Tuesday, April 16, 2019

It’s in the bag

I’m not waiting around for change, I’m changing what I can. Anyone can do that—they just need to decide to do so. Reducing the amount of waste packaging we accept reduces the amount we need to deal with, one way or another, and there are a number of ways to do that.

I’ve been blogging about many of the changes and challenges we face in New Zealand as some single-use plastics are banned, while others remain, and collection programmes change. There are developments on all those fronts.

In January I blogged about how a soft package recycling programme had been suspended, with it’s proposed resumption this month. On April 12, they posted a notice to their Facebook Page, and nowhere else, as far as I can tell:
The Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme and NZ’s leading retailers, supermarkets and brands will restart collections at a number of stores in Auckland after Easter. We will provide more information about timing and locations as these are confirmed.
Sounds great, apart from one thing: It’s severely limited. They will collect less plastic and at fewer places, beginning only in Auckland, and eventually expanding to the Waikato and Wellington. That sure sounds as if there will be few recycling opportunities for ordinary people.

Which brings us back to reduction.

There are few opportunities for ordinary people to reduce plastic use in supermarkets: They pre-package ALL meat and most produce, so avoiding that excess packaging means going to a butcher and a greengrocer, neither of which will be possible for the majority of consumers. There are alternatives.

Quite some time ago, I bought a set of mesh bags used for buying loose produce. In November of last year, I talked about how the price for loose onions was higher than pre-packaged onions. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case, and I always buy loose onions now.

I also now buy loose apples, rather than the pre-packaged ones. I liked the bags because they were so cheap—it seemed like a really good deal. However, I’ve realised that most of the “savings” were lost due to waste: The apples sat around past eating time, meaning most ended up in the compost bin.

Enter those reusable mesh bags (photo above, with onions inside): I now buy a few apples at a time, and I eat all of them. The unit price is good (I buy what’s on special), and there’s no waste—and no plastic packaging to deal with.

The same mesh bags can be used for any produce, of course, though so far I haven’t done so. But now that I’ve seen what a good idea they are, for so many reasons, I’ll be using them exclusively—even at greengrocers. No more silly plastic bags will enter this house—not for that, anyway.

We still have soft plastics in bread wrappers, chip bags, that sort of thing. Most of those I can’t avoid, and I can’t imagine that any food company will eliminate them. Same with meat: We may buy dramatically less meat, but what we do buy (and all of the meat substitutes) comes in plastic packaging. We clearly can’t avoid it altogether.

All any of us can do is the best we can do—I firmly believe that NO ONE can achieve perfection, no matter what they may think. We’ve managed to reduce our soft plastic consumption, but we’re nearing the limits of what we can do. That’s okay for us: All any of us can do is the best we can do.

Baby steps, sure, but taking the step at all is what matters.

Jacinda did well in NZ, too

Surprising absolutely no one, New Zealand Prime Minister is polling extremely well in the most recent opinion poll, taken after the terrorist attack in Christchurch. The main party in the coalition government, the NZ Labour Party, also increased its support. And that wasn’t the end of the good news.

The latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll has found that Jacinda Ardern’s preferred prime minister rating is at a new career high of 51%. Opposition Leader Simon Bridges fell 1% to 5%, and his chief rival for leader of the National Party, Judith Collins, also fell 1% to 5%. Winston Peters, who is leader of the New Zealand First Party and Deputy Prime Minister, is steady on 3%.

Of course, New Zealand doesn’t elect its prime ministers, it elects a parliament which, in turn, determines who will be prime minister. There, too, it’s good news for Jacinda Ardern. Her Labour Party widens its lead, up 3 points to 48%, while the National Party is down 2% to 40%. Labour’s coalition partner, the NZ Green Party, is steady on 6%, while the other partner, New Zealand First, is at 4%, up one point.

Translated into seats in Parliament, which is what really matters, Labour would have 60 seats, the Greens would have 8, giving them a very comfortable governing majority of 68 seats in a 120-seat parliament. The National Party would have 51 seats, and its only possible coalition partner, the neoliberal Act “Party”, would have the one seat that National has gifted them for years, for a total of a mere 52 seats.

There are some caveats to all this. First, and most obviously, this isn’t an election year, so the numbers will change next year. Also, the poll reflects the opinions of those who had one: 15% said they didn’t know who they’d vote for. Over the next year and a half, there are a lot of things that could reduce Labour’s chances—OR increase them. No one can possibly know which.

One thing that will absolute NOT hurt the current government is the recent changes to New Zealand’s gun laws: 61% in the same poll thought the changes were about right, but 19% thought it didn’t go far enough. A mere 14% thought it went too far. That crushingly overwhelming support for the recent change, combined with its virtual unanimous support in Parliament, means it’s beyond any possibility of affecting the next election. Mission accomplished.

So, things are going very well in New Zealand: A popular Prime Minister who showed the world the way to respond to tragedies like the Christchurch attack, increasing support for her political party, and crushingly overwhelming support for recent gun law changes means New Zealand has made it through the recent challenges very well.

Things can change, fortunes can reverse, but right now, things are good. Right now, that’s enough.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

‘Meming’ on a Sunday

The picture is of a fake album cover I made, which is the result of a meme a friend posted to Facebook. Called “Create Your Debut Album”, it has several steps:
1) Go to Wikipedia and click “Random" (or on the desktop web version, click “Random article" on the left sidebar). The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2) Go to "Random quotations" @ http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php. The last 4 or 5 words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3) Go to https://www.flickr.com/commons. Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4) Use Photoshop or whatever to put it all together, then post your Album cover with this text in the caption.

Tag friends if you want. All are welcome to play.
Links were in the original
Naturally, I never tag anyone in these things; I figure anyone who wants to do them will do them, and the rest will ignore it. My friend also doesn’t tag people, so I chose to do it, but really for one reason: Step one.

When I did Step one, what I actually got was an article entitled, “Infectious disease (athletes)”, and I realised that “Infectious Disease Athletes” was a pretty awesome band name.

I could very well have stopped there, were it not for Step Two: The last four words of the last quote were “keep your mouth shut”, which I thought went particularly well with the name of the “band”. It's the end of a quote from Robert Newton Peck, "Never miss a chance to keep your mouth shut." Then at this point, I almost stopped again.

The problem here was Step 3: The meme originally directed people to Flicr’s “Explore/Interestingness/7 days”, but the problem with that is that most, or even all, of the images used were marked “All rights reserved”, which means that any derivitive work, even for this meme, is a violation of copyright. I do not like that.

Flickr has a section called “The Commons”, which has photos with no known copyright restrictions, making them arguably better. Also, every time the page is accessed, there are different photos displayed. However, not all of them are suitable for this, especially some of modern photos which have identifiable living people. That might be not the best thing to use for this purpose. And, while it can’t be guaranteed that the photos are in the public domain, they’re probably okay to re-use for derivative works like this, because they have no known copyright restrictions. So, on balance, it’s a better choice (and I’ve changed the instructions above to use The Commons instead).

As it turns out, I was lucky: The third photo was “thought to have been taken 1935 between Kent and High Streets, Sydney” in Australia, according to the photo description. That was luck, though.

And that’s it: I saw a meme with very detailed instructions, the first two steps produced results I thought were funny, the third threw up a roadblock which I got around, and then I made the “album” cover. Meh. I’m not a great designer—and yet, I want to know what the album sounds like, so I guess the “album” cover works?

Anyway, it was just a bit of Sunday evening fun.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Political Notebook for 13 April 2019

The circus is now open! Actually, it never, ever closes.

To everything there is a treason…

The current occupant of the White House loves throwing around loaded phrases to attack his political opponents (or anyone he doesn’t like at the particular moment he hate-Tweets about them). This week, he favourite word was treason. Dana Millbank’s piece in the The Washington Post, “For Trump, the name of the season is treason”, explains the story of the current occupant’s misuse of the word. It’s an ugly tale, not the least because of how puerile and utterly ignorant it is: The guy has absolutely NO idea what the Constitution says about treason (or anything else, of course), or why it’s so tightly and specifically defined and restricted—or, does he? Is this part of his plan to end democracy?

Maybe so. As ThinkProgress put it: “Trump’s accusations of ‘treason’ are a hallmark of fascism”, because it absolutely is. Author Zack Ford lays out the case for what treason really is—including how the Left uses the word incorrectly, too—and then sums up why the current occupant’s use of the word is fascistic:
The contradiction speaks to the way Trump tries to frame his positions as the only positions that actually serve the interests of the country. As slogans like “Make America Great Again” and “America First!” indicate, he’s attempting to co-op patriotism, such that any opposition to Trump is by extension anti-American. Thus, asking for cooperation means exactly the same thing as asking for obedience, and being rebuffed is the same as betrayal.
Writing for The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf details why “A President Falsely Charging ‘Treason’ Is What the Founders Feared”, because:
The Framers were guarding against the possibility that Americans would one day elect a man so morally weak and corrupt that he would falsely accuse political enemies of treason. In 2016, Americans narrowly elected a man who is that degraded.
So, is this part of a strategy to bend the US Constitution to his will? There are worrying trends—aside from the current occupant’s Twitter Tantrums and off-the-cuff idiocy.

A couple days ago, the current occupant’s sycophantic lackey Attorney General told Congress he thought the FBI had “spied” on the Republican candidates campaign—echoing the current occupant’s own conspiracy theory that his frothing fans, including Fox “News”, parrot every chance they get, despite it being totally untrue, of course. A couple days later, the current occupant doubled-down on his conspiracy theory, using Barr’s own testimony as support for his loony assertions.

What all of this could lead to is explained by Dana Millbank in his Post column:
Because Trump knows the seriousness of the charge, he therefore must be interpreting treason the way King Henry VIII did, in the lèse-majesté sense: Treason is anything that offends the dignity of the sovereign. Disagreement with Trump is an offense against the state, just as Henry executed unfaithful wives for treason.

This means the following people have committed capital crimes: All journalists and late-night hosts. Anyone who leaks. All Democratic members of Congress and people who worked in Democratic administrations. Anyone who ran against Trump. Anyone who criticizes Trump on social media. Anyone who voted against Trump.

This means 65,853,514 Hillary Clinton voters will have to be imprisoned or executed. The U.S. criminal-justice system can’t handle much more than the 2.3 million people it already holds. This unfortunately argues for mass execution — unless exile is a possibility? Imagine the size of that caravan heading south toward Mexico. [link in the original]
Is this what will happen? Of course not. Well, that’s what we’re supposed to say, right? But given the contempt this regime has for the US Constitution and the rule of law, can we be sure of anything anymore? The fact is, warning about where this loose and dangerous rhetoric can lead is the only thing that can prevent it from actually doing so.

We see bad people

The current occupant has a long history of hiring people who show staunch loyalty to him. They may not be very smart, they may be corrupt, they may be incompetent, or any combination of those things, but as long as they publicly display their loyalty, they’re in. We saw that when a spokeswoman for his “re-election” campaign declared that Congress had no right to see the current occupant’s tax returns: “Ironically, the only person whose tax returns they’ve asked for — the only president — is Trump. So it’s a sham reasoning.” She’s either lying to people who don’t know any better, or else she’s pitiably ignorant: Every modern US President except for the current occupant has released their tax returns. Every. Single. One. Mind you, she said that on Fox Republican Propaganda Channel, so it’s unlikely viewers or the performers would know she was lying or, at best, “deeply misinformed”.

Speaking of one of the current occupant’s contemptible appointees, it appears that, according to ABC News, “Herman Cain expected to withdraw from Fed Reserve Board of Governors consideration”. So, that’s a bit of good news among so much unrelenting bad news.

Mayor Pete’s wild ride

Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend Indiana, has been getting a lot of attention in recent weeks, so much so that “Pete Buttigieg has gone from totally unknown to polling third in Iowa and New Hampshire”. Still, he’s pretty far behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, and he’s not actually that far ahead of Elizabeth Warrant or Kamala Harris. But, it’s noteworthy when he still has little name recognition among Democrats.

The media has been talking about a “feud” because Mayor Pete said, “"Speaking only for myself, I can tell you that if me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade. That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand: That if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.” In fact, Mayor Pete has been criticising Pence for a long time.

The fury of the rightwing response was predictable. Mrs. Mike Pence declared that people “shouldn’t be attacked for what your religious beliefs are,” though he never “attacked” her husband’s religious beliefs—he himself is religious.

Her husband responded a few days later, whining that “I hope that Pete will offer more to the American people than attacks on my Christian faith,” because That Must Not Be Beyond Criticism, so he sayeth. Mike added, “he'd do well to reflect on the importance of respecting the freedom of religion of every American," ignoring that Mayor Pete IS religious—except he didn’t. He dismissively said, "all of us have our own religious convictions. Pete has his convictions, I have mine."

That last quote is the very heart of this: Mike has a brutally anti-LGBT+ record and while he can cry his fake tears about his religious beliefs being “attacked”, and he can lie that he doesn’t condone discrimination, his record proves that’s a flat out, deliberate lie. When he was Governor of Indiana, he backed and signed into law what was at the time the most vicious and brutally anti-LGBT+ law in any US state—so disgusting that the state faced a massive national boycott movement leading the legislature to soften the bill a little bit. When he was in Congress, he backed diverting federal tax money to be spent on “curing” gay people with “reparative therapy” psychological torture. He is a truly awful person, and it’s his record, not his religion, that makes him one. The mainstream media is letting Mr. Pence and his wife get away with lying that this about “religious freedom” when, in fact it’s that Mike is a bigot.

Mayor Pete pointed out the way that Mike could end this: ““If he wanted to clear this up, he could come out today and say he’s changed his mind, that it shouldn’t be legal to discriminate against anybody in this country for who they are.” That will never, ever, happen, of course.

Still, it’s not just the Rightwing that’s going after Mayor Pete: The Left—what one acquaintance recently called those who are “Leftier than thou”—are attacking him, too, often on highly dubious grounds. Such as: “Is Pete Buttigieg Just Another White Male Candidate, or Does His Gayness Count as Diversity?”, on Slate last month—or, it was called that until wiser heads prevailed and the headline was toned down to, “In a Diverse Candidate Field, How Is Pete Buttigieg’s Sexuality Factoring Into His Appeal?” The piece rightly decries “oppression Olympics”, in which people from historically marginalised minorities are judged by how oppressed they have been. But then the author—who describes herself as “a queer woman”—fully embraces the “oppression Olympics” to declare that Mayor Pete “ can be more accurately lumped in with his white male peers than with anyone else.”

Queerty summed up the appropriately negative reaction: “Writer questions if Pete Buttigieg is ‘gay enough’ to be the first gay president. Cue the outrage.”. My favourite was that of Five Thirty-eight’s Nate Silver, who said in a Tweet:
Just want to get this out of the way so I only have to say it once:

It's a big deal that an openly gay man is a serious contender for a major party's presidential nomination, and if you're liberal who wants to equivocate about that too much, you can pretty much fuck right off.
Exactly, Nate, exactly. I have absolutely no idea who I’ll vote for when the Illinois Democratic Primary rolls around next year—it’s way too far away!—but cheap shots and bullshit attacks on Democratic candidates by other Democrats is utterly unacceptable. We will have policy disagreements, we will have different priorities, we will disagree on who can best deliver on those things, and all of that is part of a robust selection process. But arguing that a candidate is unacceptable because he’s “not the right kind of gay” or isn’t as oppressed as he should have been is as repulsive as declaring a candidate “isn’t female enough” or “isn’t black enough” or—you get the idea. My advice to Democrats of all stripes: Stick to policies or shut up. And that’s the last time I intend to dignify this sort of thing with a mention.

There are FAR more important things to talk about.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

New Zealand Parliament bans assault weapons

Tonight the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill passed its Third Reading, which means it’s been passed by the NZ Parliament. All Members of Parliament voted for the bill (except for a lone MP who is from a one-person “party”). It now goes to the Governor General for Royal Assent, so it will be law by Friday.

And that’s it: 26 days after the attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand has outlawed the weapons the terrorist used (the same type of guns that mass shooters in the USA prefer). The details on the government’s buyback scheme will be announced next month. First, it was important to get the statutory authority to do that.

We had the usual whingeing from some gun owners, and, of course, the dealers who make money selling them. We also had some gun nuts (because that’s absolutely how they sounded…) chiming in, using the tired, banal, empty, shallow, and pathetically stupid talking points supplied by the USA’s NRA, but it was all for nothing. New Zealanders wanted the guns banned—in fact, most had no idea they were ever legal for anyone. That problem’s now fixed.

Other countries will do—or not do—what they want, but this is New Zealand. This is what the people of New Zealand wanted to happen, and now it has. We don’t care in the least what people in other countries think about this, especially what opponents think. They don’t live here. Maybe passing this law will ensure they never will live here, which, on balance, sounds like a pretty good deal for us.

The video up top is from the Facebook Page of the New Zealand Labour Party, and features New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern making the opening speech in tonight's Third Reading debate.

Loss at a great distance

It’s the worst thing about living so far away from where I grew up. It’s something I’ve talked about several times before, as much to warn would-be expats as to speak my truth. When someone we know in our old homeland faces a serious personal challenge, like bad health for example, or worse, if they die, we can be left with orphaned feelings, not knowing exactly what to do or say, even though there’s little of either that’s possible. We’re cut off and isolated in a way that can be very confusing. Today that happened to me again.

This morning I checked Facebook, as I usually do, and saw that one of my high school classmates had posted that a classmate of ours had died. This is what I posted in response on my personal Facebook:
Feeling a bit sad today: Another of my high school classmates has died too young. Becky was diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago, I'm told, and battled it ever since. While I knew her in high school, we weren't "friends"—it was high school, after all, and life was different at that age. But back in 2012 we reconnected here on Facebook, and I got to know her—for the first time, really. She was awesome—like all the other high school classmates I've reconnected with here on FB. In fact, I've said many times that if I'd had *any* idea how awesome they were, I'd have gone out of my way to be friends with them back in high school. Becky was a prime example of that. I'm so glad I got the chance to get to know Becky all over again.

Right now I'm thinking especially about her close friends and family, who are really hurting right now. I hope that their memories of Becky, and the support of friends and family, will help ease their sadness. Becky is at peace and without pain. I wish we could have had her longer, but I'm glad she's no longer suffering. Her journey has ended. I hope that everyone who loved her finds peace and is surrounded by love at this sad time. Farewell Becky, and thank you for being you.
This isn’t the first time that a friend from my past life in Illinois has died, but the first time I remember talking about that on this blog was about my friend Hector, who died in 2012. There have been several others since then, most of whom I haven’t talked about here because it had become too much.

The reason this is so hard to experience from the other side of the world is, if I’m honest, partly because travelling back for a memorial or funeral isn’t an option: It’s cost-prohibitive and takes a lot of time just getting there and back. Most of us aren’t in a position to do that at any given moment. So, we can’t pay our final respects, and we can’t offer support to others—we can’t do any of the usual things one does when someone close to us dies. But there’s one other thing that makes it difficult: Usually no one in our new homeland knew the person whose death we’re mourning. So, while they certainly understand the feelings, they don’t precisely share them.

Which is where Facebook plays a positive role. Sure, it’s terrible to get such news from a Facebook post so early in the morning (which is when I always get them), but it’s also the only place to share memories and swap stories with others who knew the person we’ve lost. Shared grief is an important part of being human, I think, and part of the coping and healing process. Social media like Facebook is one way to have that—maybe the only way for an expat, because we can do that from the other side of the world.

In this particular case, I’m fortunate that I had time to get to know my friend again (we became Facebook friends in 2012), so I don’t feel like I missed out, as I did when Hector died. And yet, there could, and should, have been so much more time. Isn’t that usually the case? As I said in a comment to my Facebook post:

It's a reminder, I think, to cherish every moment we get with the people we care about, because we can never know when the time will run out

Time and distance are not anyone’s friends. It’s best to concentrate on the people who are. Actually, that’s good advice for us all, not just expats.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Actually autumn

It’s actually autumn, finally fall, here in New Zealand. Sure, we’re in the middle of the season, but the night temperatures started stopping recently, and at 3am yesterday (Sunday) morning, we turned the clocks back one hour to New Zealand Standard Time (NZST). Some people are happy about all that. Others are not. We go through that difference of opinion every time the seasons or the clocks change—especially the clocks. Always.

Last week, the morning temperatures were cooler pretty much every day. The first day I noticed, it was 15 degrees, then the next day 14, and 12 on the last day I noticed. Today it was 9 (that’s 59F, 47.2F, 53.6F, and 48,2F, respectively). Obviously those aren’t very cold temperatures, especially when compared to what’s coming in winter, but it’s the coldest morning temperatures we’ve had since spring. And, it’s a good sign that Daylight Saving Time had run out of reasons to hang around—which supposes it had valid reasons before, something not everyone believes.

Aside from the cooler morning temperatures, autumn isn’t especially visible in Auckland. We don’t have all that many trees that drop their leaves for winter, and few of those that do change colours (partly because we don’t get frosts, if any, until winter). So, it’s still kinda like summer, but cooler in the mornings and with fewer hours of daylight.

I don’t mind autumn as such, though I don’t like the fact it means summer is over and winter is fast approaching. But because of that, autumn is my second-least favourite season in Auckland. My rank, as should be obvious by now, is 1. Summer, 2. Spring, 3. Autumn, and dead last, 4. Winter. As I often say, it’s not the fact that other places have relatively worse versions of our disliked seasons (some have better versions, too…), it’s that they’re the ones we least like among what we know and live through every year.

Still, there are benefits to autumn and winter in Auckland. The cooler temperatures mean that plants don’t grow as fast, and that means that lawns don’t need mowing as much and weeds don’t grow as fast. So, it’s possible to get weeds under control to an extent not really possible in summer (without a lot of time and work). The higher rainfall means the lawns look lush and green (when they’re not soggy like a saturated sponge, of course). But, it’s also sometimes quite cold (by our standards), so we admire the lush lawns through the windows while we stay warm and dry inside. Well, that’s what I do, anyway.

New Zealand goes through all this again at 2am on Sunday, September 29, when we set our clocks forward one hour. Yippee. Some people will be happy about all that. Others will not be. We go through that difference of opinion every time the seasons or the clocks change—especially the clocks. Always.

I took the photo of fallen leaves on the March Equinox, something I didn't get a chance to blog about at the time. It's actually of ordinary fallen leaves below some bushes (including a camellia, which loves to drop leaves year round). There are no trees anywhere near us that drop their leaves in autumn.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Political Notebook: Politics this week

Here we are in the first of the (more or less) weekly Political Notebook posts. I'll do these unless I get tired of them or, less probably, the pace of political news slows down. Whichever comes first?

It’s all about justice

Criminal justice is a topic that often comes up in politics, and it’s just come up in the USA thanks to New Zealand. Vox reported that “The New Zealand mosque shooter could be the country’s first person sent to prison for life”, which may or may not end up being the case. The author, German Lopez, pointed out, correctly, that in most of the world, life sentences, especially without parole, aren’t used frequently, as they are in the USA. He wrote:
While this may sound strange to us, there’s good evidence that European countries and New Zealand have the right idea. Because as much as America carries out much harsher penalties, there’s no evidence that these harsher punishments actually keep us safer. In fact, the US has the highest murder rate among developed nations—even as it imposes much longer prison sentences.
The article goes into some detail on probable reasons why this is the case, but what the article doesn’t say is that New Zealand also has no death penalty and is a firm opponent of its use by other countries. Maybe they thought that mentioning only one thing that would shock and appall some Americans was enough for one article.

The Right thinks it knows about Democrats. They don’t

The USA’s Rightwing is pretty consistent in its very wrong belief that it understands the Democratic party. Their delusion arguably begins with them thinking its monolithic like the Republican Party, rather than a coalition of very different kinds of Democratic Parties.

Writing for The Atlantic, rightwing religionist commentator Peter Wehner declares, “The Democratic Party Is Radicalizing”. He cherry picks individual positions made by individual Democrats and assumes that that they represent the views of the entire party. Anyone who knows a real, live Democrat knows that they often disagree with themselves, let alone other Democrats, so the assumption is silly. He uses it mainly to attack positions he doesn’t like, including deliberately mischaracterising Democrats’ positions on abortion to fit his narrative. It turns out, the piece is useful mainly as a way to understand the thinking of a Rightwinger who seems to believe he’s “objective” when, in fact, he’s pushing his own ideology. Multiple polls of real, live Democrats demonstrate the party is absolutely NOT “radicalising”, though obviously it is not rightwing, and is pretty much the opposite of the Republican Party. So, basically, he was talking through his butt.

Much more useful was a piece in Mother Jones, “'The Left Can’t Meme': How Right-Wing Groups Are Training the Next Generation of Social Media Warriors”. The piece talks about how young Rightwingers are trained “how to own the libs” by creating memes. Two things. First, it’s clearly true that young Rightwingers actually believe that social media is real life and their memes matter. Second, and more ominously, they see it as a means of delivering mass propaganda in a way that people don’t even realise they’re consuming falsehoods, distortions, and outright lies designed to get people to oppose Democrats even more than to win them over to the Right. This has huge implications.

Is he losing his mind?

People have speculated about the mental health of the current occupant of the White House since before he ran for president, but most have concentrated on his personality disorder, malignant narcissism. Increasingly, experts are warning that he has pre-dementia and deteriorating cognitive skills. We’ve all seen him engage in some pretty bizarre behaviour that seemed as if he wasn’t all there, including minor ones like calling Tim Cook “Tim Apple”, to the repeatedly mixing up his father and grandfather, wrongly saying it was his father who was born in Germany (it wasn’t).

Still, it’s possible that his bizarre behaviour is just because he’s a bad man. Thinks like he “made two remarkably authoritarian remarks in one day”, as Vox put it. But maybe it’s better to look at a whole cluster of behaviours.

Like his utterly bizarre behaviour around Puerto Rico.

First we found out he “opposes further disaster aid for battered Puerto Rico”, and he seems utterly unaware that Puerto Ricans are American citizens, complaining about how they taking “from USA”, something he’s never said about any US state when it receives disaster funding. He’s even got his allies, like Florida’s Marco Rubio, singing from his songsheet. But, as usual, the current occupant doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about (see “AP FACT CHECK: Trump misstates hurricane aid for Puerto Rico”), and his apologists all ought to know better. Still, and surprising absolutely no one, the Braggart in Chief also “says he’s taken better care of Puerto Rico than anyone” which is just another of his lies—or maybe it is pre-dementia confusion. Or, it could just be his firm racism. We simply don’t know.

Time to start a new page in the Notebook.

Friday, April 05, 2019

60 and 38 years ago today

Today is an anniversary, but one I don’t mention very often: Sixty years ago today I was baptised. By itself, a 60th anniversary could be a reason to mention it, but it’s also the 38th anniversary of the first time I ever did anything to publicly come out. All of which makes today the only truly double-barrel anniversary I have.

I talked about my baptism back in 2009 and said:
…my grandfather baptised me, giving me the wrong name in the process. Baptism didn’t have any legal standing, of course, and the certificate had my correct name, anyway. Since the only legally required item was my birth certificate, I forgot all about my baptism.
As I said in that post, the only reason I remembered the date at all was that I found my baptismal certificate, probably in 1983. I recognised the date as also being the date I did anything publicly to identify myself as a gay person.

Back in 2016, I talked in more detail about the “second baptism” in a post on the 35th anniversary of coming out. I dubbed that my “Outaversary”. The story in that post shows that I wasn’t always the cool, focused, courageous gay dude everyone knows me as today, oh no, I was once very different. In all seriousness, I wasn’t alone in feeling so anxious, having grown up in a time many years before a high school “gay/straight alliance” could be a reality, much less actually was one. From my perspective in 1981, being afraid was a sensible thing to feel, because in that first year of Reagan’s presidency, the world felt very, very frightening for a lot of gay people—especially ones like me that were just beginning to come out.

But something I said back in that 2009 post is particularly relevant:
Fifty years and twenty-eight years later—again, to the very day—it’s clear it was the second event that had the bigger personal effect on me because on that day, in a sense, my parent’s work was completed as I began my own life. On that 1981 day I started to stop being afraid, though I had more work to do.
I went on to become an LGBT+ activist, winning some battles, not winning others. But along the way I found strength and determination I couldn’t have imagined that April day in 1981. A couple years later, when I found that baptismal certificate, I was beginning that career as an LGBT activist. Through it, I developed a personal sense of commitment to make the world a better and safer place so that no kid would ever again have to feel the fear I felt as I creaked open the closet door for the first time. I like to think we may even have succeeded.

So this date, which has two different anniversaries, has always stuck in my mind because of the second—and more important—anniversary. I don’t think that will change, whether I talk about it very often or not, because It’s important to remember where we’ve come from, literally and figuratively. Today is one of those times for me remember. We should all do that.

The photo up top is from my 2009 post; I really need to re-scan that slide some time. The image at the bottom of the post is what I posted to my personal Facebook in 2016, and used in the “Outaversary” post.