the frog boil

So in the last two weeks, it’s become readily apparent that the post office is being deliberately sabotaged. To what end, who knows – after all, given the demographic that makes the most use of mail-in balloting, it seems as if this administration is sandbagging itself. But that’s not the point, not by a long shot. The point, as it has been for four years, is to flood the zone with shit to create an atmosphere in which you can’t knock down all the offenses. It’s like a hockey game – you can stop 41 shots on goal, but if they took 42, they score. 

The effect of this has been to slow-boil the American concept of democracy. Four years ago, the active sabotage of the post office to manipulate the integrity of mail-in balloting would have been an outrage. Now, after the Muller investigation, the failed impeachment, the constant daily sideshow of self-dealing and corruption and the ongoing politically-motivated incompetence in the face of a pandemic, it almost gets a shrug. Which is the point. Nobody can keep up with the crimes, the violations of political norms and traditions – shit, that orange fucker will probably stand on the White House lawn to accept his re-nomination and people will just let it go.

And now we probably have QAnon coming into the House of Representatives in more than one place, based off the results of the Georgia primaries and the likely outcomes elsewhere. Which means that even if we somehow battle through and win the Presidency, even if by a miracle we get control of both houses of Congress (forget about 60 in the Senate; the filibuster will just have to go and we’ll have to figure out how to live without it), we will still have a rear guard of the most paranoid, most conspiratorial, most batshit loonball insane redneck-gnostic modern Republicans to deal with, aided and abetted by those who think they can profit by exploiting the madness. And they will still have their amen corner on Fox, on OANN, on Sinclair stations, on AM radio and all over social media.

We have to correct our national values system. We have to make all of this Not Okay again. We have to put up the guardrails again with concrete jersey-walls instead of orange barrels. And the Republican Party is going to have to accept that they went wrong, that they poisoned the well, and read the tinfoil hat lunatics out of power and out of the party and live with being a rump faction of the Not Crazy Party, and let that be our political division for a while. Crazy vs Not Crazy.

I mean, the Democrats did their part. They nominated an old white male for President and backed him with a person who makes the dirtbag left see spots and scream. We met halfway. It’s past time for the GOP to do the same and show some fucking contrition and make good on repairing their mistake.

It’s Satanic Panic all the way down

“This is what happens when cynical politicians welcome support from hate-groups and radical fringes and whackaloon conspiracy nutters. First they cynically welcome support from the fringe, hoping to manipulate and control it. Then they come to seek out that support. Then they come to rely on it. And then they become part of it and it becomes part of them. Mitch McConnell probably still thinks he’s pulling the strings, that he’s the puppet-master who’s using QAnon believers for his own political ends. But now they’ve got strings on him as well…”

Fred Clark, as always, nails it.

Thoughts on Kamala Harris

1) it’s good to have at least one person in the race who isn’t gonna eligible for Social Security before the next term is up.

2) I would rather stand in the way of a Caltrain than an AKA from Howard.

3) I am amused that the right is calling her a radical militant while the left is calling her a cop. I am less amused that every ticket with a woman on it has always lost. And if we’re honest, the people voting against her because of who she is would probably approve of a white male with the same record of what she’s done. The streak has to break sometime, right?

4) In my lifetime, every race until 2008 had one person on a ticket from a state with a star on the Rebel flag. Since then, Tim Kaine is the only one. This is a good development, if only because…

5) …she’s the first Californian on the ticket since Reagan. The Golden State probably has reason to feel hard done by these last thirty-six years. In the era when California was a safe Republican state from 1968-88, they had two Presidents. It’s been a stalwart Democratic vote ever since, and this is the first time they’ve had a look in.

6) It’s absurd that Kamala didn’t make it to Iowa when the likes of Yang and Bloomberg did. Error corrected.

7) To all accounts, Biden’s advisors tagged Harris as too aggressive and too ambitious, and he deliberately chose her anyway. He chose a person who went right at him in debates. He’s not afraid to be questioned and not afraid to be corrected. That cannot be overrated at this point.

8) One of the reasons I liked her for the ticket originally was because I knew the existence of a smart, sharp, attractive woman of color would cause Dolt 45 to experience a blue screen of death. Based on the first presser, this is clearly the case. I’ll be interested to see if it continues.

9) I’ve been dreading this pick, despite hoping for it, for the same reason one sits curled on the couch in the late 3rd quarter with a lead, afraid to move for fear of a jinx. But for whatever reason, I feel…hopeful? This is a ticket with two punchers. And it’s time to start swinging.

Kamala Devi Harris, age 55, of Oakland California, Howard ’86, Hastings ’89, Alpha Kappa Alpha…you have less than three months to help save the world.


The universe is a chaotic and unmanageable place. This is a fact, and it is indisputable. There are a handful of things that can be made to work reproducibly – gravity, mainly, most of practical physics and simple mathematics – but for the most part, we live in an anarchic realm that we have to try to force some kind of order upon.

For thousands of years, we have attempted to bolt some handles onto an idea. The handle is called God, and the idea is that there is some kind of order required of us – not just to survive in society, but to co-exist with other people. The details may vary from belief system to belief system, but at heart, God is the name we give to the idea that nobody is above an ass-kicking. Some higher judgement exists, too abstract to anthropomorphize, but we know it when we see it. God is in the iceberg. God is in the pathogen that gets a billionaire sick. God is in the indictment for tax evasion. Thus the frequent concept of God as father, because who else is our earliest notion of ultimate authority? At least if you were raised in the South in the 1970s, anyway.

And God is the thing that Silly Con Valley denies when it places itself above the judgement of the market, above the dictates of the law and above the obligations of humanity. The notion that you are so big that you can no longer be expected to take responsibility for yourself? Above God. The idea that your company’s value should not be measured by what the open market will pay for it or the collective value of its goods and services? Above God. The belief that the state and federal governments and their duly elected representatives have no jurisdiction to question or regulate you? Above God. 

Irony of ironies, it’s the belief system of the modern GOP. Man was created in the image of God, and the GOP has returned the favor by creating God in their own image: as the ultimate dominion over other people. It’s a doctrine of selfishness, of celebrating ignorance and stupidity, of “I don’t know, I don’t want to know and I don’t have to know.” And as such it is a torpedo shot at the entire value system of my upbringing. And framed thus, it extends well beyond the Republican Party. It’s the belief system of venture capital in this country. It’s the belief system of every big-media Status Quo Warrior who is outraged that their opinions are not above reproach or question by mere Muggles. 

It’s often said of the Golden Rule that it exists in most every religious system in some form or another. I generally prefer to express it as “do you KNOW there’s other people” but it might be more accurate to phrase it as “does it matter to you at all that there are other people.” When you see this administration running roughshod over the norms of a functional democracy, over the precedents of our electoral system, over the very idea that they are subject to the judgement of any electorate other than handpicked supporters or that there are any consequences to their actions, what they announce in full voice is “there is no God.”

And when we let them do it – when we let them promulgate utter bullshit, when we let them deceive without question and lie without consequence, when we say we shouldn’t be the arbiters of truth and that the free market should decide questions of fact and that reality is open to interpretation – we say there is no God. At some level, God is the idea that there is an actual difference between right and wrong, even if we don’t always have a clear view of what it is. God isn’t the right, God is the difference. The distinction. The notion that you cannot just believe what you want unchecked by things that are demonstrably true. God is there when you claim not to believe in gravity, and step off the Empire State Building only to find that gravity very much believes in you.

God, in short, is in the idea that there is such a thing as “what we owe to each other”, in TM Scanlon’s famous formulation. The Enemy is in the reply “nothing.” And the Enemy is alive and well in America, and in 2020 must be fought. And if I am to be just one finger on the hand of this God, I only ask that it be the middle one.

30 years ago today

Not hard to see the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait as the precipitating event of our modern world. Without that, there is no 9/11, and no groundwork for Trump. The evolution of cable news, the deification of the military in American culture, the cauldron that is the modern Middle East… all from one land grab.

Self distraction plinka

As I was going through my phone thoughts yesterday, I thought about the phones I really enjoyed and wish I could have kept. Those tiny GSM phones at the turn of the century, the SonyEricsson K700 (which I never got), the Nokia 6230 (same), my little Z520 flip, the L2 candy bar, the Moto X–

Hold up.

The numbers are starting to firm up on the iPhone 12’s smaller 5.4 incarnation. The iPhone Pro is going from 5.8” and 6.5” to 6.1” and 6.7”, and the 6.1” iPhone is supposedly being joined by a current-processor 5.4” phone. It basically has the feature set of the mainstream iPhone, albeit squashed into a smaller handset – and if you look at the iOS 14 beta and extrapolate, you end up with a phone that is actually smaller than the iPhone 6/7/8. In fact, it fits between the sizes of the two iPhone SE models.

Just like the original Moto X.

The original Moto X, which had smaller bezels than an iPhone, an AMOLED display, a bigger internal battery, always-on voice activation and commands – I said the main thing it was missing was iOS, and even then, there were features Apple has yet to catch up with. Or rather, had yet to catch up with. The ability to mix apps and widgets and not have every app on the home page and to have a list and search view for apps is very nearly the last piece of the puzzle. (The very last is the ability to customize the trigger phrase. I could tell the Moto X “Listen up, Friday” and get a reaction. Until I can rename my phone Cyrano, they’re still behind where the original Moto X was five years ago.)

But here’s the 5.4” iPhone 12, roughly the same size as that Moto X, with an OLED display and smaller bezels and (one assumes) a bigger internal battery* and always-on voice activation AND iOS with all the improvements 14 has to offer. I know what I said before about TouchID in a time of masks, but that was when I thought we’d ever be able to leave the house again, and I can get by at (checks list) the farmer’s market and the drive-thru. The bigger concern is whether a physically narrower display is going to work with my trifling vision (glasses get raised to look at the phone these days more than I’m comfortable admitting) and whether not-ready-for-prime-time features like 5G and some sort of under-screen fingerprint reader will be shoehorned into a package without a lot of space for it.

The good news is, I don’t *have* to do it. I’m still very happy with the new SE, I’ve gotten used to the size, I enjoy having it as *my* phone and the only feasible thing that would make it better would be a couple of permanently-hopping group chats and the elimination of all the work apps (even if it meant changing numbers). And I wouldn’t say no to being able to take it abroad and engage the eSIM on a lovely trip to Ireland or the Swiss Alps. At this point, if it’s a choice between upgrading to the 12 and obtaining the latest Apple Watch, the watch is the winner.

But it’s interesting to know that six years on, what I want is finally possible.

sic transit phone

Next spring, T-Mobile is pulling the plug on its 2G and 3G networks, according to reports. Spectrum will be exclusively for LTE and 5G coverage. About a year after that, to all accounts, AT&T will do the same (and in fact sent out notifications to customers that slow-played the fact that the deadline was two years away and instead urged people to upgrade now). The future appears to be VoLTE across the board for voice and everything will just be data. Eight years after first going to LTE, I won’t be able to use anything else.

I bought the Nokia 3310 3G in November 2017. It was meant to be something to open up after my travels that autumn, something to look forward to as a gimmick distraction after I got back from Ireland and the DC reunion. It was something that could hold my old SIM and let me keep using one of my spare numbers. And then, I got the iPhone X from work out of nowhere, and the 3310 wasn’t nearly as distracting. It was cool, and it was interesting, and it was nostalgic. What it wasn’t was particularly useful.

I mean, at this point in history, actually placing voice calls is usually an emergency. What would you need a feature phone for? In my case, it’s probably audio playback (and even then, there’s podcasts, there’s the quiet time or pub night playlists, there’s SomaFA streaming, there’s RTE Na Gaeltachta…) and text messaging, which would need to include Signal as well. And depending on where I am, maybe access to Lyft so I can get home. And at that point you aren’t a feature phone any more. The solution at that point is just to take the iPhone, use Downtime to shut off anything that isn’t a critical function, and call it a night, which is more or less what I’ve been doing ever since Downtime became a thing. iOS 13? Was it 12? Whatever.

The other thing is…if you really get right down to it, the modern equivalent of the lightweight shutdown device is the Apple Watch with LTE. Leave the phone at home and just take the watch, which will handle calls and texts and audio, even streaming, while forcing you to bring a book and abjure social media distraction. Not a perfect solution, certainly, especially when your work plan or your prepaid service won’t support secondary eSIM devices or when you want to use the phone itself for Kindle books and Wikipedia lookups and maybe notes to yourself.

I’ve had a lot of devices I miss. That first DewBeep pager. The first DC cellphones, when I was trying to make myself need one (at no small expense to myself). The Siemens dual TDMA/GSM, which felt like another world, or the ever-slimmer Nokia candy bars like the 3590 and 3120. I still have my SonyEricsson Z520 flip and my e-ink MOTOFONE F3 in the keepsake box. But the day when you can usefully have a second device is pretty much done at this point. Better to donate that Nokia while someone can still get some mileage out of it.

I’ve had a mobile phone for 25 years now. It’s time to concede that the “phone” part of that is pretty much superfluous to requirement and accept that we all live by a touchscreen nowadays.

so what’s next

Actual storm troopers, sounds like. First Portland, and now apparently Chicago and maybe Albuquerque (what the hell)? The new hot fire for the summer is to collect Feds from the most politicized and undisciplined agencies – CBP, ICE, Bureau of Prisons – put them in camo uniforms without identification, and let them basically wild out on protestors without probable cause, due process or even basic riot control principles. The compromised foreign asset in the White House now has his own private paramilitary with which to give erections to Fox News demographics dying to see someone beating up hippies like the old days. And presumably to whip up a narrative of the world in chaos, I alone can fix it, support the troops, support your local police, cops are troops are white people.

Portland is the final proof that today’s Republican Party are basically the Nazis without the work ethic. DACA lives, not because it is fair and just, but because the GOP was too lazy to follow the proper procedures and the Supreme Court balked at that. A man you can bait with a tweet and thinks he can make policy with a tweet is the exact reason why Twitter should be thoroughly anal-probed and Jack Dorsey should be eating meatloaf in Gitmo for his incompetence, next to Werner Von Zuckerberg whose job is not worrying where the posts come down. It’s kind of fitting that the only thing holding us back from the abyss is people who don’t want to do the work, because so much of what drove us to the edge of the abyss was people not wanting to do the work.

This is why, pace Josh Marshall, the most important thing is an audit. We may not be able to bring criminal prosecution against everyone who had a hand in making this nightmare, but if we ever get the chance again, we absolutely have to air them out. Hearings. Investigations. Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Whatever. Sunlight on everything, exposure and disclosure, tell the whole story about everything that was done. And then hope the American public is still capable of shame, or outrage, or anything at all. And more to the point, hope that people who identified as Republican twenty-five years ago will look at what has become of their party, admit things went too far, and forever give up on pulling the lever for the worst bottom-feeding grifters and racists just because they have an R after their name and because Hillary was a scare-figure for decades.

Long three and a half months ahead. And even if we win, long couple of months after that, and who knows what happens after. Nothing is guaranteed, there is no back to normal, and while it would be a mitzvah and a mercy to see the back of the Tr*mp crime family, it won’t undo everything that happened. We’ll be repairing that for the rest of my life, if (inshallah) we are ever given the opportunity. I take nothing for granted at this point, least of all July polling.

But it’s past time to put American governance back in the hands of adults. Whiny, lazy and crooked is no way to run a country.

four months on

There’s baseball on my TV.

It’s exhibition ball, last night and tonight, and the real stuff doesn’t happen until Thursday. But Yaz hit a home run to lead off the game, Tony Kemp got the start last night for the A’s, Antoan Richardson is coaching first and making way for the first woman to coach in the bigs, and the Vandy Boys value system – love your country, support your teammates, and never forget there are other people in the world than yourself – are on display for the Bay and the nation.

I didn’t realize how much I needed this until Yaz hit that dinger. I was walking out of the same liquor store today that I visited in March to make sure I had my essentials laid in at the outset of shelter in place, and when I walked out of there into a cool gray March afternoon I don’t know what I expected. But it probably wasn’t that we’d be here in July, in the same situation, with no inkling of when or how this might be over. We wasted the lockdown, mostly off the back of stupid national leadership and selfish locals, and now matters are worse. The only consolation is that while the raw numbers are bad in California, the percentages locally are better than in the South, and we still have room to absorb the damage. For now.

As I was coming home today with my Stiegl Radler and Mexican Cokes, I thought about eighteen years ago, and what it was like to live in post-9/11 DC while people who weren’t within 500 miles that day whined about how the Constitution is not a suicide pact and we were all doomed if we didn’t stop and frisk brown people or allow the feds to do anything to anybody. And now those same people are outraged that they might be asked to wear a mask into Wal-Mart. Though they’re still all for the cops brutalizing brown people.

Having baseball back feels like a throwback to March. We’re leaning into the weirdness and the novelty, commiserating about the differences and the struggled and just learning to live with the fact that this is not normal service, and normal service as we knew it may not be restored, and if it is it won’t be for a long time. There’s a PSA about wearing your mask at every commercial break and the players are giving high elbow bumps in the dugout. As welcome as it is to have the national pastime back, it’s also a clear and present reminder that we’re a long way from business as usual.

And so we embark on the experiment. Sixty games. Every win or loss effectively count triple this year. Get swept in the opening series and you might never have time to recover. Lose five in a row and you might as well pack it in. Ten wins will definitely get you a Cy Young this year, and somebody hitting an asterisk-laden .400 is not out of the question. It’s going to be an abbreviated sprint to the finish with everything at stake, and the smallest error could have huge consequences, so don’t screw it up.

Are we still talking about baseball?

No Future Redux

“Hope for the future has basically been reduced to the dream of retirement – somehow, somewhere, someday – and the desire to just survive to the end of the week. Three hours, a pint or two, a book to read. A full half hour to cuddle in the morning before having to drag out of bed and go to work. The occasional pleasure of stopping in for a Guinness on the way home, or going out to an actual pub for an evening, or driving over the hill to see the closest of our friends who all moved away. Small things. Simple things. Things that can be replicated when needed, that don’t require elaborate planning and don’t come with the crushing disappointment of cancellation because you don’t know if or when you’ll get another chance.”

-Dec 31, 2019


As we enter “Year Of Hell, Part 2” it’s hard not to look back on this and wince. The bar was so freakin’ low. I conceded the misery of work and the existential terror of this election season and set the sights as low and simple as they could go, and then everything past the front door got taken away. No stopping in for a pint, no going down the pub, no driving over the hill to see friends. No minor league baseball on streaming audio. No cheeky beach visits. No Marvel movie matinees. No long-awaited vacation trips with friends. Even the morning meander around the farmer’s market once a week has turned into a hit and run mission, and a leisurely cold brew at the local coffee spot or a bagel breakfast sandwich and a Coke for lunch or a casual downtown alfresco dinner feels too fraught with peril to actually undertake.

And you see the incompetence and the malfeasance – virtue punished and vice rewarded and the utter shamelessness of stupidity and calumny and you wonder what happens next. A 10% lead in the polls feels as safe right now as walking through Hell in gasoline panties, and if it doesn’t hold up, we basically lose the country. And if it does hold up, there’s an immediate pivot to scorched earth as the GOP once again buries their crime and assumes the world began anew on January 20 as the sole fault of the new President, who is to be resisted at all costs.

You can already see the groundwork. Pardons and commutations. The Supreme Court rules that the President is not above the law and is subject to Congressional subpoena and investigation – and then, as Josh Marshall pointed out, sets the delay fuse on the ruling to go off for the next guy. Congressional Republicans time the aid package to run out just in time for the election, so they can suddenly revert to deficit hawks again out of nowhere. Roger Stone gets the first get out of jail free card of presumably many to come, assuming Agent Orange doesn’t somehow preemptively pardon himself – or try to, anyway, with the kind of jurisprudential understanding you’d expect from a senile bag of guts who does nothing but watch Fox News all day.

They’ll assume that losing power is punishment enough, and then devote themselves to regaining it. They won’t go quietly, they won’t sit it out for a couple of years, they’ll fight tooth and nail to sabotage recovery and blame the failings on the new guy. Just like in 2009. They will assume forgiveness for their sins – and that’s the real problem, isn’t it? You can only ask forgiveness. It is not automatically granted to you. And it shouldn’t be, for this. No forgiveness for anyone who doesn’t beg for it. No forgiveness for anyone who doesn’t repent and remediate. Show that you understand why you were wrong and show how you’re working to make it right, and then we’ll talk.

After November 3, we’ll know exactly how many people should be written out of the American political process for good. The New York Times and its catamite allies made such a show of “listening” to the Tr*mpists…and all they’ve shown is how right we were not to listen to them. Now, and ever again, amen.