Even though I have a hard copy of this, I’ll probably get a cheap* Kindle version of The Flamingo’s Smile: Reflections in Natural History. You know what the book is and why you want it, and you probably already have one, but maybe not an ebook version. Just thought you should know about it. You’re welcome.
Distant Echoes is a very special documentary. I remember well when first came out. I briefly met Yo You Ma at the time, because he came to my Anthropology department for the first showing. The documentary was shown around for a brief time, then disappeared from the world (except for those of us who had pilfered copies to show in our classes). I just discovered it is now available, so I’m telling you about it.
I want to make this point, which is touched on here. Hunter gatherers, such as the Ju/’howansi in this film, typically have experts among their society, on various things. Medical/magico, various crafts (I knew an Efe knot tier everyone revered), making various tools or pottery, and music. As far as I know all hunter gatherer societies do a fair amount of music, and typically everyone participates. Music (singing and some instruments, always dancing) is practiced by everyone, but variation in talent exists, and it is (obviously) known of.
You hear Irv DeVore mentioned in the documentary. He was my advisor, and I was his last PhD student.
Yes, that is Richard Lee, and he and DeVore are the editors of the famous “Man the Hunter” volume.
By the way, you can’t figure out what the heck hunter gatherers are doing by watching. Or, often, asking. You have to immerse, learn, and do. That fact is not unique to foragers, it is true of all things that are hard to do universally. But for some reason people are surprised to find that this is true with foragers, and in this manner, a lot of bad anthropology has been done.
Ray Bradbury wrote an unknown number of stories, but over 400. Some say 600. Doesn’t matter. Back in 1980, Knopf published 100 of these stories, chosen by Bradbury himself to represent the rest. The Stories of Ray Bradbury is over 900 print pages. The stories date from 1943 to 1980. And now, for a presumably limited time and probably just in the United States, you can get this book* in futuristic electronic Kindle form for three bucks.
It is worth noting that a second book, “Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales“, was produced in 2003, and includes another 100 stories, with no overlap between the two books. As far as I know that book is not on sale at this time.
The census results are in, and we now know which states gain and which states lose representatives to the United States House of Representatives (nickname: Congress, but it isn’t really Congress).
This is very complicated, way too complicated to trust most political reporters and their bone headed editors to properly explain to to the largely uninformed people what is happening. At least not right away.
Take Texas. Texas gains two seats. The reporting on this is, like, “Republican stronghold gets two more members of Congress! OMG there will be two more Republicans!!!!11!!” But no. Texas got two more seats because Texas grew in population size a tiny bit more than other states (but since Texas is huge, that small increase added up to two seats), but that growth was in people least likely to be Republicans. A fair redistricting would produce two more Democrats in Texas.
The new numbers are all the result of the same demographic changes that we are expecting to blue-up the country generally. If redistricting is done fairly, these plus ones and minus ones around the country are simply the jiggle on the jell-o of the demographic shudder caused by old white men croaking off at a reasonable rate while younger brown people step in to take their part of the Great Pie Diagram of population.
The important thing now is to find your state-wide redistricting activist groups, and support them. Do that right now, time is of the essence.
And, keep elections free, dammit.
This post is meant to be a rough draft of an overview of police reform activism over recent decades. What I’m saying here is mainly from my own memory. Ever since I’ve been storing and retaining memories, I’ve been one sort of environmentalist or another, but police reform activism has been part of my life since, well, since the Beatles were still together, almost. Recent conversations led me to think about this more than I usually would, and I realized that there is some worthwhile historical insight to be had.
While this overview is based on memory, I did spend a couple of hours this morning looking at old articles, checking Wikipedia pages, etc. There is fodder for a well researched and closely documented essay. This is not that essay. But, feel free to throw your thoughts, experiences, and information into the comments just in case there is such an essay!
Today we are concerned with militarization of the police. This is a little odd in long term historical perspective, because at one time in the past, militarization of the police would have involved reducing their firearms and training capacity considerably.
From around the beginning of the 20th century both the British and American armies used either an Enfield rifle or similar (“Enfield” refers to a range of similar designs made by Lee-Enfield or copied by American manufacturers). You would pull the trigger, then use a bolt to move a new bullet into the chamber, then pull the trigger. The military had other weapons, of course, but the average soldier had this rifle. Meanwhile, in the 1920s and 1930s, when gangsters literally ruled large parts of the United States, both police and the gangsters commonly used a submachine gun. “Militarizing” the police in 1925 would have involved taking away their powerful weapons and downgrading. Over recent decades, militarizing means replacing a handgun with the modern equivalent of a submachine gun.
This perspective on militarization is not very relevant to modern activism, but telling the story here serves the purpose of reminding us that the “old days” were not a few years ago, and history is complex. The relevance of militarization will be more apparent below.
There was a time, back when I first got involved in police reform activism, when it was common practice for the police to shoot people in the back if they fled. It was considered normal, and was part of police training. My own early activism arose from the shooting of a young African American kid named Keith by a New York State Trooper. The kid was caught driving a motor scooter on the New York State Thruway. The trooper told him to stand there, the kid decided to drive away on his scooter. The New York State Troopers had just gotten their much coveted giant .357 magnum side arms, after a long fight in the legislature, where liberals thought the police might use them to kill people and the police wanted them to shoot at cars. My memory is that Keith was shot in the back, and nearly cut in half as the giant high powered bullet tore through his spine and exploded his internal organs, only weeks after that new pistol was issued. Within a few months, 15 year old me was on a bus going to Chicago to participate (and cover for a local anarchist newspaper) the Fight Back conference and protest, sparked by a spate of similar killings.
Our activism, and the legal process, worked. Now there are laws in all but a few states that prohibit shooting a fleeing suspect except in special circumstances. A 1986 (IIRC) supreme court decision said something similar. During that period of time, say from the very late 1960s through the end of the 1980s, our activism led to changes in law, and court outcomes, that cut the number of police killings of citizens to less than half, and made shooting people in the back mostly illegal. You are welcome.
That wasn’t enough of course, more had to be done. And circumstances conspired to make things worse rather than better in the 1980s. During the 1960s (and before) and through the 1970s, drug use was an urban phenomenon, and people would go “downtown” to buy their pot, heroin, etc. Remember the “war on drugs”? Well, that happened when the rise of suburbs shifted the drug marketplace to the suburbs. During the 1980s, you would go to the suburbs to get your pot, as likely as anywhere else. Under Reagan, the War on Drugs turned to the suburbs. I remember a friend of mine who was a cop at that time (the first woman cop in the state, IIRC) told me that if I, ahem, happened to know anyone looking for pot tell them to stay away from the ‘burbs. She could see the writing on the walls. there was going to be some serious federally funded action in the suburbs.
She was right. There were major busts in one suburb or another across the US every single day for a few years. Reagan drove drugs back into the “inner city” where they belonged, at least according to the nice people in the suburbs.
There was not a lot of shooting and killing connected with that operation, but I believe the results were deadly. By pushing drug dealing back into the urban zone, it also pushed it more into the hands of people of color. Tough drug laws, a product of the 1970s, were expanded and increased. Police were given more powers, like the ability to take property used in drug transport. They were also given more weapons and other forms of support, though nothing like the later militarization. The ultimate result: crime fighting was equated with the war on drugs, and both were equated with police repression of people living in ethnically diverse, but mainly Black or Hispanic, urban zones. It wasn’t just the drugs, it was everything in life. The systematic, daily, attacks on people in certain neighborhoods increased. Meanwhile, the police procedurals and shows like Cops taught people in the suburbs that sometimes the police just had to get tough on on the bad boys. What ya gonna do when they come for you? Don’t run, don’t hide, keep your hands in sight or you die. Police repression of the people of the “Inner City” or “Downtown” became a feature of American society and was normalized in the minds of the middle class, whose very parents or grandparents used to live in those neighborhoods.
I don’t know much first hand about political activism regarding police reform in the mid 1980s through the mid 1990s. I was mostly out of the country or buried in the library or lab in graduate school, or teaching. My weekly political act when in the US focused on pro choice clinic defense, then later I added defending science in the classroom. I was as much looking the other way as the rest of us white people of priv, speeding through higher education, or working corporate, or whatever. (Still a citizen of the urban zone, though … the ‘burbs still feel new to me.) And fruitlessly fighting the Republican takeover of everything.
Then 9/11 happened. Everyone seemed to freak out. The nation and anything that looked like defense or protection, policing or investigation, became the child who would not stop crying to which you acquiesce and give whatever candy they want. The right wing introduced a bill called “S1” which made many crimes punishable by death, gave police and investigative agencies broad powers, etc. etc. They introduced that, IIRC, in the 1970s, and kept introducing it again and again and again, and it would always be defeated, or simply ignored, because it was so extreme and draconian. It would change our society into a police state. It was unacceptable.
Within months after 9/11, that bill was strengthened and passed. You know of it as the Patriot Act. And, it made militarization of the police not only acceptable, but required, and funded.
I don’t think is is safe to say that the police were less bad in the late 1970s or early 1980s, after the right to shoot a fleeing suspect was removed, but before the War on Drugs Reagan style. It might have been, though. The police were less armed, less numerous, and had had their wings clipped, at least to some extent. But if they were less dangerous, it was only for a while.
I would like to know if it is true that there is a combat vet to cop pipeline, and if that has made our police forces more dangerous by concentrating, exacerbating, and arming PTSD. I would like to know if it is still true (or really ever was) that police forces avoid hiring people who show some degree of intelligence, on purpose. I would like to know how badly we’ve messed up by increasingly linking corporate costs of doing business to police funding. What percentage of a police officer’s lifetime salary is ultimately paid for by large corporations rather than taxpayers, right now, and how has that changed? It is imperative to get a handle on the relationship between government lawyers and police agencies, if we expect to police the police. What needs to happen there?
Finally, I think we need to assess our victories. The Chauvin murder conviction is only barely a victory. It is a great thing for those immediately involved, and it is a demonstration that accountably is possible. But saying that the Chauvin conviction is a step in the right direction is ingenuous. He held the man down for 6 minutes while he died, and another 3 minutes for good measure, guarded by his fellow cops, whom he was teaching how to be a cop, while surrounded by citizens making the moral, legal, and logical case against what he was doing, filming the whole time. This is like saying to your dog, “you pooped, good boy.” This was not an accomplishment of the system.
One of the more recent changes in police behavior and associated law, the one we are dealing with now, is the right of a cop to kill a person if doing so conforms to expectations of what a cop would do, with special consideration to the cop being afraid. This is why the police who carried out most of the recent killings in Minnesota got off. There is recent case law supporting the concept. It is like the shoot the fleeing suspect rule. At one time shooting the fleeing suspect was considered normal by much of society, was codified in law, supported by the courts, and taught in police training. Now, none of those things are true (mostly). Today, killing a suspect because you are afraid of black people is codified in law and court doctrine, built into training, and accepted as normal and expected behavior by much of society.
Once again, I find myself writing notes for interested parties on the geography of a killing, by police, of a black man. I lived a block from the site in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, where Philando Castile was killed. I wrote about that here. I did not ever live too near where Jamar Clark was killed, but I did live for a few years within gunshot sound distance from where George Floyd was murdered, which by the way, is a half block away from where Tyesha Edwards, at the age of 11, lost her life in gang violence while working on her homework, in 2002. But I digress.
Duante Wright was killed in Brooklyn Center. Brooklyn Center is on the Mississippi, bordering on Minneapolis, and has a population a bit over 30,000. It was at one time the Center of “Brooklyn Township” but incorporated as a separate city in 1911, so it is now bounded on the north and west by Brooklyn Park, and on the south by North Minneapolis and Robbinsdale. My fair city, Plymouth, is just to the west, about one kilometer.
Minneapolis is a very urban city, meaning, it as an incorporated entity does not include any significant non urban areas that are not parks (of which there are many). It is surrounded by a ring of “inner ring” suburbs, which either touch the city (like Brooklyn Park does) or, in a few cases, touch a city that touches the city. Without exception, these inner ring suburbs are not suburbs by the usual definition. They are as urban, or in some cases even more urban, as the adjoining areas of the city itself, and they generally reflect the adjoining areas of the city with respect to the overall nature and character of the streets and houses, the demographics, the predominant business, etc. So, for example, you can hardly tell the difference between the la-la-shi-shi parts of South Minneapolis, along “The Creek” and nearby “The Lakes” from Edina, a wealthy inner ring suburb (that’s where Al Franken is from, but from the days when it was less wealthy). If you stand on one of the key intersections at the boundary there, and you are very observant, you’ll notice that Minneapolis and Edina have different streetlights. The Edina streetlights are a bit nicer. That’s about it.
Brooklyn Center also adjoins Columbia Heights and Fridley across the river (where I lived for a year) across the river, and abuts North Minneapolis (part of Minneapolis proper). North, Columbia Heights, and Brooklyn Center together form a vast urban zone with primarily residential properties and a very high level of ethnic diversity. As Minneapolis developed in the 20th century, it became a highly segregated city, with North Minneapolis including a majority share of Black neighborhoods, and adjoining Columbia Heights and Brooklyn Center were eventually, in the 1980s and 1990s, to become spillover areas for the adjoining populations. However, as this spillover happened, these neighborhoods doubled down on diversity. In 2010 (according to the census) Brooklyn Center was majority-minority white (just under 50%), about one fourth African American, and the rest Hispanic/Latinx, Pacific Islands, Asian, and everybody else. Since then, the diversity has increased, I’m pretty sure, with fewer White people, more people of African diaspora links, Central and South Asian people, and others. Brooklyn Center and nearby Brooklyn Park is where you might want to go if you need African food stuffs.
This is the site of the homestead, now an historic site and conference center, of the locally famous Earle Brown, who was the founder of the Minnesota State Patrol and the first sheriff of Hennepin County. This important historical connection to policing in Minnesota will be lost on pundits and observers, but it is locally poignant. For me, I’ve been to education and science related conferences at the Earle Brown center, and our son’s pediatrician is right there, at the local health clinic.
The top local business in Brooklyn Center is Medtronic (you probably heard of Medtronic). The third biggest employer is Caribou Coffee.
Where does the name “Brooklyn” come from? The settlers of the earlier and larger Brooklyn Township came from Brooklyn, Michigan, a tiny village near the racetrack. Brooklyn Michigan is named after Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn is a versionized form of Breukelen, a town in the Netherlands. In Dutch, it probably means “Broken Land.” Which applies today to its namesake’s namesake.
First, a nice meme for you:
Then a word from Chris Hayes:
Suddenly available cheap from Amazon*, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: The inspiration for the films Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 by Philip Dick.
While we are on the subject of cheap books, did you know that the popular, and pretty good, “Longmire” of TV started out as a series of books? The Highwayman: A Longmire Story (Walt Longmire Mysteries) by Craig Johnson is also cheap on Kindle, which is the 11th point five in the series (apparently it is complicated). The first is The Cold Dish: A Longmire Mystery. (Kindle edition of the first in the series here.)
Framing is a concept important in understanding how language works. It originated in anthropology, developed in sociology, re-employed in anthropology and linguistics, and is now a major part of communication science. It is the new thing. Framing is a verb that has come to mean correctly, or effectively, communicating a message in a way that is convincing. It isn’t, really. Framing is part of normal day to day linguistic communication, and I assure you, it is possible to “frame” something in an utterly disastrous way. So, “I did framing today” does not guarantee you did not screw up your message. “I was a good framer today” means you believe you didn’t screw it up, and maybe did a great job!
Here, I want to look at one example of communication to critique it from the perspective of framing, to give an idea of what framing is all about.
Have a look at this bumper sticker:
Framing is always part of linguistic communication. Linguistic communication is a symbolic process, by which meaning is generated in a recipient, meaning that originated from another linguistic being, by reference to a commonly understood system of symbols and symbolic relationships. If I say the word “fish” you might think of some aquatic vertebrate animal easily available to your mind, maybe a trout. That is not because the word “fish” sounds, looks, or feels inherently fishish, but because we are communicating in a language in which “fish” is a shared symbol.
Which of the following words is not a word for “fish”?
You would not know that the first three mean “a fish” while the fourth one means “a goat” unless you also know Samoan, Indonesian, Shona, and Luxembourgian. The link between the thing and the word is arbitrary. That is what makes the word a symbol for a fish, instead of, say, an icon for a fish (which would look at least somewhat like a fish, and might be hard to say out loud using voice).
But what if I meant the verb “fish” instead of the noun? Go get a fishing pole, a worm, and the other gear, and try to catch a fish. You would probably know the difference between the noun and the verb because of other parts of the sentence. Like I might say, “Hey you, go fish” (verb) as opposed to “Hey you, look at that fish” (noun).
The difference here is typically thought of as grammatical. The actual symbol being used is not really “fish” but rather the collection of words arranged in such a way to be identified as a noun, or a verb, or some other thing. This can be less obvious in English which tends to disassociate the grammatical elements compared to some other languages. (This is probably a feature of both Romance and Germanic languages generally). Thinking of words as distinct sets of letters set off by surrounding white space is a hindrance for English speakers when it comes to understanding the symbolic nature of language.
But what about this difference: I say to you “go, fish!” as you stand on the dock next to a boat loaded up with angling gear. This might compel you to get in the boat and start hunting for fish. But if instead of standing on the dock, we are inside sitting around a table and we have a bunch of playing cards in play, and I say “go fish!” we are probably playing the card game by that name, and your next move is to look for a card in the deck.
The difference between being on the dock and looking in the deck is a matter of framing. The symbolic utterance is “go fish” but it has multiple possible meanings. But there is something else involved in this act of symbolizing, that allows you to be more likely to correctly interpret my words. In this case, it is the physical context (out by the lake vs inside at the table) and the presence of certain artifacts (the paraphernalia of angling vs a deck of cards). That additional information keys the frame to either being about an outdoor activity involving fish or an indoor activity involving a deck of cards.
In the symbolic structure represented in the NCSE bumper sticker, what is the meaning of the three elements “EVIDENCE”, “>”, and “Misinformation”?
I believe you are supposed to take the “>” as a greater than sign, so EVIDENCE is greater than Misinformation. The details of the typeface (bold vs. not bold) reinforces this. The additional symbol, the Darwin’s Phylogeny drawing in the earthy sphere tells us this bumper sticker is about science and evolution, and is anti-misinformation, but never mind that for now. Just given the two words and the greater-than sign tell us all we need to know.
Or does it? Stick with the assumption that the symbols are symbols, ie., arbitrary in meaning. If so, why is “>” greater than? If this bumper sticker is meant to convince mathematicians that evidence is greater than misinformation, then yes, that makes sense, the meaning is clear, but this is also a waste of good paper and glue, because mathematicians, or sciency people who have some affinity to math, already know that. But what if the person interpreting this symbolic entity happens to be primarily a computer expert who programs in the scripting language bash? That might sound like a small, obscure, group, but it is not. Raise your hand if you know enough bash to know what two words with a “>” between them means! In bash, greater than is symbolized by “-gt” and the “>” symbol means something totally different. Like this, for example:
means spew the contents of a file named “EVIDENCE” to what is called “standard output,” which means onto the screen, normally. However,
means redirect from standard output, and copy the contents of a file named “EVIDENCE” to the end of the file called “Misinformation” and if that file does not exist, create “Misinformation” and fill it with the contents of “EVIDENCE”.
From the bash point of view, evidence is the basis for misinformation. This bumper sticker is, maybe, saying that evidence is bullpucky, or creates bullpucky, or the basis for bullpucky. This would be an example of the framing stepping big time on the message.
Here, the framing is pre-done, or primed, in advance. A person who is likely to see a “>” as a mathematical symbol understands the bumper sticker as meant. A person who spends all day with bash scripts may well get the same meaning, but their brain may alternatively go right to “>” as the redirect symbol, and figure that evidence becomes misinformation, or that misinformation is made out of evidence. That would be a bumper sticker fail.
On top of this, consider that even though the meaning of symbols is arbitrary, icons also exist as part of our linguistic communication. So, that green thing that looks like an arrow might be showing us that EVIDENCE becomes, or goes to, Misinformation. That is still a matter of framing, but in this case, more the absence of a key to set the frame up properly. The recipient of the message is simply trying to interpret what starts out as nonsense (as do all symbols until our brains figure them out), by giving a meaning of implied directionality to the thing that looks like an arrow, and coming up with a reasonably comfortable interpretation of the message. Evidence leads to misinformation.
I love the NCSE. I’m a big supporter. They have helped me greatly in the past. This bumper sticker, though … might be lesser than other options.
*Framing was originally formulated in the work of Anthropologist Gregory Bateson, though not everyone acknowledges (or knows) that. This was picked up and greatly expanded by Erving Goffman, and his work was sufficiently significant to attribute the origin of framing to him, though he was building on Bateson. Framing then spread as an idea across anthropology, linguistics, and philosophy, and was noticed by linguist George Lakoff and evile Republican strategist Frank Luntz, and applied to communication strategy. Biographies of the framing concept will vary, but this is my story and I’m sticking to it.
I read The Source: A Novel by James Michener a long time ago, so I might have some of this wrong, but…
It is a fun read, not actually religious as some might suggest. The story starts at the beginning and the end at the same time. The end involves a group of archaeologists digging down in a tel (called Tell Makor in the book, but I’m told it might be closest the the actual Tel Dan.) The beginning involves a family of pre-Neolithic people who invent agriculture and domesticate the dog. (I oversimplify, as does in that are, the author.) The rest of the story is a rough approximation of the Old Testament history.
Anyway, relatively cheap for Kindle* (2.99) right now.
I should also mention* that The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, is still cheap ($4.99).
I don’t expect convictions in the Chauvin or Rittenhouse trials.
In both cases, it is about White supremacy. I don’t subscribe to the idea half of the country comprises batshit crazy right wing red hat wearing insurrectionist Nazis. Not half. But enough that in putting together a pool of 12 people, it is almost impossible to not get one or two. They will obviate any criminal jury decision. This will apply to these two trials as well as many of the Capitol attack/Jan 6th criminals as well.
I believe the following things are true, correct me if I’m wrong.
1) Criminal trials require a unanimous decision and for burden of proof, rely on the concept of “shadow of doubt.”
2) Civil trials require a majority decision, and for burden of proof, rely on the concept of preponderance of evidence.
4) Normally, day to day, when a jury trial happens, there is a conviction most of the time.
5) On the infrequent occasion when a trial is highly visible and the stakes include things like White supremacy or other socio-political issues, when a jury trial happens, there is a hung jury or acquittal.
(Those last two points are conjecture, but it feels that way.)
Given all this, I expect these trials to involve both acquittals and some sort of examination of our thousand-year old history of the jury system. (The latter will lead to nothing.) I expect that in a subset of these cases (including the murder of Mr. Floyd) there will be a civil trial, and the civil trial will produce the equivalent of a conviction. And yes, I do think the OJ Simpson saga fits into this pattern.
For several years after spending the majority of the months of the year, for a few years, living in a rain forest with people who did not speak English, I developed these habits: When I was warning people of an imminent danger (something about to drop, a car about to come too close, etc.) I would say “Keba!” Or, if I was out in the wilds with someone and I saw a snake, I’d say, “Keba, Nyoka!” Neither was effective in the American context, but the reactions were burned in to my head. They were burned in because in the rain forest there was no way to get the kind of help we Americans are accustomed to (like doctors and urgent care facilities and such) and there were some mighty impressive deadly snakes. My brain rewired. “Careful” became “Keba!” and “Look out for the snake!” became “Keba, Nyoka!”
The other day, at the beginning of March, I woke up for the first time in years without a sense of urgency as I grabbed my cell phone to check my email. I woke up and did not check my email even before I was fully out of bed. I checked later, and when I did, I was specifically looking for two or three emails from colleagues, about the HOA meeting later that day, or about a letter we needed to send to a guest speaker at an upcoming forum, or some such.
What I was not looking for, for the first time in years, was a news alert announcing that Donald Trump was dead, for one reason or another.
I stopped caring so much if Donald Trump died in his sleep on January 20th, about noon. I still care. It would still be nice, since he is still a threat to the entire world, and especially the United States. But his dictatorship is over, and the reckoning has begun, and I’m thinking he will have a hard time running an effective campaign for president from within Wallkill Prison.
I think that what I’ve been experiencing could be called PTSD, of a sort. Having experienced PTSD (following acts of terrible violence and/or maiming) I have to say it doesn’t feel just like that, but maybe there are different versions. And, maybe I’m still experiencing it. Maybe we all are still getting over Trump and, likely, that is going to take some time. Or, if not getting over, maybe growing used to the new situation where Trump is not the dictator, but still a boogeyman in the background along with the Proud Boys and other White Supremacist insurrectionists.
I say Wallkill, but maybe it would be Sing Sing. Sing Sing would be good.
Anyway, I’ve only spoken at length to one person who was in the Capitol at the time of the January 6th Republican Insurrection. He is a mild mannered guy in politics who had worked hard to get around party divides, and bring people together around issues of common concern. But after the insurrection, when he realized that it was the Republicans in the Capitol that were hoping for mayhem, destruction, and even death, even helping make it happen, he has had something of a Come to Jesus moment. I was there with the proverbial Jesus long ago. I stopped trusting Republicans way back, and my disdain has only grown, and I have railed against the “independent thinker” meme for years. (That’s, like, “I don’t vote on party lines. I look at the issues, then chose the candidate based on their stance on the issues,” said by someone who usually doesn’t vote.) January 6th did not change my mind at all. This person is, I think, likely to experience some really serious PTSD, having actually been in the building, to hear the screaming, the gun shot, the exhortation to remove identifying pins else be captured by the enemy that has breached the breaches…
I recommend that folks examine their own PTSD or quasi-PTSD — which may be mild and it may be strong, but is likely to be at least somewhat hidden — to see if there are any demons that need to be held down in the bucket until the last bubble floats up.
I have taken solace, and kept some degree of strength and sanity, with a particular idea. First, an idea that I don’t like, by way of contrast.
This is the domino or Ponzi idea. You and I decide that the best thing to do is to vote for a particular candidate. So we each get ten people to agree, and then, they get 10 other people to agree, and so on. If I do this with a particular idea here in Minnesota, within fewer than 7 iterations, I’ve convinced twice as many people as actually live here (including babies) to vote for my candidate! That won’t actually work, wont’ actually get past the first iteration.
A version of that is the domino effect. I push over one thing, it pushes over the next thing, and so on, until finally all the things are pushed over (figuratively). That doesn’t even work very well with actual dominoes. The reason why there are YouTube videos of it actually working with dominoes is that if you get this to really work impressively, of course you take a video of it!
Here is what I do instead. Imagine a heavy ball, like a bowling ball, suspended on a long chain from some object high atop the thing. It is motionless. Now, stroke it with a strip of 34 pound (heavy weight) paper. The ball will hardly move. But if you wait for it to ever so subtly move back to where you stroked it, and a little beyond, where it is about to swing once again in the away direction, and stroke it then, the next swing will be a tiny bit father. If you keep doing that, the heavy ball on the long chain will eventually be swinging so far that it will be hard to stop, certainly unstoppable with a strip of paper.
And that is what I do every single day, and it is what I’ve been doing every single day since Trump was elected. I was doing it a lot before, but every single day, sometimes multiple times, since then. Probably 5,000 strokes since November 2016.
Of course, I do things like send an email or make a call to an elected representative, or give 50 bucks to a candidate, or spend an hour on a phone bank, etc. But I like to do somewhat bigger strokes when I can. Like write a letter to the editor for my local kitchen-stop paper, that might get read by, I dunno, 100 people. I employ messaging skills to make that letter a little more effective, and I make sure it gets around on social media. Stroke, stroke, stroke, right there. Or I help organize 100 people to write an email or make a call. Or I recruit or help train a new volunteer who is going to go at that suspended ball in their own way. Tonight, three of us spent a couple of ours on a zoom with a hundred folks helping them craft excellent comments in support of a regulation that will increase the use of electric cars.
It is very important to pay attention to the timing and direction of each thing. Just doing something to feel good about it may not be ideal. Doing just the right thing at the right time can move the bowling ball. Real live activism requires less precision than the actual bowling ball stroking, of course. At the same time, we can calculate the exact effect of the paper stroke but with real live activism we are often shooting in the dark.
Anyway, every day since the day Trump was elected, through his inauguration and eventual departure, I have been pushing the heavy weight just a little bit at a time, enough that I know that I’ve moved it. I can not say that every act has had an effect, but I’m certain that several thousand, together, have.
Oh, and I should say this: There are a few million of us.
Of course, there are always the federal prisons. I hear Yazoo City is nice.
Anyway, this is not done. The future is dangerous and must be paid close attention to. Keba! Kazi yetu haijakamilika.
That will be hard, because you are on some sort of bizarre toboggan slide down the stupid hill into the stupid abyss.
First, a trip down memory lane, then the absurdity of Texas and the new Terrorists, Republicans, who love death and misery.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is a ground breaking (like you do in a grave yard!) and illuminating (as in don’t go out in the sun) work of fiction that I know many of you have read because we’ve talked about it. So you have a copy. But maybe you don’t have a Kindle copy, which is now available for 4.99. But not in Transylvania.
Everyone eligible and who wants to, that is.
Have a look at this line. I call it “line going up.” Feel free to download it and use it for your own purposes.
I ask you to consider the following questions. Assume the vertical scale on the y-axis is 10:
1) What is the average value of this line?
2) What is the average value of the last 20% of the line, over to the left?
3) Assume the “line going up” is in fact upward-going indefinitely. This is the first ten units of time. What will be the average value of the second ten units of time?
4) Given the same assumption, what is the average value of all 20 units of time?
5) If you were asked to predict the total magnitude (all the areas under the curve) for all of the curve, for the next 10 units of time only, what would it be?
1: about 5.
2: About 8
3: About 15
4: About 10
5: A lot, but it runs from about 10 to about 20, so if it is that many units per day, about 150 (the average of 10 and 20 times 10).
I know you got all those questions right. So, now that we can do baby analytical geometry and statistics, have a look at this:
This graph shows an upward trend. We know the trend is somewhat open-ended up to about 7 million a day, with new vaccines coming on line. The drop before the recent mode, which casues an average that would have been about 2.0 million per day, was caused by a preternatural natural disaster (Texas). So, the best estimate of curent production is much closer to 2.5, not 1.7, and that rate will continue to go up so in about four weeks it will be closer to 4 million a day. This is not just based on me looking at the graph and sucking my thumb. This is what the experts are saying. April through July would be 600 million doses, many of which would be one shot doses of the newest vaccines. In other words, every eligible person in the US will be vaccinated by the end of July, comfortably.
That is a very conservative estimate.
Why to people take perfectly good data combined with clear projections from the health experts and turn them into bald face lies? Oh, it is not a lie you say, just a mistake. No, I reply, it is impossible to make a mistake like this and publish it in bloomberg. This is a lie, designed to get a rise out of the readership, and that lie regardless of its intent will contribute to the gloom and doom and that has consequences.