Monday, October 30, 2017

Russiagate! Nope.

Vladimir Putin is the reason Hillary Clinton lost, and the truth of this is about to bring down the Trump presidency and restore civility and honor to the Republic. Maybe something along those lines, but I can't get as excited about the whole thing as many liberals/centrists and corporate pundits seem to be. In large part because:
  • I wish I lived in a world where killing innocent people in other countries would be the real scandal; 
  • I wish I lived in a world where we were more shocked about the influence of money in politics than the influence of Russian Twitter bots; 
  • I wish I lived in a world where we found it just as immoral when the U.S. interferes in democratic processes around the globe as whatever (so far hazy) acts committed by the Russian government against our own democratic process; and 
  • I wish I lived in a world where countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia could be as easily demonized by American media and politicians as Russia or Venezuela.
Among other things.

Russiagate, for lack of a better word, seems to be more a type of therapy for those who prefer establishment moderates run American empire than a scandal that will actually bring about as much positive change as the blustery hope surrounding it might suggest. It is reassuring in so many ways for these individuals: Clinton did not really lose (and well she didn't - she won the popular vote - and that twist seems to be something we should be genuinely outraged about) - Russia manipulated social media to fool a bunch of unsuspecting voters in key states. Trump does not really represent many of the bad aspects of America - he is more a product of Siberian oligarchs and backward Muscovites. And for those more evil than ignorant - we can ratchet up people's fears around not just North Korea and Iran, but also Russia! It's win, win, win!

For those in positions of power, however, it is more than therapy. Russiagate also serves as a bludgeon, for use against anyone who wants to challenge these conventional ideas promoted by the powerful center. It reeks of American exceptionalism and sucks up all the energy that might go towards the fight against money in politics and for ballot access. It takes up so much political space, and does so conveniently at the expense of the politics of change - universal healthcare, anti-imperialism, free higher education, and the urgency of ending fossil fuel use; ideas that neither political party embraces, but that have grown in popularity among the masses. These are the concepts that most politicians would rather not talk about, and most corporate newsrooms know won't help their bottom line.

It's hard to sympathize with Trump and his supporters though. And if the ends justify the means, why not have this imperfect process with all of its problematic players and ideas, take out the man at the top. Maybe it is worth it to get rid of President Trump, or even just to horribly taint his brand of politics, which as incoherent as it often seems, has nonetheless emboldened a motley crew of Nazis and white supremacists. Maybe. But Washington has shown it can get rid of presidents far more easily than it can actually change for the better. Nixon was impeached and resigned, remember, but roughly six years later, Ronald Reagan was elected.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Sebastian, a.k.a. Sea Bass, a.k.a. Bass, RIP

Not long after the Twin Towers collapsed, while I was still living in Austin and we were all kind of scared and sad, my roommate, Liz, and I decided to adopt a dog. We went to the Town Lake Animal Shelter, and I saw the perfect, most adorable dog for adoption. But, there were already four people on the waiting list for that one, so we adopted Sebastian instead.

But, before we even got him home, while sitting with him in the back of Liz's old Mercedes, rambling down the road, we slammed into another car - Welcome to Your New Family, Sebastian! We were all fine. Sebastian was nervous in cars for a couple of years after that though.

He was a lanky dog, who leaped about. He probably needed a few acres to really be happy, but a small back yard worked pretty well. Especially with overhanging branches, and plenty of squirrels. For years Sebastian's favorite pastime was barking and jumping into the air at squirrels that were taunting him by flicking their tails; as if he could ever reach the 15 foot high branches. He could get up to 6 feet, so maybe he was working up to it.  Years later he went through a phase of barking at airplanes and airplane trails, though he didn't bother to jump at them.

Sebastian was a good dog; Even though he bit my friends, and bit me once pretty hard too; and even though he sometimes attacked other dogs while on leash and wouldn't let go of them as they whimpered and their owners got mad at me; and even though he killed our beloved chicken "Laverne I"; he was a good dog. He was with me through a few challenging times. He wasn't much of a lap dog and the most he ever did to comfort me was to lick my hand a couple of times as if to say, "there there," but he was present and I needed him. He was a great road trip dog, once he got over his fear of crashing. Sebastian was my sole companion on a few trips to West Texas, a few trips home to Corpus Christi, the four day drive that brought me out to San Francisco, and a few days along Highway 1 I remember fondly.

When we got him, they told us he was about 1 year old, which would make him nearly 17-years-old at his death. He was old, so this wasn't entirely unexpected, but it is particularly hard because he has been a constant presence in my life for nearly 16 years: From single law student in Texas to married, non-practicing, police oversight, middle-manager, in California; through six rented apartments and one mortgaged house. He was always pretty spry. People thought he was a puppy even just a couple of years ago. Besides our chicken, he killed a number of non-pets: a rat, a mouse, and several baby possums that we know of. He was pretty healthy too; he never really had any problems; until recently, that is.

He nearly faded out a couple of times over the last year - he would stop eating and get lethargic. A change in diet generally fixed that. Just in the last six to nine months he began having problems standing up - we found him with his four legs splayed out on the concrete, unable to move, a few times. He would go on walks occasionally, but couldn't go far. More recently he started having nose bleeds. But that's all over now.

I assume heaven for him is whatever hell is for squirrels. Sebastian can climb trees and jump 50 feet high! Good boy! Go get those squirrels!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Adobo, a.k.a. Dobes RIP

Dobes napping.
When Adobo first marched into our home, peeing here and there, smelling the ground with his lips flapping about, we noted several unique things about him: he had a particularly long tail, an unusually long tongue, and he was prone to sneezing when his nose was tapped. He also had an eye that looked like a big, dark brown, flesh marble. What was wrong with his eye? We knew we couldn't get too attached because we needed to figure that out first. So we shelled out the money to have it removed, as recommended. The vets said it was benign and he'd be a healthy one-eyed dog. He could have no eyes and we'd have been ok with that, as long as he was healthy.

Adobo, or "dobes" for short, was loyal, but he also had issues. He got into a few fights with Sebastian - the 16-year-old dog we didn't expect to outlive Adobo, but he's like one of those 100-year-old marathon runners. If dobes was sitting with his dads or near any food or treats, he was in growling/protect mode against any threats, especially Sebastian. He usually did not like kisses and would growl, and occasionally snap, at anyone who gave him one (though he did have his moods when he was cool with a peck on the head). He also ate poop. And we loved him.

We heard he had spent a lot of time in a crate and without a backyard before getting to us, so for the short two years we had him, we let him take advantage of the huge park across the street, and eventually made some changes to the house to give him access to the yard at all hours (he ruined a few IKEA rugs before that).

We adopted him as a senior, and knew we wouldn't necessarily have him for multiple years. But he stayed with us just long enough for us to get really really attached. He went out on a high note: uncomfortable, but still able to walk, wag his tail, and (with pain pills) eat a decent breakfast. He'll be missed, but I think his time with us was pretty much dog joy from beginning to end.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Disparaging Jill Stein

Alternate Title: Democratic Hacks Ask, "Is it ok to punch a hippie?" and answer "YES!"

I'm not really a huge fan of Jill Stein, but she has been a favorite punching bag for Democratic partisans and liberals who ridicule her as "stupid" and irrelevant, but also blame her for Trump's victory and the coming apocalypse. I feel the need to defend her and the Greens because I feel her liberal critics are often misinformed or disingenuous (no she is not an anti-vaxxer who believes wi-fi causes brain cancer). The bitter, scornful critiques of Stein from the middle and near-left spring forth from a political perspective that, honestly, has a lot more to do with the mess we're in now, than anything she or the Green Party have ever done. If you aren't a right-wing Republican and you care about human rights and the future of our planet, you will of course be outraged at what Republicans are doing now, and you should be doing whatever you can to resist their agenda. But this is also a critical moment to shine a light on how the Democratic Party has failed us. Don't demonize or ridicule Stein and the Greens; focus your derision on the far more powerful and far more corrupt Democratic Party.

To illustrate this, here is a list of things Jill Stein did not do:
  • Vote for a war in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people and left a chaotic situation in the region;
  • Vote in favor of Trump's nominee for Secretary of Defense - General James Mattis, AND his nominee for U.N. Ambassador - Nikki Haley (some people who did both - Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Kamala Harris, Tim Kaine, Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren);
  • Deport over 2 million people (as Obama did);
  • Vote in favor of Trump's nominee for CIA Director, Mike Pompeo (some people who did - Tim Kaine, Chuck Schumer);
  • Vote against a bill that would have lowered prescription drug prices for Americans (as Cory Booker did);
  • Vote in favor of Ben Carson for HUD Secretary (some people who did - Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren);
  • Support free trade agreements that prioritized corporate interests over workers' rights or the environment;
  • Give a speech backing charter schools to an organization chaired by Betsy DeVos, like Cory Booker did;
  • Write an article about how she would affirm an unbreakable bond with Israel and Benjamin Netenyahu (as Hillary Clinton did);
  • and so on ... if we go back to the 90's there is a lot more material.
Stein has mishandled some things and she is certainly not a polished, Washington insider.

For example, there was that Russia Today event she attended where at one point she was seated at a table with both Vladimir Putin and Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. They weren't making out or anything, and it is likely that she didn't get to choose where she sat, but still. It should be noted, however, that she never called Putin a friend to her family (as Hillary Clinton did regarding Hosni Mubarak) and she doesn't spend her winters with Putin at Oscar de la Renta's beachfront villa (as Hillary Clinton frequently has with Henry Kissinger). And at that notorious event where Stein was at a table with Putin she spoke on a panel and said:
Imagine how much better off the world would be if our two nations could lead the way for the major powers to reduce the size of our military establishments. We could invest the money saved in something truly beneficial - such as job creation to expand renewable energy and stop climate change. Ending our multinational fossil fuel addiction will make disastrous wars for oil obsolete in the first place.
What a monster!

Then there is the most recent example, which motivates my posting on this today. On February 7, Stein tweeted:
This was in reference to to the vote to confirm Betsy DeVos, in which 2 Republicans joined the Democrats creating the tie in the Senate, eventually broken by Vice President Pence. The usual crew of Democratic apologists piled on. Doesn't she know that every Democrat in the Senate voted against DeVos!!!! She was either "stupid" or deceiving her "stupid" base.

The tweet is still up despite all the negative attention it got. For that reason, and because the tweet linked to a Washington Post article that made the unanimous Democratic opposition clear, it seems unlikely that Stein made a mistake. Perhaps her communications team could clarify, but maybe she meant that the Democrats lost the Senate, during Obama's tenure, and didn't win it back in the elections last year, because people who would otherwise vote for them didn't get very excited about politicians who "serve corporate interests." But why give her the benefit of the doubt when she can be demonized and ridiculed, and anyone who would ever dream of voting 3rd party can have all that shame and doubt beaten into their subconscious?