Medicare for All vs Solidarity for Some

Just over four years ago I was writing about the contortions which many Democrats were twisting themselves into, over policies including Medicare for All, seemingly in order to pretend that their feelings toward individual candidates were policy-driven.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Short version, Bernie Sanders is back running for president again; in the intervening four years his advocacy of Medicare for All has been joined by a small number of top-ranked Democrats, including even one of the other leading candidates for president, Senator Elizabeth Warren; Sanders’s campaign has vigorously framed Medicare for All as a wedge issue to justify disdain for and distrust of Warren, anyway, without any remotely credible basis in policy disagreement.

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The Epistolary Illusion

I experience a lot of voter contact, these days. Texting is high-volume contact, and supervising others for a texting program is even higher-volume. It’s intense—because a lot of people are fairly blunt in this impersonal medium—and it’s also repetitive. Patterns emerge quickly and tend to repeat, repeat, repeat.

The conclusions to which they lead are certainly not encouraging.

The notions that political choices are driven by policies, or issues, or values—or that they are responsive to information—seem increasingly fanciful.

A recent direct exchange with someone I know, personally, may however be even more discouraging.

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2019 Year in Review

It was an eventful year, as they have become. So, an “official” year in review for 2019, in addition to the summary version as well as the decade in review which I have already posted recently.

Kind of like in 2017, this year included a single insane week in autumn which distills a lot. Within several days, in September:

  • I spoke up on behalf of facts when a candidate for office started repeating totally made up things on campaign literature—and then I experienced all kinds of blowback
  • I produced a crazy amount of work for candidates so that I could get away for an extended weekend
  • Flew out to San Francisco for said extended weekend, had a lovely time
  • But while there, not only was I fielding calls and e-mails and things, also the news blew up with revelations about a Ukraine edition of presidential wrongdoing
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2010s: a bad decade

Thinking back on 2010-19 this decade has simply been brutal.

Personally it has been rich with experiences, change, and growth (if not with monetary wealth). I’m not ungrateful for that. But all of that has occurred against a near constant background of political, sociocultural and ecological sabotage.

I have watched it all and chronicled much of it in one space or another, and most of the time the trend has been pretty clear. For all that the 2010 elections were catastrophic in many ways, I think I had a valid point when I proposed several weeks after them that the fundamental reality of committed Republican obstructionism in Congress had already been a reality for two years by then.

Having reflected for a while, I conclude that this proved to be the most significant thing to happen in the 2010s, certainly for America: at the beginning of the decade one party in a firmly established two-party political system committed itself completely to sabotage, and at the end of the decade no corrective mechanism has intervened.

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“Dark Age Ahead” by Jane Jacobs

The last significant work from the late Jane Jacobs, written just a few years before her death, Dark Age Ahead seems like an odd anomaly in the fossil record.

I recall it being critically panned, as indeed was the general reception, to the extent it was really noticed. Perhaps some critics who felt awkward, about being too harsh on an elderly figure whose earlier work they considered important, found politely ignoring Dark Age Ahead easier.

More recently I have noticed one or two reappraisals, though I don’t recall the details offhand. They got me thinking about the book, though, and curious to check it out now that I have a bit of time available.

It is, I think, an interesting and odd historic artifact.

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Dr. Doom on the Riviera

I went browsing the one-dollar back issues at Carol & John’s Comic Shop, yesterday, as my “Black Friday” shopping. I didn’t find a lot to interest me this time. I spent eight dollars plus tax, but this was a dollar well-spent:

Super-Villain Team-Up issue #15, reprinting a 1970 story from Tales to Astonish issues #4-5.

The plot of this one is basically: the Red Skull and some tag-along z-listers invade and conquer Doom’s kingdom of Latveria while he’s away, then he returns and routs them. It isn’t bad. Journeyman work from Stan Lee’s journeyman brother Larry Lieber.

The highlight of this one, however, is that Dr. Doom visits the Riviera, basically just to kill time while conscripted labor is rebuilding Castle Doom.*

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Life and political struggle 2019

My life has reached a point where it feels like the year may as well end in early November. Because working toward the November election looms so large each year, consumes so much effort in every form, and this year even accounted for so much of my paid professional work…

I wake up about one week into November, not only with a jet lagged mystification about how I went from Memorial Day to late Autumn so quickly, but exhausted, and at something of a loss for what purpose these several more weeks in the calendar year serve.

With the 2010s closing out, it feels like I should review the past decade as well as the past year, but the past decade for me has mostly been the tale of two half-decades. The five years 2010-14 were largely personal: personal projects, solitude, lots of “me time,” personal life dramas, a lot of reading and writing and travel and reflection.

This began changing steadily each year, right from the beginning of 2015, in a way that almost feels scripted.

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Late Sept. 2019, phase shift

I spent minutes struggling for a title, here, because I’m not sure how to describe the national situation. “Dam breaking?” That describes how this moment feels, but what if a month from now the dam still seems to be there.

I wrote this in our newsletter for the Lakewood Democratic Club:

Trump pressured a foreign government (Ukraine) to open an unfounded investigation of a political opponent, in return for the release of funds which his administration was holding back. He also tried to block Congress from seeing a related whistleblower complaint.

He got busted, his personal involvement in this attempt to extort foreign election interference is now exposed, and a whole lot of other misconduct is being exposed as well.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced complete support of formal impeachment proceedings.

That’s the bare summary of the past week!

That’s a decent, simplified summary, I think. It leaves out a lot, but it covers the big news which seems to have precipitated a “phase shift,” in which suddenly House Democrats quit being scared, polling had a sudden jump in public support for impeachment, Trump and Republicans are on the defensive, and everything just seems different and that’s the part which seems to defy explanation.

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More Sequels to The Time Machine

For my 41st birthday I received a splendid copy of Time Machine II, among other things. I quite appreciate this; it’s long out of print and seems to command something of a premium online. It’s also a very enjoyable novel.

This seems to be a sequel to an earlier film adaptation from the same author, George Pal, rather than a sequel to H.G. Wells’s novel. But the differences are minor. Overall it’s well plotted and well written, with something of a wrenching ending which is mildly thought provoking and at all events an audacious curveball to throw at the reader.

Time Machine II probably ranks among my favorite three or four of the various sequels to The Time Machine which I have read so far.

Of others which I have read in the four years since my first post about this minor hobby:

  • The Space Machine by Christopher Priest is a good novel, though it has more connections with War of the Worlds than with The Time Machine.
  • Morlock Night by K.W. Jeter also involves little time travel, no Time Traveler, and even the Morlocks are fairly replaceable and undefined baddies—but they play that role in an Arthurian steampunk story which is quite entertaining.
  • Given their mutual presence in 1890s London, someone had to bring together Sherlock Holmes and the Time Traveler eventually. “The Richmond Enigma” by John DeChancie, published in the 1995 anthology Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, does so. The story is something of an also-ran among many better works in the anthology. It offers little beyond a by-the-numbers acting-out of its central meetup. The most imaginative feature is a brief coda, which adds value to the story, but in something of a tacked-on fashion.
  • Wikipedia does not yet list the above short story, but it does list a kind of “bonus scene” added to an Illustrated Classics adaptation by Shirley Bogart. For what it’s worth, I came across a copy of this at the Bookshop in Lakewood so I have read it as well.

Having read 10 of these derivative works, now, are there any general statements which come to mind?

Let’s see, Morlocks seem to be nearly as interesting to authors as the time machine itself. They feature in at least half of these stories, and apparently in others which I have not yet read, as well. They feature in two stories from which the Time Traveler himself is absent.

Even though the Eloi get much more space in the original novel, they seem to interest other authors considerably less, with the exception of Weena. A persistent desire seems to exist to give the Time Traveler another chance with his doomed admirer of the future; this is natural enough I suppose, since it’s time travel, but I have to say that multiple authors’ proposal that the Time Traveler had a sexual relationship with Weena is a little unsettling. In the original story, Weena seems childlike in both physical and intellectual development, so it would be a real stretch to imagine consent here. It’s also unconvincing that human and Eloi, separated by 800,000 years, could reproduce.

Nearly every author who picks up the story of the Time Traveler starts from the premise that he returned to the distant future of 802,701, though. The ending of the original story does not give any clear indication of when the Time Traveler intended to go for proof of time travel. Yet I suppose that this preference, too, is natural enough: the distant futures described in The Time Machine are unique to it, whereas there’s little incentive to write a journey into the past as a Time Machine sequel.

Most elements in the original story, other than the denizens of 802,701, seem to offer more work than opportunity for a writer. The story, like most stories of Sherlock Holmes, is told through an intermediary. This has created something of a smaller version of “the game” played in many derivative works about Holmes: what backstory about a rediscovered manuscript shall the author concoct to frame his or her primary story?

Unlike Holmes, though, the Time Traveler is also a much less completely developed character. His unknown name is just the most prominent example of this.

I suppose it’s a testament to the story, and to Wells’s larger reputation, that such a relative plethora of authors have been drawn nonetheless to speculate on the unresolved fate of the Time Traveler, as well as the natures of Eloi and Morlock.

The technology to save Earth’s climate

Today I saw this on Twitter, and really as far as I know there’s nothing farfetched or new, here:

I got into a brief back-and-forth with someone about the suggestion that “new technology” is where to look for hope. This notion bugs me; basically, it amounts to saying “I want this hard problem resolved for me by a new factor which doesn’t currently exist.”

This is the reality of most “technology” responses to the climate crisis. They aren’t responses, at all, but instead attempts to sidestep the issue.

That said, it occurred to me that in some sense, the reality is that we do need some incredible advancements in “technology” to survive the climate crisis.

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