Iguana 2

I grieve for the imperfect but seemingly reliably improving country I grew up in.

I have used my Hebrew name by preference since I was 17. I decided that my values and consciousness come from two strains--Judaism (especially Haskalah Ashkenazi Judaism, but that absolutely built upon traditional religious Judaism) and Americanism. I was reminded constantly of the one just by living here and I also wanted a constant reminder of the other. But despite my name, being American has generally been much more prominent in my thoughts.

This week, the history and modes of survival of the Jewish people is becoming more prominent in my thoughts. It is at least temporarily eclipsing American history as the context I see myself in. I find myself wondering if it's getting time to escape before the fire, and if so, to where. Or does my childless status oblige me to stay here and fight, even if I no longer think I know how to fight effectively?

Not knowing what to do adds even more unease, on top of the horror and unease that's been building as the events of the last 4 years have unfolded. I am an American. I love my country. It is my home. I can't stand the thought of running away. But I don't want to stay in a burning building when someone has sabotaged all the fire extinguishers.

I hope I can wake up later this year and laugh at this post. There's a decent chance Trump can be defeated, which would halt the decay, at least for a while. It would leave us on a precipice, disoriented, and liable to fall off in the coming decades. But at least it would halt the head-long rush over the cliff.

I hurt. I grieve for the imperfect but seemingly reliably improving country I grew up in.
Iguana 2

I am disappointed in Elizabeth Warren today.

There's a bullshit Politico piece out, with a headline making it seem that Sanders is accusing Warren of representing the elites. As I said, it's bullshit. Sanders didn't do that.

First, I've seen it reported that the quotes from 'instructions' to staff were actually suggestions from a random volunteer. And that the post on Slack was pulled quickly.

More importantly, the actual quotes, even if they had come Sanders' real team, were rather benign and perfectly legit as something for voters to consider. They are NOT about Warren's motivation or what she'd do as President.

Here are the quotes: Warren's support comes from "𝘩𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘭𝘺-𝘦𝘥𝘶𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥, 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘧𝘧𝘭𝘶𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘱𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘨𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘶𝘱 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘷𝘰𝘵𝘦 𝘋𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘤𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘤 𝘯𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵” and that “𝘴𝘩𝘦'𝘴 𝘣𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘯𝘰 𝘯𝘦𝘸 𝘣𝘢𝘴𝘦𝘴 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘋𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘤𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘤 𝘗𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘺.”

The first quote is true. The second, I think is overstated, but it's probably true in comparison to Sanders.

Warren (at her best) addresses me and most of you the way we like to be addressed--with sentences that show the thinking behind the thoughts. But to people who don't encounter closely reasoned arguments often in their daily lives, listening to Warren can be work--she sounds like she's talking to the hoi paloi.

On the other hand, Sanders speaks more simply. Which leaves out some important caveats. So he may seem to you like he's pandering. But he gets his message across with less work on the part of the listener.

So far, there's no story here. Except Warren fell for the Politico story. And said on TV that she's disappointed that Sanders is telling his people to go out and "trash" her. Which isn't happening.

It's bad enough that the media uses all the candidates as pawns like they're in a Professional Wrestling narrative. But the candidates need to see through that and not be egged on. last time, both candidates were actually very good at that. Had Sanders' supporters and Clinton's supporters been half as good at that as the candidates themselves, the party would be in better shape now.

Six months ago, Warren would not have fallen for this trap, I think. She has seemed over-rehearsed (and likely had too little time to process and/or sleep instead of presenting) for some time now. That feeling has been gnawing at me for a couple of months. If she doesn't regain what she had earlier--the presence to think new thoughts on the fly, I fear her campaign will last no longer than Dean's did.
Iguana 2

(no subject)

I propose January 1 as MeWe Migration (from Facebook) Day. (You don't have to stop posting on Facebook, even if you're in.)

I know lots of folks who want to get off that "do be evil" platform, but there aren't enough users at a comparable site (Dreamwidth isn't comparable) to move. www.mewe.com is, and is an infinitely better corporate citizen. And if enough of us commit to posting everything we post here, also (or only) there, then there will be enough users.

January 1. Put a reminder in your calendar. And spread the word.
Iguana 2

Katie Hill

Rules aren't always perfect for every situation, but good rules need to be generally enforced, even when they aren't.

It may be that the relationship was absolutely consensual. And it's a shame that people who work 90 hours a week and pretty much only let their guard down with co-workers can't really let loose.

But we have an emerging consensus (It really is new) that you don't fuck the help, no matter what. Well, I suppose, if if the subordinate said they'd quit because the relationship is more important, maybe that would be an exception, but then would the subordinate actually quit? Should the boss rely on that?

Ignoring the rule, even though not a legal rule for campaigns, was terrible judgment, both on a personal and societal scale. Even if every detail other about the relationship made it seem OK, it wasn't. We can find someone better.

It really is a shame about people whose whole waking time is working, though. I don't know how standards can be tweaked in the years to come to take that into account.
Iguana 2

My dad

Several decades ago, I came to realize that virtually all things that we think of, nouns, whether concrete or abstract, are really systems of smaller things. The solar system makes a very good illustrative example. These parts interact with each other, following some laws of their nature and the nature of the larger system.

Nothing is ever in perfect equilibrium. A system that lasts long enough for us to notice it and to give it a name must withstand perturbations--the forces that keep it coherent must constantly push everything back toward some never-reached equilibrium. Up to a point, the more the system is perturbed, the more strongly it is pushed back toward its canonical form.

But if the perturbation is too strong, the parts escape the forces keeping them in order and the system rapidly ceases to be.

On February 20, one of my favorite such systems, the man who taught me to look at disparate things and to consider their commonalities and differences so I could conceive this idea of systems, my father, suffered a major perturbation. For nearly two months, the forces holding him together and the momentum pulling him apart were in close balance. So that even this morning, we had great hope he would return home, almost as healthy as he had been before.

But today, he was overcome by the many ailments that were pulling him apart. What remains of him is the effects he has already had on the world and the voice--the way of thinking that he has left in many of us. Chaos has sundered the rest.

The funeral will be on Thursday, April 19, at 1:00 PM at
Crabiel Parkwest Funeral Chapel in New Brunswick, NJ 80901.
(Please note that is a different place than the similarly named funeral home in Milltown.)

The funeral service will be followed by burial at the cemetery of Conngregation B'nai Tikvah, the cemetery being
Washington Cemetery, 104 Deans Rhode Hall Rd, North Brunswick (South Brunswick Township), NJ 08902

There will be an informal gathering after the burial at a place yet to be determined.
Iguana 2

Freedom isn't free. It requires your attention, if nothing else.

This is nominally about baseball, but it's really about the shared responsibility of elections and the shared responsibility of living in society.

In 1999, the Gold Glove Awards for being the best fielder at each position in each league were still decided solely by a vote of managers and coaches in the league.

The previous two years in the American League, Rafael Palmeiro, a very good fielder, won the award for First Base. In 1999, nobody was getting a lot of attention as an outstanding defensive first baseman, so Palmeiro again got a plurality of the votes, winning the award.

But in 1999, Palmeiro wasn't a first baseman. Sure, he played there about 1/6 of the time, but nobody would give the award to someone who only started 28 games at the position out of 162.

Even the voters were aghast when the winner was announced. They each (most of them) individually knew that Palmeiro wasn't a regular first baseman anymore. But they were busy, voting wasn't what they were paid to do, so they voted for the familiar name and relied on everyone else to make a better choice.

Living in a society, like relying on formal institutions to handle justice rather than taking individual revenge--works because we all (most of us) understand that's the way it is and we participate. In places where people don't have any faith in the justice system, it doesn't work. People in the US sometimes complain that it doesn't work, because indeed, there are horrible problems with it. But in the places where 95% or so of Americans live, it works well enough that we participate.

Elections, too, work when we participate with real attention, but they don't work when we don't.

Some of you will point, with justification, to the relatively small number of protest voters in swing states who voted for Trump (or Stein or someone else) to send a message and were horrified to find Trump had won. And it's true that because the election was so close, there were likely enough such voters that had they voted for who they actually preferred to win among the two who who might have, we would have a different president (whom they despised, but would still prefer).

But the bigger issue is all those who can but don't vote. Many of whom pay so little attention that by the time Election Day rolls around, indeed they should not vote. Paying attention is not what they're paid to do, so they rely on everyone else to keep things going.

Democracy works when casting an at lest semi-informed vote is just what you do. Democracy has many problems, but when people do pay attention, it is demonstrably better than any alternative ever discovered, by a very wide margin. But when people readily cast the responsibility of choosing leaders to nameless others, democracy does not work for long.

Too often, we see messages that the system is hopeless. Yet it used to work well enough. The only real difference is that we assume it's hopeless, so we ignore it. We don't want to get our hopes up, only to be betrayed--to be made fools of. Or maybe our families come from countries where democracy has always been a sham, so we have no way of knowing in our guts that it can work and has in the not too distant past.

If we want to salvage our heritage, which includes a whole lot of good along with the bad everybody wants to talk about, we need to remember that paying attention, figuring out what's bullshit and what isn't, is part of being an American. If you can do that, you're pulling your weight. If you don't, you're dead weight. Not dead weight to your family or the things that matter most right now, but dead weight to where your family lives. And by the time the young ones have kids, that will matter more than anything.

Political campaigns aren't going to educate people this way for us. They're focused on likely voters, Even if they try to talk to non-voters, especially in communities where voting is rare, they'll be tone deaf. That's not the business campaigns are familiar with. So it's up to us, the more specific us that's reading this, to convey the attitude. You're American? That means it's time to pay attention to how politics works and to vote.
Iguana 2

Neither 1984 nor Lord of the Flies

We will not accept Lord of the Flies as a defense against 1984. Nor will we accept 1984 as a defense against Lord of the Flies. It doesn't matter whether oppression comes from something that calls itself a government.

The only defense against both Lord of the Flies *and* 1984 is a government strong and active enough to prevent oppression by others, but restrained by custom and law and committed to serving the people who grant it sovereignty. That includes mitigating the effects of oppressive power imbalances that are intrinsic to any complex society.

We have a government that has done a somewhat decent job of that at times, and was getting steadily better through much of the last century. That time ended about when I became an adult, and before many of you have first-hand political memories, so it may seem like a fairy tale. But it happened, and people's lives are vastly better and longer because of it. And there remain many ways the government still acts as a real check on the abuse by the powerful.

When all we focus on is the shortcomings of the government--when we take for granted and do not praise its successes, we undermine the political viability of the very notion of a government that is an agent of the people. We let its political profile be defined by those who want to get it out of the way, so they can increase their exploitation. That is the great mistake of the left.

The single most critical factor that will decide whether power grows more fair or less is whether people feel that of course it should grow better and it is some sort of offense against what we should expect that it is not. On the other hand, if you teach people that abuse is just the way things are and maybe some day we'll have a revolution to fix it, you will get Russia.
Iguana 2


Bullying affects people you know, even if you don't know it.
I was bullied throughout my time in public school. It was worst in 2nd grade, but even as it got better, it never stopped.

The most physically damaging incidents came as I got older.

  • I have hearing loss from a firecracker (M80, probably) thrown into an enclosed stairwell I was in.

  • The cartilage damage in my knee dates from when I was skinny, but I don't know if it was caused by the time someone jammed by lower leg between the wheel well and seat of a school bus and tried to break my leg.

  • One that was younger: the ventral hernia that has dogged me including 3 operations, one preceded by excruciating pain of intestine nearly dying due scar tissue adhesions from a previous operation--the first time I felt that was when I got punched the last day of second grade--by a guy who likes a lot of what I post here and probably doesn't remember the incident. Again, I'd bet against him having caused the hernia, but I don't know.

But even worse than the physical effects is the psychological trauma of living in fear all the time. And knowing that if I show I'm afraid, that will only bring on much more bullying. If I seem well put together, needing to put on that front is why. I have done some damned good things in my life, but I could also fairly be called an underachiever, with PTSD and an anxiety disorder. My experiences at school account for half of that, if not more.
Iguana 2

(no subject)

Let's put that question I asked in May in plain language.

I have a bag of unfair coins. Some will come up heads half the time, some less, some more. I don't know if they're wildly spread out, usually stay between, say, 45% and 55%, or what.

I take a good handful of the coins and I flip each of them several times. I'm not systematic, though. So coins don't all have the same number of flips. But at least for each coin I flipped, I know how many heads and how many tails I got.

I want to know just how bad the whole bunch of coins are. Or at least, the best guess I can make from the data I have. If I took the whole bag and flipped every coins millions of times, I could easily calculate the standard deviation of heads probability among the coins. But what's the best I can do from the limited information I actually have?
Iguana 2

Pro-Left, Anti-Revolution

When I was young, I gave serious thought to the morality and technique of overthrowing the government. I came to realize that a literally revolutionary movement here could not destabilize the government, could not win a civil war even if it did destabilize the government, and had no way to avoid becoming even worse than the status quo as it would change in any serious attempt to win such a civil war.

Still, those destabilizing techniques remained interesting to me, even if only to monitor others' behavior. And for the first time, since the 1970s, I'm seeing them used on the left side of electoral politics, by a minority of Sanders supporters. That's interesting, but by itself wouldn't be alarming, as there aren't enough of them that they should be effective. There have long been a scattering dispirited revolutionaries on the left, who never did the soul searching I did as a teenager and it's interesting to see how similar they are from one generation to the next.

What I find much much more troubling than the revolutionaries themselves is how credulously many other Sanders supporters lap up their propaganda.

This nomination is not being stolen. Clinton could have won it more easily (though it would have greatly harmed her general election chances) by doing the kind of red-baiting that the Republicans would if Sanders were nominated. But she figured she'd win the nomination anyway, so she didn't go negative in that way.

The nomination process is arcane and prone to minor controversies along the way. That should change. The revolutionaries have mischaracterized those speed bumps and sometimes intentionally caused them in order to attack the legitimacy of the nomination.

That kind of disinformation should not work. I think in most past years, it would not have worked on the left. But along with the actual revolutionaries, there is a mood among many other Sanders supporters to believe any charge against the system, no matter how bogus. That will not serve us.

The Sanders campaign has presented the actual left in this country a wonderful opportunity, both to change the terms of debate (outside leftist circles) on basic economic issues and to energize people who have previously been apathetic. We should continue moving the movement forward through Sanders' candidacy to the convention and his probable speech there.

But we should not kid ourselves about where we stand. With a center-left candidate against a Democratic Socialist, both of whom have serious flaws along with real assets as personalities, we will probably fail to nominate our candidate--not because the nomination process itself is rigged, but because in a coalition of interests that form the more leftward half of the electorate, we comprise slightly less than half of that coalition.

That says we have work to do, but also says we have considerable strength. We won't further our cause by turning people away from electoral politics by fanciful charges of rigging. And we won't further our cause by adopting the revolutionary tenet that things have to get worse (Trump) before they can get better.