Strange Days

Things really have not felt “the same” since l’affaire Ukrainienne broke open last September.

That particular scandal broke open in a way that none seemed to have done, before, in this years-long nightmare. The House of Representatives impeached the president. Then not only did one senator from the president’s own party break ranks and vote to remove, for the first time ever, said senator was himself the presidential nominee of said party just several years ago.

The climate crisis is happening now, and can scarcely get a moment’s attention. The Trump administration basically started a war with Iran. Every bulwark against abuse of power is breaking down.

Oh, it’s a Census year, too, and that’s probably going to be severely compromised at best.

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Twitter Jail

Note: two weeks later I finally received a response from Twitter, and after a further round of correspondence the same day, I was freed from jail for reasons which are just as opaque as those which put me there to begin with.

A few thoughts while I cool my heels in Twitter Jail (also known as no-warning, no-explanation suspension) for an indeterminate period:

I have no idea why my account was suspended, and everything I know about Twitter and all such massive algorithm-governed systems indicates that there may not really be any reason, even in the narrow sense of a specific rule (however arbitrary or unjust) violated. According to one article, Twitter has even admitted on occasion that it suspended an account for days, “by mistake.”

As well as the above, I have found relevant articles about Twitter suspension from 2014, 2018 and 2019. I suspect that the 2014 article best sums up every attempt to explain Twitter “rules,” however: “These rules are vague by design in order to prevent reverse engineering…”

The published rules as such certainly are vague, and in the absence of genuinely useful detail, seem to permit suspension for: replying, posting links, retweeting, following, unfollowing, using hashtags, or liking. For basically all actual activity on Twitter, in other words.

Without blowing this entirely out of proportion, social media platforms are a big portion of “public” space at this point. It has become very difficult to participate, without using any of the major platforms. Yet they are not only as opaque and arbitrary as any bureaucracy imagined by Kafka, they are entirely unelected and run by people who are unelected.

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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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