Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Mary Poppins Returns

The video above is the trailer for Mary Poppins Returns, an update of the classic 1964 film. I like the look of this trailer, which has a lot in common with the original, and some nods to it. I’m keen to see it because the first feature movie I can remember seeing was the original Mary Poppins, which my mother took to me see, then bought me the soundtrack album afterwards.

Mary Poppins Returns is due to be released in the USA on December 19, however, it’s not scheduled to be released in New Zealand until January 1, 2019. We went through a period when all major movies had a global release date, but that’s been slipping in the past few years, and we now often get movies weeks after they open in the USA. It’s a terrible mistake.

Hollywood studios want people to see their movies in the cinema, but if we have to wait to see them a couple weeks later, it is often too late because there’s no such thing as isolated markets anymore. The buzz from Americans on social media can convince some people to not bother seeing a movie by the time it opens here. But if the movie is very popular, that provides a powerful incentive for people to watch the film illegally, costing the studios money. A global release date is the sensible option in this interconnected age.

This means that since I know I’ll see people talk about the movie well before it opens here, it’s probable I won’t see it in the cinema at all. It’ll eventually show up on free-to-air TV, and that may end up being how I see it—if I can be bothered by then.

So, even though I have big sentimental reasons for wanting to see the film, regardless of whether it’s any good or not, the delayed release date may talk me out of seeing it, especially if it’s bad. But, right now, I’d like to see it. Everything is possible—when it's possible, actually.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

This matters, too

The questions about the current nominee to the Supreme Court are piling up, and the allegations of attempted rape are only among the latest. But those allegations matter a lot, not the least because the hearings next week will tell us a lot about Kavanaugh’s character. But the biggest reason of all for why this matters is that this is a lifetime appointment—there is absolutely no reason to hurry this.

We need to know what happened, and at the moment we have a “she said/he said” situation. We have every reason to believe the victim, while the Republican propaganda on this simply isn’t believable at all.

It is extremely rare for a victim of sexual assault, attempted or actual, to lie about it. In this case, the victim has no reason to lie because she’d get nothing for doing so. In fact, she originally wanted to remain anonymous because she knew the abuse she’d be subjected to, and she was right: The rightwing’s attack machine has been operating at full throttle.

The Republican propaganda has been transparent in its mendacity. I heard Republican Senator Lindsey Graham claim that Republicans had only heard of the allegations a few days ago, and he apparently expects us to believe that’s true; he thinks we’re incredibly stupid. The allegations were made public, and within 24 hours Republicans produce a list of 64 women who, they claimed, knew it was a false allegation. 24 hours to line up all those women, despite name changes in the 36 years since the alleged attempted rape. Right.

Republicans have also tried to make an issue of the fact that Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein was alerted to the letter in July but said nothing. That’s irrelevant. She was protecting the victim who didn’t want to become attacked.

The Republicans have also attacked the fact the victim hired an attorney and took a polygraph test which, they’re trying to imply, was evidence of some sort of plot. That’s defamatory nonsense. She no doubt realised that sooner or later her identity would be revealed (not the least because Washington leaks like a sieve), and she needed protection. She has no firm evidence, apart from telling her husband and a therapist some six years ago, so the polygraph was a good idea. Would Kavanaugh be willing to take a polygraph on this?

There are other issues that should be settled before the Senate votes. There are millions of pages of documents that the White House flat out refuses to release. They’re being sued on that right now, but the wheels of justice grind slowly, even when justice is at stake. However, there are already allegations that Kavanaugh may have lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the documents the White House is hiding may well provide evidence of perjury. No one can know without looking at those documents.

We know for sure that the hearing on Monday could well prove to be the single decisive moment in this battle. He’s adamant it never happened, and denied it even though the victim never said where, precisely, the alleged rape happened. If he follows that line and it’s proven that he was there, that undermines everything he’s said about it.

If he attacks the victim, especially if he belittles the lasting effects of such a crime against a 15 year old, that will create a huge public backlash mere weeks before the midterm elections. This is not 1991, and neither Republicans nor Kavanaugh can afford to do this victim what Republicans and Clarence Thomas did to Anita Hill back then. Even the newsmedia is seeing the “Echoes of Anita Hill in allegations against Kavanaugh”.

Republicans definitely want this to all just go away—the old white men who run their party didn’t want there to be any hearings on the allegations, and they had to be shamed into it (though troglodyte Senator Orrin Hatch apparently didn’t get the change of strategy memo fast enough).

Democrats want to stop the nomination, as anyone paying even the barest attention knows. But Republicans’ attempt to spin that fact into an imaginary “plot” to somehow “sully” Kavanaugh is flat out offensive. The victim must be heard, and even Republicans know that—sort of.

There’s no way to know how this will end. Republicans may very well steamroll over all opposition and all the serious questions about the nominee’s character to ram the confirmation through the Senate. Or, they may decide doing so will cause too much damage to their party’s chances in the midterms, and they may delay action until the lame duck session following the elections, underhanded as that would be.

But the bottom line is still this: It’s a lifetime appointment. We have every right to fully judge the nominee, and so far the Republicans have done everything in their power to ensure that can’t happen. It’s about time we found out the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Weekend Diversion: Coldplay

Coldplay is a band among a relative few in an odd position: Loved by many, and also one it’s fashionable to hate. With this band, as is usually the case, the majority of people are somewhere between those two extremes. I’m with the majority: I like a lot of Coldplay’s songs, but I wouldn’t say I love the band—or hate them, either. But what I like, I really like.

The video up top is the video for “Miracles (Someone Special)”, which I saw for the first time yesterday when it was broadcast on our free-to-air music video channel, and it’s what made me think of talking about them in a Weekend Diversion post. I’d never seen the video, and had never heard the song, either. Maybe if I was an actual fan I would have. But, then, if I was an actual fan, I may have talked about them already.

In any case, I love the visuals in that video, the old photos that are animated in whole or part, or in which the subjects move. It’s trying to show the diversity that makes a person “someone special”, which, while at first it may seem counter-intuitive, it nevertheless makes perfect sense, and those visuals that make the song better. In my opinion.

The song was released last 14 July 2017, the second single from Kaleidoscope EP. While the EP hit number 12 in New Zealand, this song was not especially successful. It never entered the Top 40 in New Zealand, but did hit 5 in the “Heatseekers” chart of songs outside the Top 40. It hit Number 42 in Canada, and 54 in the UK. It didn’t chart in Australia or the USA.

The first song of theirs that I ever heard was 2000’s “Yellow”. The song was on their debut album, Parachutes, and had mixed success: Number 23 in New Zealand, Number 5 in Australia (Platinum), didn’t chart at all in Canada, and 4 in the UK (Platinum), but only 48 in the USA, though it went Gold. I liked it well enough, in part because there were other songs that had a similar feel back then.

Next up, “Viva La Vida”, a song I really liked when it was released in 2008. The reason I liked it was because of the infectious enthusiasm for it from a friend and fellow podcaster. In fact, I bought the album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends on iTunes because of that infection. I now rarely listen to the album, but it still pops up sometimes when I have music on shuffle play.

The song was quite successful: Number 16 in New Zealand (Platinum), 2 in Australia (Platinum), 4 in Canada (Gold), Number One in the UK (2x Platinum), and Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 (3x Platinum). The album it hit Number One on all those same countries.

The Coldplay song I like the most is “Fix You”, from the 2005 album X&Y. This song has popped up several times in TV talent competition shows, which kind of reinforced for me what a good song it is. I think that hearing other people’s interpretations is what did that. One of the things I most like about this song is the way the tempo picks up toward the middle, where other pop songs would just have a key change and call it done. Instead, this one takes on a new and assertive direction, before returning to the gentleness of the beginning of the song. If I hear this song at just the right time, and when I’m in just the right mood, it can make me tear up.

The song hit 17 in New Zealand, 25 in Australia (Platinum), 4 in Canada, 5 in the UK (2x Platinum), and 59 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA (Gold). The album hit Number 100 in all those same countries.

That’s it for this week’s Diversion. There could very well be another song or two that I like, or, maybe it’s more accurate to say their could be more if I heard more of their songs, since I don’t know all of them. I’ve included ones I like, however, including two—“Viva la Vida” and, especially, “Fix You”—that I really like.

I wouldn’t have thought of sharing them had I not happened to see the video up top yesterday, and it then reminded me of their other songs that I like. And that’s really the point here: It’s not necessary to be a fan of a singer or group to like particular songs they’ve done. Obviously I couldn’t possibly care less whether those who fashionably hate Coldplay approve or not—Arthur’s Law (https://amerinz.blogspot.com/2013/04/arthurs-law.html), and all that. As I always say, “Like what you like and forget about everyone else.”

And, I do. And they’re not all “Yellow”.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Good and awful NZ TV ads

I frequently share ads that I like because they demonstrate something. It could be the effectiveness of their message, the unique presentation, the humour, any number of things. Today I have two ads, one I really like and one, well, one I really don’t.

The ad above is called “Road Commander”, and it’s part of a campaign created by FCB to promote VTNZ’s new campaign promoting the slogan, “We’re on your side”. Among other things, TVNZ is one of the companies evaluating vehicles (and trailers) for roadworthiness in New Zealand, according to current regulations. A vehicle with a “Warrant of Fitness”, as it’s called, can be legally driven on the roads, and a vehicle without one cannot (and if it is driven without one, and is an accident, most insurance companies won’t pay).

What I like about the ad is the offbeat Mad Max-like character in the storyline, and the very Kiwi humour. The part where they talk about wiper blades is especially well done. I think I could get sick of this ad, but it’s still new, so right now I like it.

At the other extreme, is an ad for Specsavers, a chain of places selling optometrist services and discount eyeglasses. The ad features people becoming all emotional when asked to sell their eyes.

The TV version of the ad isn’t online at the moment, so the video below is the long version. It provides a fuller context that might have helped the TV ad, but without that fuller context the TV ad is just plain weird.

The TV ad provides no reason to think the emotional responses are genuine because there’s little or no build-up to provide motivation for those responses. It comes across as fake and the ad as manipulative. It’s a terrible ad—eye-rollingly bad, in fact.

This is an outlier for the company, though, which has produced some quite good ads. This just isn’t one of them.

So, up top is a current ad I really like, and down below is a long version of a current ad I really don’t like. I don’t think I’ve ever shared an ad I don’t like before, and it was probably time to do so.

But the one up top definitely is much better. At least, until I get sick of it.

They call him a flipper

The news that the former campaign manager for the 2016 Republican candidate has flipped, pleading guilty to the charges against him in a plea deal that guarantees full cooperation with the Mueller investigation, is likely to prove to be far more important than many people realise. The unindicted co-conspirator in the Oval Office must be wearing clothes soaked in sweat. He should be.

Manafort knows the full details of the Republican campaign’s collusion with the Russian government. He knows what happened before the infamous meeting at Trump Tower, and he was at that meeting and can attest to what really happened. Don Jr. and Jared should be worried.

Manafort also single-handedly chose Mike Pence to be the Republican Vice Presidential nominee. Why? Why Pence, specifically? Manafort—who was doing the bidding of the Russian government—knows. Pence went on to completely direct the transition, including who would take on what jobs. Pence should be worried, and many of those same officials still in office should be worried, too.

In the run-up to the 2016 Republican National Convention, the campaign changed one—and ONLY one—item in the Republican Platform, and that was a plank on Ukraine, which they wanted changed to a pro-Russian position (a 180-degree change). The platform was changed. Paul Manafort was responsible for the change, so he’ll know why it was the only thing they cared about. Everyone in the current regime, potentially, should be worried.

Meanwhile, the former personal lawyer of the current occupant of the White House has pled guilty and is also cooperating with federal investigators. Everyone in the Trump organisation and family should be shit scared about that, because he knows where all the bodies are buried, so to speak.

So far, every single one of the people charged in connection with the Mueller investigation has pled guilty, and any of them who know anything material are also fully cooperating with federal investigators. This cannot end well for the unindicted co-conspirator in the Oval Office, but how, exactly, will it end?

It is unlikely to be impeachment. Even if Democrats re-take the US House of Representatives, where impeachment begins, they will not have the votes in the US Senate to remove him from office, even if they take control of that body, too.

However, that could change if Democrats take control of the US House and their thorough investigations turn up more damning information about the corruption and criminality of the current regime. That could be enough to convince Republicans to act against the current occupant—or to use if for political justification for acting.

It’s also possible—probable, in fact—that the Congressional investigations will cause the current occupant to launch into increasingly, unhinged tantrums and even more bizarre behaviour than usual, and that could embolden Pence and the cabinet he installed to remove the current occupant under the 25th Amendment. This is not as difficult to do as some pundits have been saying in media reports, but would be easier if Republicans in Congress overwhelmingly back it, and if they can lay out a convincing case that “the president is absolutely nuts”, they just may get away with it.

The Republicans need only two more things from this regime and its leader. First, the confirmation to the Supreme Court of their ultra rightwing extremist, and that will happen before the November elections. He, in turn, is absolutely guaranteed to help overturn reproductive choice in the USA, as well as to cement the power of corporations over real people, both of which are top priorities for the Republicans and the tiny numbers in the special interests they actually serve. Their Supreme Court pick is also a sure vote to prevent the current occupant of the White House from being indicted for his crimes while in office, which could buy them time to make the case to remove him.

The second thing Republicans in Congress want to do is to make their tax cut scam permanent, to keep taxes cut for the rich and for corporations, while allowing taxes to go back up for working people and middle class people. They’ll wait to do this in the lame duck session after the midterms, if the Democrats win, or any time after that if they don’t (though it may still be in the lame duck session to inoculate incoming Republicans from voter backlash in 2020). This is also certain to happen.

One option that could be off the table is resignation. The current occupant’s malignant narcissistic personality disorder could well prevent him from agreeing to resign. However, if Democrats start making the case for impeachment, he may agree to go in exchange for a pardon to protect him from federal prosecution, though it would do nothing to protect him from charges in the several states where he’s done business.

The Republicans’ actions will be dictated on calculations of how much damage acting against the unindicted co-conspirator will do to them with the frothing fanatical fans of their party’s current leader, weighed against how much damage NOT acting will do to them with the VAST majority of voters who are not Republican. This is why a convincing case that “the president is absolutely nuts” is so important for them.

Failing that, they’ll have to try to continue the flow of negative propaganda on their party’s TV channel, Fox “News”, in order to try and turn Republicans’ opinions against their leader. That would take a lot of work.

For Democrats, there’s a positive aspect to not being able to remove the current occupant from office: To fix all the damage the current regime has done, it will take a massive change in Congress, and 2020 will be better for that. The current occupant’s inevitable unhinged tantrums and even more bizarre behaviour than usual will help Democrats win in 2020. Meanwhile, Democrats will be in a position to block all of the current occupant’s worst legislative agenda impulses, and to preserve, protect, and defend the US Constitution—and the republic itself.

Ultimately, what happens will depend on two things. First, what information, precisely, will Manafort and the others provide to investigators? That could speed everything up by emboldening Republicans to act. Second, what will happen in the midterm elections? The stronger the position of Democrats in the new Congress, the more likely an early resolution will be.

There is only one thing that is absolutely certain beyond any doubt: It’s time to pop the popcorn, because this show is about to get really interesting.

Photo above assumed to be by Logicaldisaster~commonswiki (based on copyright claims). [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

AmeriNZ Blog is twelve

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the AmeriNZ Blog: I published my first post, “I live in a land downunder. No, the other one…” on September 13, 2006 at 10:53pm NZST. This blog and I are are both still here to tell the tales.

Last year, I looked at where I was in my annual blogging goal of an average of one post per day, and at this point last year, it wasn’t great. I had a shortfall of 64 posts from where I should have been if I was on track. That meant needed an average of 1.59 posts per day to meet my goal. That never happened, because I was right: It WAS a tall order.

This year is better. Including this post, the shortfall is 55, and the daily average required is 1.5 posts per day. That’s a somewhat shorter order than last year.

I’m in this position because of two very good months: July exceeded that month’s goal by 8 posts, and August exceeded it by 14 posts. This month is, at the moment, right on target, but there’s no reason to think that this month won’t exceed targets, too.

The reason this is all possible is because I’m finally off of beta blockers, which both zapped my energy and clouded my mind. So far the new drug regime has left me tired, but things are nevertheless better than at this point last year.

Of course, the real story here isn't my blogging output compared to last year or any other, because whether or not I make my blogging goal doesn’t matter. What does matter is the fact that I feel better than last year. That’s the reason why my blogging output is going as well as it is this year, which is a benefit of feeling better and clearer. I don’t care all that much whether I make my blogging goal or not, but I do care that I’m feeling well enough that it’s a possibility.

Something I said last year is still true: “And that’s actually the story of this entire blog over the past 11 years: I haven’t given up.” Another year later, and I still haven’t given up.

That’s the real story of this blog.

Thanks for joining me on the journey so far.

Previous posts on my blogoversaries:

Anniversay Time (2007)
Blogoversary 2 (2008)
Anniversaries Three and Fourteen (2009)
Fourth blogoversary (2010)
Fifth blogoversary (2011)
Sixth blogoversary (2012)
Seventh Blogoversary (2013)
Ten years of the AmeriNZ Blog (2016)
The AmeriNZ Blog is eleven (2017)

For anyone who doesn’t know already, this 2015 AmeriNZ Video explains the origins of the name “AmeriNZ”:

The photo up top is a portion of my Macbook Pro keyboard, which is what I now use to write most of my blogs posts. It seemed fitting, somehow.

September 12

Yesterday, a lot of Americans were posting on social media about September 11. A number of them also posted about “September 12”, the day in which, they say, Americans were kinder and nicer to each other than at any time before or after. Whether it’s true or just perception almost doesn’t matter: It underscores what it means to be human.

I wasn’t in the USA on September 12, 2001, so I have no way of personally knowing how much of what people recall about the time is true or merely believed to be true. However, it’s probable that there’s at least an element of truth to it, and for a simple reason: We’re human beings.

Whenever there’s a major event that affects a number of people, even some sort of family tragedy, people rally together for mutual support. When the event affects an entire community, the same thing happens, just on a much bigger scale. We humans evolved to interact in that way because it increases the odds of survival.

So, it makes perfect sense that the September 12 legends could be true, or largely true, because it’s consistent with the way humans act.

At the same time, we all know that jerks and arseholes were still around that day, but people may not remember that because of another thing we humans do: We minimise pain. This makes evolutionary sense, too, because dwelling on pain makes it difficult to move forward, and life demands that we move forward.

But that’s all about why the legends about September 12 could be true. There’s one final thing about it, and why the legend persists: We all need to believe that things can be better than they are—especially these days—and focusing on one day that was especially good, better by far than the norm, makes us believe that we can have it again.

There’s a dark side, too, though. Many of the September 12 memes I saw yesterday carried a judgemental undercurrent, implying that the reason there’s so much division now, as opposed to the legendary time, is because we choose to be that way. Specifically, we choose to be Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative, just to be divisive. While none of the memes I saw explicitly said such a thing (of course they didn’t), it was the clear implication.

I think the truth is the exact opposite: To the extent the legend is true, it was an exception to the rule. Ordinarily, human beings are tribal, and in the modern world that shows up as political party, ideology, or religion—any number of things, actually. The peacefulness after September 11, 2001 was because of the events of that day, nothing more, and the eventual return to normal was about normality itself, and nothing whatsoever to do with September 12. Put another way, the fact that the nirvana didn’t last is a good thing because it meant people were returning to normality, and were moving forward as life demands.

I personally don’t care whether the stories of September 12 are completely true or not, because on some level, and to some extent, they are. What interests me more is how much it demonstrates how we human beings operate, that we rally together when we need it most, and, eventually, we move on. I think both things are worth celebrating on any day.

23 years ago

Welcome once again to the Season of Anniversaries! Twenty-three years ago yesterday, I arrived in New Zealand as a tourist, beginning my current story arc. The recent changes in that story arc are part of the reason I didn’t post about this anniversary yesterday, though there were other reasons. But the fact is, I’m still here, and that’s what matters.

September 12 is the date the marks the start of my not-totally-serious annual series of blog posts about various anniversaries, some of them quite important, that fall between now and January. I wouldn’t want to totally neglect that tradition.

I said last year something that’s always true about these posts:
I’ve said a lot about this date over the years, about the date in 1995, what it meant, why I sort of forgot about it, and how it became important again. Check out previous years’ posts, listed at the bottom of this post, to get more about all that.
Something similar could probably be said of any the annual posts I make, regardless of subject. A particular one may not matter, but collectively they are a story—my story, in whole or in part.

This year there have been complicating factors. I’m still adjusting to the new medication regime the doctors put me on, and that’s left me tired. It’s not as bad as when I was on betablockers—I haven’t had the same issues with memory and focus—but I sometimes completely run out of energy, despite having had a solid night’s sleep. That, and the need to take care of forgotten chores before going to bed, meant I just didn’t have the “oomph” to post last night. Still, my blog, my rules, so I can still mark the occasion the next day.

However, the other reason I didn’t make a point of posting yesterday was because of the same reason I often forgot about this anniversary: September 12 here is September 11 in my native USA, and I saw all sorts of people from all over the ideological map posting about THAT day. It just felt kind of selfish to focus only on my own history—especially because that morning, oblivious to the date, in part because I hadn’t yet checked out Facebook, I shared to my personal page a YouTube video from Vox about bike lanes, of all things. Maybe an important subject, but, regardless, once I went to Facebook, I felt like I’d already intruded on what seemed to be a day of intense reflection for many of my American friends.

Nevertheless, September 12 is an important anniversary for the past 23 years of my life. Last year, I called it “a sort of foundation date”, and it was. And that’s why I remember it each year, even if there are sometimes barriers to doing so.

After all, I’m still here. That’s what matters.

Previous posts about this anniversary (the first three only mention it):

Anniversay Time (2007)
Blogoversary 2 (2008)
Anniversaries Three and Fourteen (2009)
Where it began (2010)
Anniversary of the beginning (2011)
Another anniversary (2012)
18 years ago today (2013)
19 years ago today (2014)
Twenty years ago today (2015)
21 years ago today (2016)
23 years ago today (2017)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Tooth Tales: Planned pause

The current round of periodontist treatments ended today with the second and final one—until after I see him again in six months. It was much the same as ever, though today was considerably more expensive than usual. This will all start again in six months.

This visit was expensive mainly because he did my entire lower jaw, and that took more time and more anaesthetic. Ordinarily, he’d do one side, top and bottom, then the other side in the next treatment. But my bottom jaw is always the worst of two. At one point someone (it may have been him, but I’ve forgotten) speculated that this could be because the chemical composition of my saliva encourages the accumulation of calculus. Add that to what seems like a genetic predisposition toward developing “pockets” at various teeth’s roots, and that’s why I have so much trouble.

I saw him for the first treatment of the upper teeth August 28, though that was originally supposed to be the second treatment. It would have been had I not totally messed up my departure time for the first appointment. This meant I had to re-schedule the second appointment, and it was supposed to be yesterday. The problem is that due to my recent hospital stay, I lost two days of work last week and I had to work very late this past weekend. I cancelled that appointment and rescheduled to today.

For some reason—maybe because I was sleep-deprived—I made the appointment for 10am today. Ordinarily, I have to leave the house a bit more than an hour before I have to be there, however, that was also rush hour, which includes parents taking their kids to school. At that time of the morning, there are also horrendous delays getting to the motorway. So, I actually left the house about 8:30am. I ended up getting there with three minutes to spare.

The periodontal work itself almost never hurts at the time, but may do when the anaesthetic wears off. He used a short-acting one today because it’s not adrenalin-based, again because of my recent adventure. It wore off abruptly at around 2pm or so, and my back teeth hurt. I took a couple paracetamol, expecting to be in pain all night, and the pain was gone. I think that I was lucky.

The periodontist asked about the tooth that needs to be dealt to. My inclination at the moment is to remove it and leave the space empty. I told him the cost of an implant (around $8,000 just for his work) was unaffordable, and a bridge was too risky given the known problems with a neighbouring tooth.

As it happens, there’s an endodontist in the practice and he gave some quick informal evaluation/advice. Specifically, the periodontist thought about a kind of edgy solution: Remove the root that had to be removed, and leave the other root intact to hold the crowned tooth. The endodontist said it wasn’t worth the cost—about as much as a bridge—and it would fail sooner rather than later.

However, the endodontist said that 50% of bridges fail, and that usually means having to repair the roots of the two teeth the bridge is anchored to—if they can be saved. So, it’s not a goer, especially when I know that one tooth isn’t in good shape.

The periodontist said that I could have the implant done for $1500 and $50 a week for year, then have the dentist put the tooth part on later. I don’t know how much the tooth part would cost, so I don’t know how practical any of that is.

So, I have ongoing tooth problems that are related, in part, to my genes, which means they’ll continue to happen. Meanwhile, I now have to start dealing with failing teeth and figuring out what to do about them, too.

Sometimes, being a grown up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, late middle age even less so. You could say it bites. So far, so can I.

The image above is a reproduction from the 20th US edition of Gray's Anatomy, and is in the public domain. It is available from Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

The problem with the Left

The Facebook video above from ABC (Australia) uses humour to talk about a lot of what I’ve been saying about the state of the Left for the past couple of years. Most of of what I’ve said has been expressed privately, however, due to the very problems with the Left that this video talks about. If we really want our ideas and ideals to win, then I think it’s high time we had a hard look at what we’re doing to each other, starting with those on the same side, but also including those we need to win over.

I’ve been called a “neo-liberal” by Leftists merely because I didn’t completely agree with one thing they were passionate about at that moment. This is because of their attitude that anyone who doesn’t agree with them 1001% is, by definition, an enemy. I don’t work that way, and I never have.

When I was a grassroots activist in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, I knew that to make any progress on LGBT+ issues, I’d have to get the support of people I didn’t agree all the time—or even much of the time. It was a largely hostile time for LGBT+ people, and we needed allies where we could find them. So, we’d form issue-by-issue alliances with people we might disagree with every other time. These days that’s nearly impossible, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Yesterday, Former President Obama delivered a speech in my native Illinois, and he talked, in part, about why this strategy is so important (it’s at roughly 47:48 minutes in the video linked to):
Let me tell you something, particularly the young people here: Better is good. I used to have to tell my young staff this all the time in the White House: Better is good. That’s the history of progress in this country—not perfect, better. The Civil Rights Act didn’t end racism, but it made things better! Social Security didn’t eliminate all poverty for seniors, but it made things better for millions of people. Do not let people tell you the fight’s not worth it because you won’t get everything that you want. The idea that, “well, there’s racism in America, so I’m not going to bother voting. No point.” That makes no sense! You can make it better!

Better is always worth fighting for. That’s how our founders expected this system of self-government to work, that through the testing of ideas and the application of reason, and evidence, and proof, we could sort through our differences, and nobody would get exactly what they wanted, but it would be possible to find a basis for common ground. That common ground exists.
President Obama also talked about how working to make things better does NOT mean surrendering our principles or goals. All this means is that we can make things better right now, while we continue to work to achieve full justice and equality of opportunity. Better IS good.

I’ll tell you who gets this, who acts on this advice, and who has acted on it for decades: The Right. They constantly work to chip away at the rights and freedoms gained over the past 50 years, and they don’t care how long it takes. They took away enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. In Citizens United, they gave corporations unlimited power to buy politicians. And now, hidden behind the White House-caused outrage of the hour, the regime, led by the vice president, is working diligently out of sight to destroy the rights of LGBT+ people, of women, of minorities, and to make far-right Christianity the de facto state religion. When they install their new extremist ideologue on the Supreme Court, the days of legal abortion will be numbered, and nationwide marriage equality will be on a death watch. This is what the Right has been working toward for decades, and they’re poised to get everything the they want while folks on the Left are busy shouting at each other about “micro-aggressions”.

Obviously the Right is every bit as bad, and sometimes far worse, about excluding and demonising people who disagree just a little. However, if we want the Left to win—and I do—we will only do that by first being better people, and treating other people—including those on the Right—humanely. I want the Left to be better than the Right, not the same as.

I totally understand that people on the Left have slotted into the roles they play, and they’re used to them. They feel duty-bound, more often than not, to publicly vent over that day’s Big Outrage, and that leads them to overreact to folks on their own side who don’t completely agree with them. But my question is simple: Would they really rather be “right” on the Internet, or do they want to make things better for us all?

Better is good.