The rest of you? If you can’t pass that test, you better start studying, and you better pass it soon. Because as sure as day turns into night and back into day, there will be people who will tell you that you won’t be able to stay here if you can’t recite this kind of deep knowledge of American history.

The only state where a majority passed the citizenship test? Vermont. The socialist paradise of Vermont is the only state doing the job of educating people about their own history and government. Remember that the next time you laugh at Bernie Sanders.

h/t to David Buth on Facebook. He was top of the feed.

Stepping on the Rattlesnake

There was a time when I was a Gadsden flag devotee. In my libertarian days I even used it as a prop for a speech, back in those days when I believed that overcoming fears was something that you just had to put your mind to in order to achieve. I never did get over my fear of public speaking, and I’ve long since given up even trying to do it. No two groups are ever the same, and repeated embarrassment in front of larger and larger audiences just spreads belief that you are incompetent at the task you are trying to achieve. Stop while you’re ahead, advice I should have taken a long time ago when it comes to public speaking.

By Benjamin Franklin – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3g05315.

The Gadsden flag is itself a token of fear, but it says more about the fear of the people who carry it than it does about the people they are opposing.
When Franklin came up with the severed snake image for the thirteen colonies, the imagery was undeniably effective. If the colonies didn’t form themselves into a cohesive whole, they would be killed and consumed separately by the world powers of the time. It was such an effective image that it was used more than once by Franklin to call the citizens of the colonies together to support a common cause. It reverberated again and again through the varying crisis that faced the fledgling colonies. Colonies that dreamed of one day being free of their European masters.

The snake on the Gadsden flag is whole. That snake represents the colonies standing as one. It’s a rattlesnake because early Americans had enough experience with rattlesnakes to appreciate the warning rattle they gave. The flag itself was a warning rattle to the British and their Scottish and German mercenaries that the American colonies were determined to be colonies no longer. But since the common European conscript had no idea what a rattlesnake was, the caption DON’T TREAD ON ME was added to communicate the important fact that the flag failed to communicate with its visual representation. We will fight you to the last man to establish our independence. We will take you down with us if you persist. This was a sentiment that we understood for ourselves, but have repeatedly failed to recognize in other former colonies when they fought for their freedom.

However, the necessity of putting text on the flag makes it a bad flag in the eyes of vexillologists. If you have to put words on your flag, your flag has failed to communicate the information you want to pass on. It’s also the first in a long line of bad revolutionary flags. Juvenile attempts to provoke an enemy that proceeds to do the thing that the flag says they can’t do.

Like this image does. It doesn’t matter that that foot will be bitten and probably have to be amputated. That the corporations will face retribution and regulation for their unwise actions curtailing free expression. Not all governments are equal, and not all societies are free. Doing the bidding of the powerful will never make you the friends of the weak, and the weakest among us is always going to be an individual somewhere. The corporations, if they proceed to tread on the snake of free expression, will die along with free expression. It is in the nature of ideas that this is true.

Stepping barefoot on a rattlesnake is a bad idea. Stepping on free expression is similarly a bad idea if you are a corporation that relies on people being able to speak their mind on your platform. Users will leave the platform for other platforms where they can express themselves the way they like without threats of punishment. The individual users need to be smart enough to know that they are being lied to, though. That they aren’t smart in that way is a failing of education, and there is no easy way out of this conundrum. You can’t foment revolution without consequences, and you can’t stop people from calling for revolution without infringing on free expression. GIGO, as I said previously. Garbage in, garbage out. Separating the worthwhile communication from the informational junk food. Not going on Facebook seems to be the first step to kicking the current informational junk food habit.

Misogyny by Any Other Name

Let’s imagine if 80,000 votes in the Rust Belt had gone the other way in 2016 and Hillary Clinton were president. Let’s also imagine there were controversial circumstances surrounding her victory – a foreign adversary attacked our political system in the hopes of putting her in power – and reasons to believe the Democratic campaign may have cooperated in some way with the attackers.

…Would there be widespread hand-wringing about those who dared to question Clinton’s earlier denials of wrongdoing? Would congressional Democrats call for Republicans’ resignations and demand new investigations into federal law enforcement?

Imagine if the Mueller report scrutinized Clinton instead of Trump

Hillary Clinton has been the prime target of hatred for women for most of my life. If you had a problem with women in general it was Hillary Clinton that was cited as evidence of this problem. From the moment she stepped upon the national stage and presented herself and her husband as two sides of the same coin, she has been the target of ire for females by both males and females alike. I should have remembered this fact before thinking that she could ever be president, but my desire to not see the United States descend into the hellhole it is now on the path to becoming blinded me to that painful truth. The painful truth that is still reiterated in every chant of #lockherup, in the constant conservative and #MAGA refrain of What about Hillary? in the face of any criticism of the Orange Hate Monkey.

I have a pretty clear memory of the first time she strutted onto my radar, back in the early days of Bill Clinton’s first term in office. It was during the rollout of what conservatives derogatively called Hillarycare. I bought the lie back then, not understanding just how skewed the information that I was consuming was. How conservative everywhere in Texas is, even in the bluest of blue parts of Texas. Women had a place and Hillary Clinton wasn’t conforming to what was expected of women, behaviorally, back in the eighties.

I don’t want to put her on a pedestal. There are things she did that were objectively wrong. That isn’t the point of this article. The point is that if you pretend that everything she did was done by a man, you wouldn’t even have batted an eye at her behavior. This is probably the most telling argument against her as a leader, that she was and is absolutely ordinary from a human perspective. She compromised her values to protect her husband, just like anyone else would do. She waited to discover what the polls would tell her before taking a stand on a subject, just like every other career politician does. There is not one thing that she is castigated for that men have not done and been forgiven for. It is because she is a woman that people hate her.

That is what misogyny means.

Bad news for the haters: History is decidedly unafraid of “the woman card.” It doesn’t care how many people will stand on tables today and swear they’d feel the same if she were a man. It will see us for what we are—a sick society, driven by misogyny and pathetically struggling to come to terms with the fact that women do not exist solely to nurture.

Huffingtonpost – Larry Womack – Stop Pretending

Hillary Clinton was nowhere near as unpopular as her haters think, as pundits are now saying retroactively.  Rather, what was underestimated was the misogynistic influence. What do I mean by that? I mean the people who blamed her for her husband’s presidency, or credited her with the same. She isn’t Bill Clinton and all the baggage that name and presidency entails.
Whether she had covered for him or castigated him would have made no difference, and the failure to separate her from her husband’s behavior is the clearest form of misogyny that I can point to. But it’s hardly the only example.

Hidden Brain – Too Sweet, Or Too Shrill? The Double Bind For Women – October 18, 2016

“When the person was presented as a high powered person, who was very ambitious, we found that the person was seen as much more unlikable when it was a woman than when it was a man,”

Madeline Heilman
Ashley Judd – TEDWomen 2016 – How online abuse of women has spiraled out of control

But let’s forget about the hatred leveled at powerful women. Women of status in the US today. Let’s go to the other end of the social spectrum. From the wealthy and powerful and the unjustified treatment they suffer, to the women with nothing. Let’s look at what happens to the victims of war. American women who were radicalized and joined the Islamic State in Syria.

American-Born ISIS Bride – MSNBC – Feb 22, 2019

Read through the comments under that video. The calls to refuse these women re-entry to the United States, even though they have no other nationality to claim. We cannot make them stateless by revoking their citizenship, and we cannot keep them from returning if they are citizens. If we violate international law in this case, we will have no grounds to hold other countries to international law later. To keep these people from being radicalized again, we HAVE TO make sure they are fully engaged in society for the foreseeable future.

I don’t know the particulars of each case. It’s entirely possible that they deserve prison time for their actions in Syria. That isn’t the question here. The particular woman who was interviewed for the television segment expects to get a prison sentence. However, The Orange Hate-Monkey has revoked her passport. He has rendered her stateless. He has violated international law, at the same time as he is harassing other countries to abide by international law.

The Daily – The American Women Who Joined ISIS – Feb. 22, 2019


Hold on, I hear you saying. We can’t just let these people come back here. That’s the catch. We already have. American men who have surrendered under similar circumstances have been repatriated. The women, though? We don’t want those women back. That’ll teach the rest of the women to stay in line. Never mind that we cannot legally denaturalize a citizen. Only the court can do that, and we have to bring them back here to put them on trial. It’s a catch-22. We can’t keep her out, and we can’t say she doesn’t belong here without first bringing her home. All of them have to come home, but the women most of all. Most of all, because singling them out for different treatment is a hallmark of misogyny.

Reshma Saujani – TED2016 – Teach girls bravery, not perfection

I want to live in a world where women are encouraged to fight back. In that world men will treat women better. But instead of teaching them to fight back we train girls to be passive. To smile meaninglessly. To never let a moment of anger show. Passivity gets you beaten to death while you sit and take it, and the women who do fight back are punished, punished more harshly than we punish men.



The Ezra Klien Show – This Conversation Will Change How You Understand MisogynyKate Manne


Think of the strongest, surest woman you know, and then think about what is said about her. Now think about that person as a man. See the problem now? I’m familiar with the argument. I’ve been around the park a few times now. A life without conflict is not really living, is expecting too much from others.  Standing on “no conflict” as an achievable goal ignores the natural world around us where conflict is everywhere.

Caroline Paul – TEDWomen 2016 – To raise brave girls, encourage adventure

The misunderstanding originated with the separation of physical violence from verbal violence. Passivity starts with being afraid to speak your mind, not with the refusal to come to blows. Passivity is present in hiding in the “safe room” rather than fleeing from the aggressor or fighting back if necessary. Of being prepared to gut that bastard the next time he comes near, rather than forgive him. You can forgive his corpse, sweetheart. Forgive it all you like. Make sure it is a corpse first.

What? Too harsh? You’ve never seen your mother beaten. Never been beaten yourself. You’ve never discovered that rage within yourself and wondered where it came from. Walk a mile in my shoes. In a partner I wanted someone that would have my back because she wanted to protect me as much as I wanted to protect her. I taught my daughter to defend herself, that it was okay to defend herself. If women are our equals, they don’t need our permission to be in our faces all the time. They simply will be, and we (the men) will just have to take it. Hopefully we’ll manage as well as the women have.

Sarah Kay – TED2011 – If I should have a daughter

I’ve been sitting on this one awhile. What we did to Hillary Clinton was misogyny. she’s not the only victim. Apologize to your daughters and your wives. Thank them for not gutting your heartless ass.

The Charitable Steel Man

Not sure if you have any pull with Jim or not but I would like to continue the debate with you, just a bit unsure if that is the correct forum. I DO appreciate Jim for his non political writings, and do not wish to become airlocked.

In truth I have been well noticed, particularly by Jim, and received a tongue lashing and an allowance to stay. I make a point to stay within his posted rules of decorum and by those rules, I do not believe he wants a complete echo chamber. See rule #1. If you can reach him, ask for him to respond to me in PM. All debate will be in the same manner in which we have already been discussing things.

This was a private message from the opponent that a good portion of the article The Key to Ending Mass Shootings? was directed at before I took the time to generalise the argument in a way that made it more monologue, less dialog. I try to go through Facebook memories on a daily basis. I do this to pick up the conversational tidbits that never made it onto the blog, and then I put them on the blog where I unquestionably own all the content. Anyone who has read a post of mine and noticed the small print at the end probably realizes I do this. Yesterday was just another day. I search for a text string with the blog search function, and if that string isn’t there somewhere, I create an article and try to embroider what is frequently two or three sentences of text into something that unambiguously makes a statement, drives home a point.

Yesterday I looked at three paragraphs of text on a historical article and realized I’d never finished the article I was trying to create from those three paragraphs. What’s worse, I had preserved those paragraphs written on the spur of the moment, and a whole separate thread of comments that I had written in response to arguments presented in the wake of the Parkland mass shooting last year. Reading through the unfinished article, I realized that I had taken the time to write rather lengthily on the subject. For some reason that I can’t remember I abandoned the work mid-sentence.

So, I did my best to clean it all up and finally posted it to the blog a year late and a dollar short, and then I do what I always do and posted a link to the article on the threads where the content was posted. I do this as a mental note to myself, you’ve preserved this on the blog already, rather than in the hope that someone will notice and comment subsequently. Few people do notice and even fewer comment. This was an even rarer moment. An opponent that wants to continue beating a dead horse a year later. I’ve never seen that before.

First he took me to task for dredging the thread back up again. I in turn complimented him on avoiding Jim’s airlock for more than a year, going so far as to marvel at how he managed to get into the group in the first place let alone avoid capture and ejection for over a year. Considering how strident his attacks were, not getting airlocked in the subsequent year is no small feat. Then he PM’d me with the message above, and when I didn’t reply right away, he commented on the thread that I needed to check my messenger app. I’ll try to avoid the ire I feel at being chided for resurrecting a zombie thread, while at the same time being told I need to pay attention to said zombie thread and long dead counter arguments. I’ll try to do that and simply answer the specific question asked.

I don’t know Jim Wright. I was lucky and discovered his writing early. I got into his circle of friends on Facebook before he hit the 5000 max. It has not been all sunshine and kittens. I have had my share of disagreements with him in the past, mostly over the finer points of intellectual property (I should put those comments on the blog but I’d have to find them first) I’ve faced some pretty heated arguments with him. I’ve consciously risked airlocking more than once. I had people whispering to me both times,

“You better back down. You better change that post. He seems pretty mad.”

I’m a professional when it comes to arguments on the internet. I read every comment at least three times before posting, and I do this on every platform I participate on. I read the offered replies and I try to gauge the best argument I can assemble from the point being made. I’ve tried to employ the steel man technique for longer than I’ve known it’s name. If you are charitable, employing the principle of charity, rather than picking the flimsiest straw man you can concoct just so you can make the biggest splash possible, you’ll get less reflexive pushback from opponents. If all else fails, I walk away from the keyboard and contemplate the argument to get past the emotion. Sometimes I do this for weeks. Sometimes the navel gazing lasts for years.

If I can’t get past the emotion I simply don’t reply anymore. I won’t reply or I block the user, leave the group, whatever. If you respond in anger, your opponent wins the argument. They’ve forced you to act irrationally with their barbs. I’ve tested this truism many times. Responding in anger is always worse than not responding. I don’t succeed in striking a balance every time (no one does) but in the case of arguments on Jim’s turf, I want to be sure to go out well. As he has said more than once (paraphrasing) if you’re going to go out the airlock anyway, go out with style. If I post to Stonekettle Station, I try to make whatever I say something that is unambiguous in its point and worthy as my last words to live by. Because those words might well be the last words anyone on the group reads from me.

This caution on my part is well earned. My most innocuous attempts at humor have lead to violent outrage by former friends in the past. Some of these encounters are documented on the blog. Clever comments are rarely seen as clever by the targeted reader. The authors of poorly crafted arguments never thank you for taking their arguments apart. I’ve been blocked innumerable times, and I have my own lengthy block list that I add to prophylactically. I do this on every platform that allows blocking, and I don’t stay long on platforms that don’t allow content moderation. Arguments inevitably go sideways if someone is invested in their argument, if it represents a core belief or if emotions are running high. If emotions are at play, like when a gunnut kills 59 people and injures at least 527 at a concert. Or possibly when another ammosexual kills 17 high school students and injures 17 more. Children the same age as your own children that are gunned down in classrooms much like the classrooms your children are currently in.

You tend to not think clearly, in those cases. You really cannot think clearly, no matter how many years go by, and you just want the senseless killing to come to an end. You are motivated to see the circumstances change, no matter how many years go by, and no matter how many armaphiles just can’t bear to be separated from their cherished collections. In those cases it is time for the status quo to change, and it will change because enough people want it to change.

Opponents will be blocked in those instances. There really isn’t the mental space for contemplating not doing something. Opponents will be airlocked mercilessly until the lunacy comes to an end. Opponents will be blocked, their comments deleted, their participation in the conversation erased. This is true of everyone. Everyone will hit their August Landmesser moment.

Who is August Landmesser? Just another ordinary German. Someone trying to get along and be reasonable in the face of the complete lack of reason being displayed by everyone around him. Until he can’t ignore it anymore and rebels. He refuses to play along even though it costs him his life in the end. Once you realize that the authority you are responsible to no longer makes reasonable requests but instead asks you to sit idly by while the people you love are ground up by the machinery of profit, you’ll hit that moment yourself. When you realize that reason is no longer prevalent, you face an unenviable choice. You can conform to the nightmare in front of you and abandon who you were, or you can fight the nightmare in front of you with every weapon at your disposal.

This is me doing what I can for the cause. For the cause of not seeing more children shot while sitting in their classroom. For the cause of ending mass shootings as we have come to endure them here in the United States. I will tolerate this insanity no longer. #NeverAgain

Everytown for Gun Safety – Sick of leaders doing nothing to fight gun violence? So are we. Let’s work together and #ThrowThemOuthttp://every.tw/2sAcIwT

Struggling = Poverty

This was the headline that the Texas Standard chose to run for this story. It’s soft-pedaling hogwash, that’s what that headline is. Forty-two Percent of Texans Are Poor is how that headline should read. That is what the coded word ‘struggle’ represents. Poverty.

Texas Standard –Despite A Booming Economy, 42 Percent Of Texans Struggle

Though the state’s economy is experiencing relatively healthy growth overall, a new report by the United Ways of Texas shines a light on the surprising number of Texans who are struggling financially. The new report, “ALICE, A Study of Hardship in Texas,” says 42 percent of all households in Texas cannot afford basic needs such as housing, food, transportation and health care.

Texas Standard, January 30, 2019

Don’t believe me? Here’s the definition of ALICE from the secondary link,

ALICE, an acronym which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, represents the growing number of individuals and families who are working, but are unable to afford the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, health care, and transportation.

United Ways of Texas, ALICE

Asset Limited. Poor. Poverty. Now, the federal government and most especially the state of Texas will tut-tut that and say that those people are well above the poverty line established by government. Again I say, hogwash. Federal guidelines and especially guidelines from the state of Texas will not be truthful, if by truthful you mean accurate. This goes for anything that touches on the sacred beliefs of the average American, most especially the delusion that poor Americans aren’t poor. They just aren’t wealthy yet, and they never will be wealthy. But don’t tell them that.

This is well trodden ground for me these days because I’ve spent the better part of two months arguing with an in-law about this very subject recently.

I don’t think you know what poverty is. I was born in it and raised in it. The only thing that got me out of it was hard work. I had no intention of raising my children the way I was raised, therefore they had better than I had. And I do pretty well now only because I work hard to better myself. President Trump is making it so people can work and better themselves and get off the coattails of the government. I do not understand how anybody could think putting people back to work is a bad thing. Obama on the other hand closed down factories and put millions of people out of work and on food stamps.

Facebook comment

I had to block that poor fool because he kept calling me stupid. This exercise would be me once again wasting my time, convinced I can somehow reason with someone who refuses to think. The uninformed political opinions he’s throwing around I will dig into somewhere else, have already dug into somewhere else before (Obama, Caveat Emptor) But the poverty stuff? I don’t talk about that very often (Greece, Bootstraps) However, I’m pretty sure I have a general understanding of what poverty is and what it can do to people. I’m positive I understand it better than that in-law, because poverty has been my constant companion throughout my adult life.

That in-law is better off than me, but he’s still right on the margins of poverty. He’s middle class but not comfortably so, and not likely to stay part of the middle class unless he can keep working for another twenty years. The proof is in the statistics cited above, 42% of Texans are poor. That is just under half of all Texans being poor. Half. No one who isn’t independently wealthy will stay middle class without working, and independent wealth is built up through generations of hard work. Something I know neither he nor I come from.

There was a brief period of about two years in my adult life where I wasn’t poor. And when I wasn’t poor I never struggled for anything other than struggling to keep my job so I could keep paying for things. People of means do not struggle. They see a shrink and work it out, because they can afford to pay to have someone listen to them and help them work out their problems. Having a job that generates enough money to live on is not struggling in the way that the research demonstrates. The struggling that the United Ways is highlighting comes from having too much work and not enough money. A uniquely post modern development. Gainfully employed and still starving.

I keep linking this video in the vain hope that people who think that a dollar has work value attached to it would watch and learn a few things. It’s not like it’s a long video. It’s not a huge investment in time to watch.

Politizane – Wealth Inequality in America – Nov 20, 2012

I’m sure it’s quite painful to watch if you are a conservative. Conservatives and conservative economics have created this problem. Have created it more than once. Thinking you have to work to survive, to deserve to survive, is outmoded thinking and has caused the kind of crisis we are living through today. Has caused it repeatedly down through time. Today’s system throws off enough wealth all on it’s own to eliminate poverty completely if we simply set ourselves to the task of eliminating it. And even if we do eliminate poverty we’ll still have people wanting to work, and even more people capable of doing that work, because poverty is a man-made ill. Poverty is something we created to justify ourselves and our assumed status in life.

“Cultivation is at least one of the greatest natural improvements ever made by human invention. It has given to created earth a tenfold value. But the landed monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest evil. It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance, without providing for them, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss and has thereby created a species of poverty and wretchedness that did not exist before.”

Thomas Paine Agrarian Justice The Writings of Thomas Paine pg 331

Poverty is looked down upon as being caused by the behavior of the poor themselves. This is patently not the case, as the OTM series Busted: America’s Poverty Myths (Bootstraps, again) goes to great lengths to spell out. But that doesn’t change the beliefs of most Americans. Poor people are more hated now than they have been in generations, and this is a worldwide phenomenon, not just in America.

If you think of yourself as white and you are poor in modern America, the fact that you are poor grates on you so much that you go looking for people who suffer more than you. Having a paler skin color is seen as a sign of status, has been seen as a sign of status down through the ages. Being pale means that you don’t have to work out in the sun. You have leisure time. you can throw this assumed status around, use it to your advantage in social interactions.

Unless you are poor. If you are poor, there is no question that your paler skin doesn’t convey advantage any longer, because there are demonstrably people darker skinned than you that have more status than you. They have more status because they have the conveyor of modern status, money. This is a corruption of the natural order in the mind’s eye of a racist. And we can’t just allow the natural order to be corrupted now, can we?

This is how we get to the point where the party of Lincoln, the party of the man who lead the Union through the Civil War and destroyed the slavery based economy of the Southern Confederacy; this is how the Republican party has become the party of people who wave the stars and bars of the confederacy and demand that they be given privilege over the brown-skinned. Republicans see everyone who is darker than they are as other, outsider, illegal. They couch their arguments in law and order, just like Nixon coded it in the seventies. But Nixon was a racist, too. They don’t even know that what they are promoting is racism. The Orange Hate-Monkey’s naked attempt to create a white American royalty.

Why Is This Happening? Organizing in Trump country with George Goehl

How can Democrats win in deep red America? During the midterms, momentum behind progressive candidates in red states garnered national attention — Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia. These were no overnight successes. They were the culmination of, among many things, including the tireless efforts of grassroots organizers.

We are going to have to go out and prosthelytize to the poor, rural, white voter. We are going to have to go out and explain to them the harsh nature of the reality we are faced with. Because we cannot go where they want to go. We have to explain to them that we are losing access to good drinking water. That even the air we breath is under constant threat. Will lax regulation on businesses turn every Texas town into another West, Texas? Or will we go the way of Oklahoma and let  hydraulic fracking activate long dormant tectonic faults, triggering earthquakes?

But it is even more basic than that. Will our children and their children go hungry? Will they have access to shelter from the cold or the heat, especially given the unpredictable nature of the climate change we are creating? Will there be schools to teach the children that all of us will rely on in the future to provide every single thing we need? Things we will need paid for with money we didn’t work for that day? We didn’t have to work for, because the system itself provides a mechanism (money) that allows us to not have to work every single day in order to survive? These are real, hard questions that have to be answered today, so that we can have access to those things tomorrow. All of us, not just the 1% that currently receive all the benefits of modern society.

Or would you rather that your children starve for want of food when fortunes turn on them as it does on everyone? Sleep out in the cold because they can’t afford shelter? Rather that they die of preventable diseases because there was no profit in researching cures or vaccines? All of these things require public investment, something that you won’t learn from the worship of robber barons that pervades what passes for conservative ideology these days.

“The liberals will always do what they can to hold you back”

Conservatism is about adhering to the past, not looking beyond what our ancestors did, the rights they claimed for themselves. That is the sum total of conservatism.

Liberalism is about experimentation. Liberalism is a friend to entrepreneurs, scientists, etc. Liberalism promotes new ways of thinking and new ways of dealing with the world. That is the definition of liberalism. Look it up anywhere aside from conservapedia, and you will find that I am right on this subject.

Liberals accept that society and its inventions, things that we all inherited, belong to all of us. Because none of the living invented any of the technologies that provide the food for our tables today. We stood on the shoulders of giants and thought ourselves tall. Liberals understand that the only way to do justice to those who came before us is to see that those that come after us have what they need to thrive, just as we had what we needed to thrive.

Our rights include things like clean air and clean water. Health care is a basic human right since it takes the wealth of the entire nation to maintain the system, it has to be available to everyone, not just those who can pay.

If you want questions answered, you have to ask questions. Ask questions which are answerable. Declaring that everything you don’t understand is a plot to take the little you have to your name now is nothing more than a paranoid delusion. You can’t lose something you don’t own, and most of what we deal with today are things that don’t belong to us alone. The internet is useless without other people to talk to. You can’t tend to your own physical injuries if those injuries require expertise to remedy. If you have that expertise and try to doctor yourself, then you have a fool for a patient. It takes others to do anything meaningful in life. Spitting on the state, on government, and turning your back on progress in the name of preserving what you have now is to settle for less than you could have had, if you only have the sense to look around you with eyes that aren’t clouded by fear.

Modern farming would be impossible without federal research grants, federal subsidies, federal mandates. The ability to get a mortgage and own your own home was a federal mandate. Every single scientific endeavor survives on federal seed money. There would be no internet without it. There would be no handheld computer to read this message on without NASA. There would be no vaccination program without federal mandates. No science-based medicine without government oversight and consequently no way to know what medicines work without government involvement.

So yes, I will rely on government. So will you, even if you don’t think that’s what you are doing. Government touches everything. And in the United States, we are the government. We can pay ourselves enough that none of us need starve, and still leave room for entrepreneurs to profit off of their ideas, giving them motivation to create, to work. Contemplate that for as long as it takes to sink in.


The problem is nation-wide.

About 39 percent of Americans ages 18 to 65 experienced at least one type of material hardship last year, statistically unchanged from the 39.3 percent who suffered hardship in 2017, the nonpartisan think tank found. The study spans the first two years of the Trump administration, as well as the first year of the tax overhaul. Yet there was little progress easing the financial challenges experienced by U.S. adults last year, the Urban Institute said.

40% of U.S. families still struggling

Superbowl? Not Really.

I’ve watched one football game since I stopped sharing an apartment with a football fan. The last roommate I had before getting married was a Dallas Cowboys fan. He loved those Cowboys. Since the TV was his, and it was in the living room, we watched the Cowboys play every week, and I would be the devil’s advocate every week. “Who are the Cowboys playing this week? Yeah, I love those guys.” It led to some good natured rivalry, especially since I really didn’t give two shits about the game in the first place.

When I was living at home with my parents, back in the stone age of the 70’s, my dad would never miss a game that was being broadcast. Football. Basketball. Baseball. Hockey. If it was a sport and it was being broadcast, my dad was watching it. He lamented that I was too small for football myself because he wanted me to play like he played in high school. He did get me to try out for basketball. I didn’t make the cut, which was no surprise to me or Mitch, my wingman in that foray into sports. I wrestled for a few season. A had a perfect record. I was pinned every time I got on the mat. I even played baseball for a few seasons. I have my jersey around here somewhere to prove it because mom saved it. I was terrified of being hit by the baseball every time they’d send me out onto the field.

…And with good reason. I have the worst hand-eye coordination, come to find out. Dad played softball every summer until his health degraded to the point he couldn’t play, and his participation in that game lead me to try playing softball myself on one of my employer’s teams. For one season. During warmup one afternoon I was holding the mitt too low and the ball tipped the top of the mitt and plastered me right on the lip. I can feel the tingle where the lip split on the inside of my mouth to this very day. Between that and the gravel raspberry I got all up and down my left leg sliding into base one time, I decided that sports really just weren’t my thing. I’d be better off sticking to video games. The finger and wrist sprains are more easily dealt with.

We watch so few sports in this house that we joke that the TV is broken, sports-wise. We tell guests “Nope. It won’t tune sports. No idea what’s wrong with it.” The one time we had a guest insist on watching her game we banished the fans into another room so that they wouldn’t interrupt our movie watching. I will admit to occasionally keeping half an eye on baseball scores. I like baseball, even if I can’t play it. Baseball is the real American game, not football. American football is rugby played with helmets and pads.

George Carlin – Baseball and Football George, as usual, has it right.

But the Wife always liked the Seattle Seahawks. She didn’t know anything about football, the game, but she had studied statistics for some fantasy football league that she was part of one year, and Seattle had the best all-around players at the time. She won a lot of matchups that year because the individual players all did really well, so she never forgot them. Years later when the Seahawks made it to the Superbowl for the very first time and she decided she had to watch that game because her boys were in it. Consequently I spent the next two hours explaining what a fourth down was. What the ten yard line meant. I mean, I knew all the mechanics of game play because dad had drilled all this crap into my head, so I can watch and follow a game even though I consider the games just slightly more interesting than watching paint dry.

There is one thing that I do care about. Injustice. Bad calls by referees. Players cheating and getting away with it. Teams that don’t deserve to lose, but end up losing anyway. That is what happened to the Seahawks in the one game we had ever bothered to watch together in thirty years of marriage. The Seahawks lost because of a bad call. The Wife was pissed, I was pissed, and we’ve never turned on a football game since. It was Super bowl Sunday yesterday, and I did notice that cheatin’ Tom Brady won again this year. That makes this just another game I’m glad I didn’t watch.

Facebook comment posted to the blog.

Annoying Ya’ll

I occasionally riff on word spellings and definitions on the blog. I don’t do it very often, but when I do, I go all in on the subject. I’m especially fond of obvious, having tripped over that word and its subtlety of definition enough times in the past. This image appeared in my newsfeed awhile back and it resonated with me. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve typed something into a computer interface and had it not recognize the word or phrasing I knew was correct, or hoped was correct. You know how it is. I think this is a word, but spellcheck will save me from having to go dig out a dictionary and look the word up.

Or maybe you don’t know? Who has dictionaries anymore? I haven’t used one in years, but I have a few in the house. Who needs a dictionary when you can just ask one of those ridiculous computer assistants to tell you how to spell onomatopoeia or ask them what something means or to get synonyms for balk. Having to actually type words into the computer by hand?! How quaint.

Back when I was writing specifications, tech manuals and notes for architectural drawings, it used to drive me nuts having to check and then tell the computer to ignore (Passive voice! Arrrg! Everything in a specification is written in passive voice!) a spelling or word usage, or to add the more common ones to my personal dictionary. It isn’t worth the investment in time to modify standard spellings for obscure words on company computer spelling dictionaries. Computers that you are forced to abandon every other year.

…And don’t get me started on latin legal phrases or attempting to point out fallacious arguments with well-known shorthand acronyms. Or slang. Really, don’t get me started on slang. I mean it. Or as I said on Facebook at the time,

I find it amusing when someone outside of the South tries to tell me how to spell ya’ll. As if there is proper spelling for slang.

Another friend of mine immediately linked to a blog article on just that subject, completely missing the point that I was trying to make in their rush to insist that there was a correct spelling for the words we use in everyday conversation. Improper conjugations and amalgamations of words that may or may not make any sense to the speaker or the listener.

Some writers put the apostrophe AFTER the ‘a’, as in: ya’ll. *shudders* Now tell me, does that make ANY sense given the law of contractions? No. It does not. The proper way to contract ‘you all’ is by using the apostrophe to replace the ‘ou’ in you and the space between the words, as in: y’all It’s beautiful in its simplicity, don’t you think? Boy, do I feel better, maybe even up to tackling a semi-colon or two. Thanks for letting me get that out of my system

Ya’ll vs. Y’all – A Texan’s Anguish

Now if I was trying to impart colloquialism, trying to drag you kicking and screaming into one of the Southern states of the United States, someplace where ya’ll is a word ya’ll’d hear regularly, I might quip something like them’s fightin’ words or something to that effect. But since you wouldn’t know the frame in which to place my attempts to communicate southernisms, most likely my attempts to draw you into the picture will fail and I’ll just look like an idiot. I’m used to that, but it isn’t a productive use of my time to repeat failed lessons from the past. I’m a quick learner, rumors to the contrary.

To put the problem as simply as I can, the error is in believing that ya’ll is a contraction to start with. As if ya’ll was ever two words compressed into one. As if slang is capable of being defined or set down into anything permanent, what written language is, and still preserve the emotion of the speaker and listener(s). It simply cannot be done. Even the best writers comment on how what they wrote is received by the reader, and how they don’t get the emotion that they hear in their head reflected back from the average reader.

The problem isn’t that simple. It isn’t something that can be fixed that easily. Just knowing the proper spelling for a Southernism will not make you Southern. Just knowing how ya’ll fix the issue of pronouns in your region of the English speaking world will not make me understand what it is to be from that region. The problem is that English is broken when it comes to second and third party plural pronouns.

In “standard American English,” meaning, essentially, schoolroom English, the second person pronoun is “you,” for either singular or plural. Talking to your spouse? Use “you.” Talking to your spouse and his or her entire family, at the same time? Use…well, also use “you.” It is a huge, strange weakness in American English: when someone is talking to a group of people, we have no way of indicating whether the speaker is talking to only one person or the entire group. Peeking your head out from the kitchen at a dinner party and asking, “Hey, can you get me a drink?” is likely to score you a look of confusion. Who are you talking to, exactly?

Thou and ye is a perfectly fine arrangement of second-person pronouns, and we’d all be better off if they’d stuck around, but they didn’t. Nobody exactly knows why, but scholars have focused on the mid-17th century work of Shakespeare to help tell us how people were talking to each other and what pronouns they were using.

Atlas Obscura, Y’all, You’uns, Yinz, Youse: How Regional Dialects Are Fixing Standard English

There’s no two ways about it, English is broken when it comes to pronouns. You could be any number of people including just one person. I’ve had innumerable written confrontations with people on the internet just because they read the word you and think he’s talking to me. And while I am talking to you, I’m also talking to the ten thousand or a million or even a billion other yous that might happen upon these words and read them. It is a conundrum of English that I cannot express the difference between you (thee) and you (them) The Wife and I will occasionally use thou and thee because we are weird people who read a lot. You can blame Piers Anthony for that.

Speaking of readers: sometimes things in my fantasy fiction become real in Mundania. One is the “Thee Thee Thee” convention, said as a declaration of complete love. I was told of a couple who married using that instead of “I do.” Now I have heard of one who did use it as part of the ceremony, some time ago; he is now dead and she is passing along the ring to a family member with the words engraved on it. She asked me which book it came from, and I said Out of Phaze, where the robot Mach calls it out to save his beloved Fleta from death, the sheer power of that declaration nullifying the magic that had doomed her. But then I thought, how did Mach know to do that? Did the convention appear earlier? My senescent brain does not provide the answer, and I’m too busy to reread my own earlier novels; time is a greater constraint for me than money. If there is a reader out there whose memory is better than mine (that is to say, most of them), please let me know, so I can let my reader with the ring know: what was the first instance of the “Thee Thee Thee” convention?

Piers Anthony

It’s somewhere in the Blue Adept series, Mr. Anthony. It was earlier than the one you recall. It’s been thirty years since I read the series myself. I have no idea where the first instance is, but it definitely was not that passage of the book. I’m sure someone knows and will correct both of us pretty much the minute I hit enter. They probably corrected you (or thee) the minute you hit enter, too. Unfortunately, that newsletter wasn’t the one I found first. This is an aside, don’t get your underwear in a bunch.

I have had people accost me before (carpetbaggers, mostly) insisting that ya’ll is properly spelled y’all. That it is a contraction of you and all and so duh! But as I say to them, that’s a connector between ya and ll, that little hanging bit (‘) in the middle. The apostrophe. The apostrophe represents any number of letters, syllables and whole words the speaker doesn’t feel they need to take the time to pronounce. If you actually attempted to write the word phonetically, it would have at least two a’s in it, something more akin to ya’all or ya-all. After a bit of pushback on the subject, more than a bit to be honest, I decided I’d trot out an example to illustrate the point I was trying to make. Consider the following sentence, which I’m sure most Southerners have heard more than once. What does this sentence mean?

Ya’ll be round later

Is it a question? Is it a statement? A demand? What words and/or punctuation will complete that sentence coherently? Is “you” or “all” in it? Well, it depends on the speaker. If they’re asking a question,

Ya’ll be round later?

It would probably be completed something like this,

Will all of you be present when I need you later?

If the speaker is making a statement

Ya’ll be round later.

It would render out something like the following in proper English,

Come by the house later, I’ll be here.

or maybe something more like Go (wherever I’m going) and we’ll meet up later. There really is no telling what the speaker meant without the context of the usage. If the speaker is making a demand,

Ya’ll be round later.

It would come out something like

You will be here later when I’m looking for you.

…And if it was dad (or pop maybe) making this demand, you’d better be where he wanted you to be when he was expecting it, or there would be hell to pay. So ya’ll is not two words squeezed together. It is a hodgepodge of meaning scrunched into four letters and an apostrophe, and I can spell it any damn way I like.

I don’t go around pretending to know how to spell any number of words that they might say in New Jersey (youse? use? Who knows?) it’s slang. They have the same problem that the rest of the English speaking world has, no way to speak clearly to an individual or a group using indefinite pronouns to define the loose collection of people being spoken to. You guys, you’unz, whatever. We’re all just making it up as we go along. Sometimes the apostrophe just shows up where it wants to. There is no accounting for it.

But try and explain it all again to me, if you feel the need. I’m from here, I’ve got nothing but time. But I do thank you for spending the time it took to read this. If ya’ll are ever in the neighborhood, come by and sit a spell. The tea will be on ice, but it won’t be sweet. There’s only so many Southernisms you can indulge in before the accumulation of them kills you.

Wildly expanded article first published in 2014.