Robert Cotton, and Eddie Campbell

I have owned Eddie Campbell’s The Fate of the Artist since well before I even began researching Cotton’s Library, I believe.

Yet it only struck me today how some of Campbell’s eccentric archivist habits are so reminiscent of Cotton:

“But they were more than just clippings to him.” It’s the wife’s turn again. “He was ordering the universe. Or that’s what he thought. Sometimes he’d cut pages out of one book and transfer them to another. We’ve got a three-volume illustrated medical encyclopedia. You’ll be looking up the common cold and suddenly there will be a hole in the page because there was an eighteenth-century skit on cowpox on the reverse. Or some perfectly useful information on diet during pregnancy will have been sacrificed to the priority of filing a reproduction of a French phrenological lithograph where it will make more sense only to Campbell.

“He’d cut them to fit, because he was a neatness fanatic, but you’d think a true neatness nut would want the pages in the book they came in.

By Campbell’s time there were things like photocopiers, scanners, and printers, so cutting up books seems rather less necessary to indulge this obsession. Though, on the other hand, because of printing I presume that all of the volumes involved were mass produced printed books, rather than the unique manuscripts which Cotton often carved up.

Inverse Secession

America is experiencing a kind of inverse secession.

Republicans have, over 30+ years, mentally expelled the rest of us from the citizenry of “their” country, which is a white patriarchy. We’re still here, physically, but it should not be surprising that Republicans are constantly enraged about alien people in America, and totally intolerant of all non-Republican authority. Anything besides Republican control is, for this enclave, the equivalent of “foreign rule.”

This is or should be important because it means so much of our conceptual infrastructure is obsolete and needs to be replaced, if the rest of us are to organize any kind of effective response, or even to understand what’s going on.

When baffled liberals explode at news of a school district banning a Rosa Parks children’s book, there is actually an explanation for this and so much of what constantly prompts ineffective online-outrage. Rosa Parks is an entirely reasonable hero for a multicultural liberal democracy. But Rosa Parks is not any kind of hero for a white patriarchy. For such a nation, lionizing Rosa Parks amounts to foreign propaganda undermining fundamental pillars of the culture. Of course such a nation’s patriots want to ban a book promoting Rosa Parks—to children no less—especially at a time when statues of that nation’s own heroes are being removed after generations.

This perspective also helps explain not only the Republican assault on democracy, but the aggression and brazen lawlessness which would sometimes seem excessive from any kind of purely “political” perspective. Even if one considers Republicans entirely rotten, it seems needlessly bloody-minded that they insisted this week on muscling through Ohio legislative districts which 1) have been consistently condemned by the public, 2) even they have trouble asserting with conviction are compatible with the state constitution, and 3) will only last two election cycles even if permitted by the state supreme court. All this seems needlessly bloody-minded given that this is Ohio and even the Democrats’ idea of fair maps would leave Republicans secure in state house and senate majorities.

But if you are at war against a foreign enemy, for control of your own land, you tend not to accept compromise. In the First World War, e.g., the French sacrificed lives attacking the German invaders’ positions, and defending their own lines, even when their own strategic interest was obviously better served by other choices. Accepting the alien occupying even a square inch of their country was simply intolerable. (As an aside, I have come to think of gerrymandering and secession as varieties of one thing: both are ultimately about redrawing borders to reject the whole possibility of an Other having authority over your kind of people.)

The concept of inverse secession also has implications which desperately need to be appreciated.

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Ups, downs, hypernormalization

Within little more than 36 hours I was wrenched between highs and lows, this week.

Tuesday morning, I got up, grabbed a campaign sign, and walked up the street to the neighborhood polling place to fly the flag for City Councilperson Tristan Rader‘s reelection. I was already anxious, and as the day wore on, I began sinking toward downright despondence. Mostly because I have just been traumatized by too many crushing election results over the past several years. I know that this pessimism is a bias on my part, but I also know that it isn’t so much of a bias that I can just dismiss it.

So, it was a great relief when the Board of Elections posted early-vote totals with Tristan leading all others in an eight-candidate primary. Even better, election-day numbers later boosted my neighbor Laura Rodriguez-Carbone to third place. The top six candidates will all appear on November’s ballot, but the top three in that election will be elected to city council at-large; astonishingly the exact three candidates I voted for are now presumptive favorites.

That was exciting. Not every Tuesday result was great, but a number of interest to me were positive. I was e.g. rather relieved that the “knife-edge” warnings were completely off and California’s recall election came nowhere near deposing the state’s Democratic governor, even if he is personally mediocre at best.

By Wednesday evening, however, I was back to dread, and I unplugged rather than follow the showdown on Ohio’s Redistricting Commission from which poor results seemed likely and which I would be entirely unable to influence at that point. In this case, I was correct.

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Save Lakewood Hospital’s own-goal

The grassroots campaign to defend Lakewood’s publicly owned charity hospital, from a privatization/liquidation scheme, failed for a variety of reasons. The one I think about most often is an entirely avoidable self-inflicted injury, resulting from such trivial explanations as to be absurd.

It’s time the tale were told.

“Save Lakewood Hospital” was a simple message. Based on all available evidence, it was overwhelmingly popular with the community. Lakewood has the right of initiative and referendum, and getting adequate valid signatures was not difficult for this campaign. “Yes, Save Lakewood Hospital” should have been a landslide electoral success. How, instead, did it end up narrowly defeated?

Dishonesty by the schemers at City Hall and the Cleveland Clinic was certainly part of that. No one really advocated “we should close and liquidate Lakewood Hospital.” They evaded, they made up excuses; to muddy the waters, they created an astroturf counter-campaign, a fake newspaper, and put up yard signs implying that a “yes” vote on the 2015 initiative was actually for the “deal,” which many people probably interpreted as meaning “closing the hospital.”

But I don’t think that should or would have been enough without huge missteps by Save Lakewood Hospital, including one all-time example of “whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad.”

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The Crisis of Confidence

When the rigged high court, this week, ignored the precedent of Roe v. Wade, I realized that a blog post I wrote exactly two months earlier seemed word-perfect. Post-Democracy America is taking shape right in front of us.

As with a lot of events, now, I’m still making some attempt to analyze and process, yet I also keep finding that a lot of what happens is compatible with conclusions I reached and wrote about previously, some times years ago. It was right around three years ago that I went through intense anguish at the corrupt, evil takeover of America’s high court. Watching it play out, now, is sad and bad, but can I say that I really expected anything else?

I have been writing explicitly for some time that I think America is beyond repair, certainly in terms of a representative democracy. The proposition that the system can be repaired within the system is beyond farfetched, at this point.

Yet I still expect that zombie systems and concepts will shamble along, because that’s human behavior.

I am again re-reading Stokesbury’s Short History of World War I, and again the book and current events provide fascinating perspective on one another. Particularly how absolutely unprepared European leaders were for what war of that era was going to be like, even though there were warnings. The Russo-Japanese War was a warning, but they ignored it. “…early in 1915, Allied intelligence heard rumors that the Germans might conceivably be going to use gas. Not knowing exactly what to do about it, the Allied commanders decided to do nothing.” By later on in 1915, the war had ground up lives for an entire year, and still the nations of Europe continued to feed more lives into the same meat-grinder battles for multiple additional years before some new ideas managed to force themselves into use, often through some degree of accident.

America has had warnings, plenty of warnings, and we have even been living through plenty of nightmarish consequences of our culture becoming badly unsuited to new challenges. But most of those in authority (who are not actively part of the destruction) don’t know exactly what to do about it, and are instead doing nothing, at least nothing besides the same ineffective things which they have been doing.

I think this might be thought of as a Crisis of Confidence, partly at least a disastrous surplus of confidence as was very much the case in World War I.

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Fighting over the wrong infrastructure

Four years ago, Bruce Gibney wrote that “I think the choices might become so difficult that even fairly good people will get wrapped up in short-term self-interest” within the near future.

It seems like this is already manifesting in the much-greater energy going toward a progressive budget than toward reforming the political system. I observe this pretty much daily, in the messages from members of Congress, and from advocacy groups*; even America’s progressive leadership is pretty much all-in on making pocketbook assistance the priority.

I understand the desire to provide first aid ASAP to people suffering injury, but if that comes at the expense of fixing dangerous equipment which will continue causing injury, then this is the wrong choice to make.

America’s oppressive economic systems are downstream from oppressive political systems.

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Afghanistan, America, and Rot

It has been about a week since the eruption of what my own notes summarize as “clueless, pointless national shoutfest about Afghanistan falling back to Taliban control almost instantly, and with basically no local resistance, even as US is still completing retreat.”

I feel like some kind of commentary is warranted, here, although I’m not sure how much I can say which is more important than the basic facts:

  • When I was 23 years old, the United States invaded Afghanistan—after a terrorist attack carried out mostly by Saudis and plotted by a leader eventually found holed-up in Pakistan.
  • I’m now 43 years old, and two decades’ sacrifice of lives and immense treasure have achieved absolutely no durable result in Afghanistan.

The setting of this extended fraud against basically my whole adult life kind of colors my perspective, and I completely support President Biden making the correct bad choice of pulling the plug on the occupation.

Beyond this I feel like the rest of what I can say mostly amounts to notes.

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Provincial Geoengineering

What if states suffering from climate change become, quite realistically, frustrated with waiting for coordinated global solutions and attempt to modify their own local climates?

This is just a hypothetical possibility that occurred to me, yesterday, prompted I suppose by the COVID pandemic and how that’s going. I’m not a climate scientist, or really any sort of expert in the natural sciences or engineering at all. I am a historian and chronicler of contemporary civilization, though, and from that perspective this concept seems very realistic.

Most of this concept is not even new. Any number of schemes for geoengineering responses to the climate crisis have kicked around for many years. As has speculation about the possibility of unilateral attempts, in the absence of global consensus; the harrowing short story collection The Hidden Girl even considers a private attempt at global geoengineering.

Microclimates are obviously not new, though the intersection of climate complexity and anthropogenic rapid climate change is revealing that the results will not be smooth and uniform.

Local-scale response is a well-established concept, also. The urban heat island effect is really a basic corollary of cities, but systems and policies can do a lot to minimize or intensify it, through e.g. choosing more trees instead of blacktop parking lots.

But what about in-between the local and global scale? Might individual nation-states (or federation member-states) try to protect their climates amid the continuing absence of global solutions? Whether or not they can in fact do so, what if one or more decide that they can, and try it?

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OH11 and Truthiness

This is mostly a post for myself, simply to record the reality which is already being widely replaced by a “truthiness” alternative.

The Democratic primary fight for a special election to represent Ohio’s 11th Congressional District for a little over a year was a cluster-fucking fiasco for which all of the major participants share responsibility.

I write this mainly because so much of the left seems to be circling the wagons in defense of a Nina Turner campaign which not only lost the primary but—contrary to the exculpatory myth emerging—presided over the immolation and waste of enormous resources in doing so.

Before I dig further into that, though, a review of the wasteful shambles found everywhere you look in this shit show:

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COVID Summer 2021

The sense that a Theory Of The Case is generally missing, including from purported leaders, is thriving lately.

I continue to think back on one of the earliest COVID prognoses that caught my eye as one of the best. I wish I had clipped a source URL. But I recall back near the start of all this, someone advising that eventually everyone would be exposed to COVID and (this being way before vaccines) most people exposed would get infected. This was, as far as I can tell, always the theory of “flatten the curve”—even if that escaped people—i.e. don’t all get COVID at once and thereby overload the hospitals, not do this so that you don’t get COVID ever.

With vaccines’ arrival, some theoretical possibility seemed to exist that thoroughly vaccinated societies could achieve that so-much-abused concept, herd immunity.

That’s just no longer even within reach at this point.

As someone else forecast fairly early on, COVID is endemic now. There is no credible scenario for how this worldwide, extremely transmissible virus gets removed from circulation. This is not so much because it’s “mutating around the vaccines,” as ongoing lurid speculation anticipates, as it is because there are a lot of people who will never get vaccinated. Vaccines are available in America. It isn’t really an access problem other than for children or the immunocompromised. For millions of people in this country and many more in other countries, it’s basically just a Bartleby the Scrivener situation.

Few people seem even to be confronting this reality, honestly.

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