dichroic: (oar asterisk)

When I was a small child, back in the days when hippies roamed the earth, there was a poster above my bed with the words:

is not
for children
and other
living things

Apparently I internalized that message, because my immediate gut response to Trump launching “the mother of all bombs” into Syria was along the lines of “Oh, crap. I don’t want to die.” I do not want to die in WWIII, and I especially don’t want it to happen soon. I do not appreciate that blowhard who wormed his way into the White House trying to prove his manhood by playing chicken with Syria and its Russian supporters, or conversely with North Korea and its China supporters. People get hurt playing chicken (just ask my spouse, who spent half of his fourth grade year in a full-leg cast). The bigger the scale you’re playing on, the more people who are likely to get hurt.

(Yes, we just had a visit from my whole family; it was very nice and I need to write about that, but I had to get this off my fingertips first.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

The White House’s web page had now posted descriptions of each item of the Bill of Rights (“summaries” about as long as their originals) in which they consistently replace “the people” with “citizens”.
Whitehouse.gov page
Original Bill of Rights

But I’ve just had the most graphic proof that political delusions and ridiculous euphemisms are no new thing.

WTF, Louisa May Alcott? In the second edition of Aunt Jo’s Scrapbag, she’s in the French city of Dinan, where she’s discussing how the local women seem to do the hard work of the town, and how strong and capable they are while never complaining:

The washerwomen were among the happiest of these happy souls, and nowhere were seen prettier pictures than they made, clustered round the fountains or tanks by the way, scrubbing, slapping, singing, and gossiping, as they washed or spread their linen on the green hedges and
daisied grass in the bright spring weather. One envied the cheery faces under the queer caps, the stout arms that scrubbed all day, and were not too tired to carry home some chubby Jean or little Marie when night came; and, most of all, the contented hearts in the broad bosoms under the white kerchiefs, for no complaint did one hear from these hard-working, happy women. The same brave spirit seems to possess them now as that which carried them heroically to their fate in the Revolution, when hundreds of mothers and children were shot at Nantes and died without a murmur.

Having no idea what had happened at Nantes, I looked it up. I find it horrifically unlikely those ‘hundreds of mothers and children …died without a murmur”. Or maybe they weren’t heard because many of them drowned. But I did come up with a way to avoid argument with Trump supporters: instead of comapring him to the early days of Hitler, you just compare him to Jean-Baptiste Carrier instead. I’m certain the administration that came up with “alternative facts” would admire the elegant obfuscation of “vertical deportation” (i.e. drowning). (If you’re wondering about the shootings she mentioned vs the drownings in the Wikipedia article, LMA is just a little confused. People definitely were shot all over the Vendee region – it’s just that Nantes is specifically known for the drowning of prisoners.)

I do wonder if, maybe, the French Revolution would be a more accurate comparison for Recent Events than the Holocaust.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

I promised myself to quit engaging on FB and on political topics in general because of the high blood pressure – but maybe writing it out is better than thinking it over and letting it fester.

I’m beginning to get that feeling that supposedly elected Trump – that feeling that my kind of people are ignored by those in power, those with privilege, those with their smug ‘I got mine’ attitudes that don’t care how the rest of us might struggle. Only my kind of people aren’t Trump voters.

My kind of people, the kind I come from and a lot of those I hang out with, don’t have a lot of money. They worry a lot about how to pay for their kids’ college, but they work their ass off to do it because they want their kids to have a better life. And they tend to vote liberal, for a few reasons – none of them pertaining to being part of any ‘elite’.

One is that they’ve been through hard times. This has had two effects; it’s made them see the need for a safety net in case things really got bad, and it’s given them sympathy for those who have it even worse. They can’t vote for “I’ve got mine” if it rips the floor out from under everyone else.

Another is that they’re educated – but don’t assume that makes them ‘elite’ either. Some (OK, me) got degrees and are doing OK, but a lot of others majored in the kind of thing that may help you learn to think but doesn’t necessarily have you stashing doubloons under your mattress. Still others got to be educated on their own, by thinking and reading and listening. That’s another reason they don’t vote for Trump: because they actually listened to what he said, not just the “make America great” but all the other parts too, the parts about hurting people and the parts where he said one thing Monday and denied it Tuesday. And they looked at the historical data, and saw whose policies in the past have lifted America up and whose have let her down.

To those rural folks reputed to be feeling disenfranchised, who voted Trump for that reason: quit complaining about made-up problems. If all you’re losing is the ability to assume everyone is just like you, forget it. A lot of us have never ever had that; we’ve been standing on that shaky ground for generations, and maybe it’s done us some good. And quit making your own new problems – if you really think a rich white city boy famous for screwing people over, and who has spent way less time, effort and dollars than people with comparative riches on helping others, is the only one who cares about you, you might want to listen to those words and that data a little better. Come work with us instead on your real problems. If you’re losing your farm or can’t get decent healthcare in your community, we’ll care about you and we’ll help you (and we’re the ones likely to be raising money for you). When it comes to those real problems, my people have a lot in common with you.

And yeah, this rant was sparked by Facebook. The other day, someone told me I probably voted for Hillary just because I have decent health insurance – even though I know people who have only had any insurance since Obamacare went through. (Clarification: I think Obamacare kind of sucks, and I don’t want to give any impression that I’m defending it. I just think it’s better than nothing, since Congress blocked anything that might be better.) Just now I read two comments in a row by people who are working their asses off, having trouble making ends meet, and tired of being told they must be rich because they voted for Hillary and should just throw money at their problems.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

I’ve had so much to say since this election, but this hasn’t felt like the right place to say it, for two reasons: one is that as far as I can tell this site is mostly read by people of like mind who are already thinking the same things, and the other is that everything I need to say is being said by others, usually better.

But there are a couple of things I wanted to note down. One is that as far as I can tell, the Electoral College is a useless and antiquated system and should be abolished (not just because of this election; I’ve been complaining about them for a long time). I don’t think I need to explain how it works, but someone else-internet asked why it worked that way, and what the advantages are, and I might as well save what I wrote there (tl;dr: AFAIK, there really aren’t any).

I read Thomas Jefferson’s original reasoning – at least the reasoning he admitted to – in his own letters. Remember that news was much less of a thing then than it is now. He believed that if people elected their own government, they just wouldn’t do a good job, because they wouldn’t have enough insight into the candidates to know who would be a good President. But if they elected the best, smartest people they knew, and those people used their best judgement, we’d end up with a much better person in office. (He may have thought differently after Adams was elected, given their relationship at the time!)

Caveat the first: You will note that the current system isn’t anything like what Jefferson envisioned, since electors are no longer expected to use their judgement.
Caveat the second: I suspect Jefferson had some other motivations he didn’t discuss in those letters:
The practical one: President and VP are the only offices everyone across the country votes for, and that’s a lot of votes to count by hand. I suspect that voting for local electors made the counting much simpler.
The immoral one: how many electors a state gets depends on the size of that state – and if you remember the 3/5 Compromise, that meant that slave states had a greater effect on the election than their voting population actually warranted (hence the number of early Presidents from Virginia).

The other thing you will notice is that not one of the reasons cited above applies today. We all know a lot about the candidates by the time of the election, and electors aren’t supposed to use independent judgement anyway; we have computers to count; and all non-felon adults of sound mind can vote. So I do agree with the people calling for the dismantling of the Electoral College.

So why do some people want to keep it on the argument that it protects less-populous states? Each state has the same number of electors as it does Congresscritters (Senators plus Representatives). Therefore, no state has < 3 electors, since all states have 2 Senators, and each state has a number of Representatives proportional to its population, with a minimum of 1. Therefore, states with a very small population have a disproportionate influence on the vote. Which would make sense if you were Thomas Jefferson and thought that farmers were inherently more righteous than businesspeople (well, businessmen, if you were Jefferson). Some problems with this: The District of Columbia ALSO has three electors, and thus the same disproportionate influence as those hardy sons of of the soil. And who thinks giving the most political city in the US some extra clout is a good idea? If you are in sitting at a bar somewhere in France or Japan or Ethiopia, and you ask someone from Missoula or Grants Pass or Tulsa where they're from, they're almost certain to say "America", or "the US" if they want to be precise. (One exception: Texans tend to start with "Texas" and only admit to being part of the US after that.) Only when you get talking in more detail do they identify which state they're from. We started out as a union more like the EU, and there's no doubt that we still have some strong regional identities, but while, say, Arkansas might not want to be overruled by New England, I don't think they care much if they have more or less votes than Tennessee or Vermont by Massachusetts. I think we've gone beyond the need to filter national elections through the states - that's what Congress is there for, to protect local interests. Also, logically, the disproportionate power of rural voters is offset by the winner-take-all system, in which all electors for a state go to whoever got the most votes. This means, for example, that a state like Oregon, which has 4 million people with over half of those in metro Portland and another big chunk in Eugene, still votes blue despite most of the state (by land area rather than population) being red (check out the map on this page).

So basically as far as I can see, the only possible advantage to anyone at all in the Electoral College system, is that it gives the people who like to shout about states’ rights something to shout about.

(I didn’t really answer the question as to what the real advantage of the system is. As far as I can see, there isn’t one.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)


(Election nerves.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.


Nov. 8th, 2016 04:27 pm
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

I’ve been following Pantsuit Nation today on Facebook. I only heard of it yesterday, apparently it was only founded a couple of weeks ago, and now it feels like all my female friends are in there.

If anyone remembers Horton Hears a Who, it sort of feels like we’ve been shouting “We are here, we are here, we are here, we are here!” and today on Facebook, on Pantsuit Nation and elsewhere on my feed, has been one giant, defiant YOP!

Here’s hoping.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

I have been trying hard to stay civil, throughout this whole election. It really does feel to me like this is something way out of the extraordinary and yet some knowledge of history tells me it may not be. The election of 1800 had even uglier rhetoric (even Trump hasn’t called anyone a “hideous hermaphroditic creature”) and I’m not convinced that some of our past politicians were not equally lacking in principle. Fanny Trollope, writing of America, and Anna Sewell (Black Beauty) and Emily Eden (in The semi-Attached Couple) writing of England all show elections in which the only principle was that your guy was great, the other guy was awful, and getting votes by any means was all that mattered.

Still, this is at least unlike anything I’ve seen, and I’m tired of being civil. I won’t say I’m done with it, because I think civility is a public duty, but I’m taking a short break, here in my own personal blog. Then I’ll go back to being good, at least in public.

There’s going to be frothing at the mouth here, or at least at the fingertips. I’m just venting. Read it for entertainment or click through and read something more useful. You’ve been warned.

And I just want to say, what the hell are you Trump voters thinking? Or are you thinking at all? How can you believe it’s right to make any decision in complete disregard of the facts?

Even though he doesn’t show much proof of it, Trump is a human being. Therefore, I think, he deserves a few basic courtesies: I will call him by his name, and I will judge him by his own words and actions, not by what his enemies want me to believe.

But good jumping gravy, his own words are all I need to see that the man is a walking quagmire. He denies on Tuesday what he said – in print or on recording – on Monday. He knows nothing about how government words or what the President of the US can actually do. He praises rapists and scam artists. He lets the voices of hatred and violence speak at his rallies and not only doesn’t try to silence them, he eggs them on.

There’s the guy I know from college who tells me he knows Trump is awful, but when you have rats in your house you just want them out and you don’t even care about the ratcatcher’s failings. Well, first of all, dude, you’re wrong about the rats. Sure, the US has major problems – but it’s a better place now than it was eight years ago. We have some issues we weren’t talking about then, but they’re not new, just out in the open. We still have lots of old problems too, like racism and sexism, but there’s no way any sane person can believe Trump will make those better. The one issue I can think of that’s really worse than it was any time in the last hundred years is income inequality, and Trump’s absolutely the last person to want to change that. And really, dude, you’re a Jew and a father. Do you really think they’ll come for the Muslims tomorrow and not come for you the day after? Are you going to be comfortable with a world in which your daughter is told to just leave her job if she gets harassed?

There’s the guy at work who talks a lot about his church and his religion. Dude, you’ve got daughters too, and you’ve worked hard to raise them and your son with a sense of all their possibilities – you want that shut down? You want young buys encouraged to think it’s OK to grab one of your daughters by a random body part, because she’s just there for entertainment? You’ve already got your daughters in a special group because Girl Scouts are too liberal for you; you can’t claim innocence when one of your kids’ friends commits suicide because she’s gay and she’s afraid her friends and family won’t accept her. Those aren’t Christian values, not if you interpret that phrase to mean “bearing any remote resemblance to what Jesus said and did”. And quit listening to that fringe “news”, anyway, because they’ll say anything to get you riled up. Hillary is not going to take your guns away, though she might work put in a few restrictions to make it harder for criminals to get them. You know how I know she’s not? Because, for one thing, she’s a pragmatist and knows how Americans would react, and for another she does know what the President can and cannot do.

And the rest of you: I’m not accusing you of racism, sexism and all that. Frankly I don’t give a shit what you believe or what prejudices you have; I just care how you act. And you are now supporting someone who is racist, sexist, and not only has no integrity but doesn’t understand what honor is even for.

Quit telling me Hillary is worse. I don’t want to hear it, unless you come with actual data or a citation from a believeable source – you can tell those because they point to real data. Wikileaks doesn’t count as a real source, by the way – and I think it’s just funny that anytime I’ve seen actual content of any of those emails, they havn’t been bad at all. (I haven’t seen many of them but I’ll bet the rest are similarly innocuous. You know how I can tell? Because Hillary’s campaign itself called on the FBI to release them all – which, I note, they haven’t done.)

Mostly, quit telling me anyfuckingthing at all unless you can back it up with facts. You can have your opinion, but try to base it on reality, just for a change.

Oh, while I’m at it, I’m sick of fringe news on both sides. Quit telling me “This new thing will DESTROY Trump!” or “Hillary’s going to jail now!” because you and I both know you’re babbling utter bullshit. Let me give you a definition: “breaking news” is meant to mean “new information coming out now”; it was never intended to mean “completely ignore this headline because this story is either old news, a complete exaggeration, or unimportant trivia”. You’re not going to be able to keep a news outlet going in the long run if you just train people not to believe anything you say; that is the exact opposite of what news is supposed to do.

I feel a little better for having all that off my chest. I promise, I’ll go back to civility now.

ETA: One more thing (though I’ll keep this civil). “Make America Great Again”? A country that is great for only a small part of its populace is not a great country. I’m feeling this at present because I’m listening to the audiobook version of “Friday the Rabbi Slept Late”. It portrays a social setting not too unlike the one I grew up in, just a little more prosperous, just a few years before I was born – right around the time my parents got married. I have reason to think it’s a reasonably faithful portrayal. The thing I didn’t notice when I last read this book, probably in my teens, is how hellish it would be to live in, as a woman. Such limited expectations, so little hope, so few ways to escape. Ick.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

An election-year question: Just out of curiosity, and I’m especially aiming this question to people living in the US: Would you say that you are better off than you were 8 years ago, or worse? Would you say that the US is better or worse than it was then? I’m not interested in assigning credit or blame either way, just curious as to the actual situation.

I’m curious, because the closest to a rational reason I’ve heard for supporting Trump is along the lines fo “yes, he’s awful – but the US is in terrible shape, falling apart, and if he can just fix that then we can put up with the rest of it.” I don’t thinl the ‘rest of it’ is forgiveable and I haven’t yet figured out why anyone would trust Trump to fix anything, but the weirdest thing is that it looks to me like that entire basic postulate is wrong. Far from being in a handbasket on the fast lane to Hell, it looks to me like the US is better than it was when Obama took office.

I myself am not better off for a complex set of reasons (see below), but I’m under the impression most people actually are – curious to see if others agree.

My own situation:
I’m not better off economically because 8 years ago I was an expat, pretty much protected from layoffs and with my housing, utility and fuel bills paid for. I had no debt at all, so pretty much my only non-discretionary expense was food – and saving to compensate for not putting money into Social Security in those years. But that’s a freaky and unusual (and temporary!) situation – I’d guess most people are more positively impacted by the improved economy.

I think we’ve come a very long way in a short time on civil rights. I’m not directly affected much because I’m a cis het white woman, so while it’s good for me to have e.g. three women on the Supreme Court, I was already able to marry who I wanted or use the correct restroom. I do not think the problem with violence against minorities by law enforcement has worsened, I think it’s that many more of us have realized how bad it actually is. At least we’re having the discussion, even if we’re too rarely able to make it a productive discussion. So since I’m white, that’s not a direct impact either. Nonetheless, all of those things impact me indirectly, because they make the US a better place in general and specifically for a lot of people I care about.

I have decent healthcare just at the moment, but as I plan ahead for retirement, it makes a huge difference to me if we have at least Obamacare and at best a single-payer system. If we lose what we have now, retirement will be further off just because of that one (massive) cost to plan for. So again, I’m not better off now, but many others are, and it will impact me directly someday – just not yet.

How about you?

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

First, because I want to say a thing I think is important and I don’t want to be misunderstood: Black lives matter.

Of course all lives matter, but Black lives are at an unfair and unwarranted level of risk today in the US (and some other countries); that’s why we need the #Blacklivesmatter movement and slogan.

So I am trying to strengthen, not weaken, that movement’s ability to argue when I point out that some of its activists seem to have a far rosier picture of where society is right now on other issues than reality justifies.

In recent days I’ve seen people trying to explain why Black lives matter with claims like “You wouldn’t have walked into Orlando right after the shooting saying Straight lives matter!’ ” or “You don’t go to a breast cancer fundraiser and shout ‘What about other cancers?’ or ‘Heart attack victims matter too!’ ”

Sorry to say it, but yes. Yes, some people would say those things, because I’ve heard and seen them.

I’m not saying in any way that anyone should relax the fight to value black lives. I am REALLY not saying “You don’t have it so bad, other people have problems too.” Racism in the US is a real and desperate problem – I do believe we’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got miles to go. (And backlash is a problem too, in any advancement in social justice.) What I’m saying is, bigotry is out there and it’s widespread – don’t underestimate how many facets it has. Prejudices are intertwined. That’s why the fight for justice is personal for all of us – because if you let hatred go unchallenged today, it’s coming for you tomorrow.

ETA: Thinking about this a little more, now I’m in a logical bind – because I don’t believe everybody has to fight every issue, every time. None of us have infinite energy, and we’re each liable to be most effective fighting for the cause that speaks to us. So I’m not trying to imply that every #BlackLivesMatter activist needs to put in equal time on queer rights or vice versa, just trying to say that none of us can get away with saying “that cause doesn’t matter because it doesn’t affect me”. I think it has to be more like “I choose to put my energy here where I think my efforts matter most – but I respect the people fighting this other battle; they are my comrades in arms and I will support them and speak up for them.”

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

Black people.
BLACK people.

Usually when we(1) say that phrase we’re stressing the first word – the thing that the people it describes have in common, that brings them together. And they did come together last night, along with allies of other ethnicities, in cities across the US to march for peace and for an end to unjust shootings: in New York, in Minnesota, in DC, in Portland, in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Georgia and other states … and in Texas, where 12 police officers were shot.

And that’s where that second word comes in: because black people are PEOPLE. And like any other group of humans, the vast majority of them are good and decent people who want nothing more than to be left alone, to live their lives in peace, safety and as much lovingkindness as they can muster around them. As much lovingkindness as we can muster around us … because I stubbornly believe that most people, most of us of any shade of skin, are good and decent people. But like any other large group of people, among black people there are a few that are just bad, that have chosen to do evil.

What it means to have equality – equality under the law as well as in our hearts and minds – is to just those people, not by the color of their skins but by the content of their characters, as shown in their actions. Go ahead and judge the sniper in Dallas who shot those police officers. Judge and mete out punishment to anyone who may have acted to support him and who survived last night. Judge them, because their own actions have rendered them liable to that judgement. But don’t judge the peaceful marchers they used as cover; don’t assume that people who just want to be sure their sons will survive random traffic stops will support the killings of other mothers’ sons just because they happen to have similar pigmentation to the perpetrators of evil. The shootings in Dallas were an evil done by one or more individuals who should not be judged as a representative of their race.

Also, until they release names and photos, don’t assume the sniper’s victims were white. Nearly half of Dallas police officers are minority (as of 2011, the latest numbers I could find that showed members of the force and not just applicants – their applicant pool is even more diverse. Sure, he said he “wanted to kill white people” – but just as his general actions will probably turn out to hurt other people of color most in the long run, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t so fussy about his actual immediate victims.

(1) Note: When I say “we” here I mean all Americans of any shade of skin. And I am not predominantly addressing this screed to Black Americans, because most of them already know this shit, viscerally and through experience.

(2) Some days I really do wish I had a pulpit. Stepping down now.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.


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