Friday, September 21, 2018

First fortnight

It’s now been two weeks since my most recent hospital adventure, and today is two weeks into the new drug routine. Which means it’s a good time to note where things are at.

It was about three months ago that I started taking Diltiazem, a calcium channel blocker that replaced the beta blockers I had been on. I felt better—more myself—almost immediately. I wasn’t as tired, and my head was definitely clearer, all of which was fantastic. The thing I was most worried about was, as I said, sliding backwards if the medication was changed back to beta blockers.

However, I also knew that the Diltiazem had similar side effects to the beta blockers, just not as severe. After two weeks, I can confirm that is correct.

The drug makes me tired, though it’s not as thoroughly exhausting as it used to be. It’s not nice, and I don’t feel quite myself, but it’s definitely not as bad as it was under beta-blockers in the sense it’s at least tolerable. I saw on a forum that someone said this tiredness peaks at about two weeks, and a couple weeks later things go back to normal.

The main reason this happens is that Diltiazem slows down my heart. The doctor told me some months ago that they wanted my heartrate to be no more than about 70bpm, but it was often IN the 70s, and went up much higher when I was active—or having an AFib incident, as I later found out.

The new drug keeps my heartrate in the 60s most of the time, and it goes in the 70s when I’m active. It can go down to the upper 40s when I’m resting, and it has gone into the 90s when I’ve been very active, but, most of the time, it’s in the 60s. And that’s why I feel tired and without “oomph” to do things, or, when I do things, I may need to sit and rest for a while.

However, beta-blockers’ worst effect on me was to dull my head: I had trouble concentrating, including reading anything more than a few paragraphs. I had additional memory problems, too, but it was the lack of focus that was the main problem, and I thought the memory issues were related to that. The most frustrating thing for me was that I couldn’t write blog posts, either because I was too exhausted, because I was too foggy in the head, or both.

That went away completely when I went off beta-blockers, and it’s largely remained away on the new drug’s higher dosage. However, when combined with the tiredness, I do have trouble staying motivated to actually do the things I want, including reading and, most obviously, blogging. I’ve struggled to get myself to sit down at the keyboard, and when I do, I often can’t make myself do more than one post at a time. I’ve even skipped days since starting this new drug dosage. Hopefully that’ll get better.

The doctors also put me on an anti-clot drug, Dabigatran, which they called a “powerful” one. They warned me that I may bleed more and it may take longer to stop, however, so far, and uncharacteristically, I haven’t been clumsy, so I don’t have any experience with that—and I’m glad about it, of course. Not being clumsy also means I haven’t gotten a bruise yet, which is also very good news: They can look pretty awful for people who are on anti-clotting and blood thinner drugs.

So, at the moment, things are better than they were on beta-blockers, but not as good as after them, and before the current drugs. Hopefully, that person on the Internet was right, and things will get better. This story will be continued.

Important note: This post is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

125 Years of Votes for Women

125 years ago today, New Zealand became the first self-governing nation in the world to grant women the right to vote. It seems almost quaint now to think there was a time when women couldn’t vote, but that was once universal. Until New Zealand changed that.

The video above was made by TVNZ’s 1 News team for release on the Internet. It provides some details—especially voices of some of the first women to vote—not always accessible to people interested in the topic. They did a really good job.

Gaining the right to vote was only the first step: It wasn’t until 1919 that women won the right to stand for Parliament, but it wasn’t until 1940 that the first woman—Elizabeth McCombs—was elected. In the most recent Parliamentary elections, a year ago this month, a record number of women—46—were elected, which is 38% of the 120-member Parliament.

We’ve had three female prime ministers, but all three of them have been since 1997, when Jenny Shipley rolled then-Prime Minister Jim Bolger as National Party leader, becoming New Zealand’s first female prime minister. Two years later, the Labour Party won the election and party leader Helen Clark became prime minister, the first to become prime minister by election. In December 1993, she became New Zealand’s first female Leader of the Opposition, when she replaced then Labour Party leader, Mike Moore, who’d just lost that year’s parliamentary elections. Ironically, when she succeeded Shipley as Prime Minister, Shipley succeeded her as Leader of the Opposition. So, both were a first and a second.

Our current Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, was the first Prime Minister to give birth while in office. She won’t be the last.

So much has changed in the past 125 years, but there’s so much left to address: The wage gap, violence against women, lack of women in the boardrooms of corporations, lack of respect for traditionally “female” professions. But if New Zealand could be the first nation to grant women the right to vote, it can find solutions to all those problems. Anything’s possible

Coverage from RNZ (Radio New Zealand):

…And their site has printed coverage, too.

Happy Women’s Suffrage Day!

Previous posts:
Women’s Suffrage Day (2012)
Women’s Suffrage Day at 120 (2013)

Signalling virtue

The Left and the Right both have some similar behaviours, including branding their opponents with nicknames and reductionist words and phrases intended to insult and demean the opponent. Most of the time they’re just dumb, eye-rollingly so, even. But sometimes they’re worse, like when they create problems for bloggers.

One of the Right’s favourite insults of the Left is “virtue signalling”, which to them means empty, banal, superficial, and stupid public expressions to publicly prove not just one’s virtuousness, but also one’s fidelity to the accepted positions of the Left. Naturally, it’s not actually true, but it has enough truth in it to endure as a stereotype the Right holds about people on the Left.

People on the Left do, indeed, talk about the things they do that are consistent with their values, because living our values is part of what our tribe does. But we’re not alone: The Right does it ALL the time, too.

The Right’s social media “virtue signalling” in the USA includes things like using a “support the troops” hashtag, using patriotic motifs (like flags, bald eagles, etc) in their profiles, using religious imagery or words (especially about praying for something/someone), or posing with favoured talismans (like guns) or destroying whatever they’re currently boycotting at the moment (like burning their Nike shoes). In other words, they do exactly the same things the Left does—they just can’t see it, and even if they did, they’d see theirs as being sincere and real, while they see the Left’s as being faked, insincere, superficial.

The problem with “virtue signalling” isn’t that it exists, it’s that the Right can’t see they do it, too.

I’ve never cared about the Left or the Right engaging in “virtue signalling”, whether they realise they’re doing it or not. The whole point of sharing stuff on social media is to share what’s going on in our lives, and showing how we’re acting on our values is a bit more important than showing a photo of our lunch. Even for the Right. In my virtuous opinion.

This is a problem for bloggers who talk about life. It’s not possible to talk about some things without in some way “virtue signalling”. For example, when I talk about how we’re trying to live more sustainably, that’s “virtue signalling”, made only slightly less so when I talk about trying things that work and things that don’t work. But the reason I talk about the sustainably thing is to provide context for the products and methods I try, which I then write about.

As much as I don’t care whether anyone engages in “virtue signalling”, neither do I care what someone may think of me when I do it. It’s their issue, not mine. Besides, a blogger needs content!

So, we have the Left and the Right both engaging in “virtue signalling”, that fact doesn’t matter, and neither does the “virtue signalling” itself, and, anyway, bloggers are exempt from such concerns. This isn’t a matter of ideology or semantics or tribalism or even one of debate, in my opinion.

However, if “virtue signalling” really bothers you, that’s your choice. Not my concern. There are some times when someone just has to point out the emperor—or rightwing social media resident—is wearing no clothes.

And I’m stating that plainly, so no signalling is required.

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.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

A speech that was more than reported

The video above was all the talk on the US news today, and it made the evening news here in New Zealand, too. In it, Former President Obama talks about many of the sorts of things he’s always talked about, such as real American values, making things better for all Americans, and that things can be so much better than they are. That’s not what the newsmedia focused on, of course. Still, it was a good speech.

The news media focused on the few moments President Obama talked directly about the current occupant of the White House, and there’s no denying it was strongly stated, but that was only a part of his speech. Instead, he presented the case for how and why Americans of all sorts can and should put checks and balances onto the current occupant, something important to mainstream Americans, regardless of ideology or party identification.

However, many of his strongest criticisms were directed at Congressional Republicans, and he asked, “What happened to the Republican party?” That’s a fair question that even Republican voters must ask.
There were some parts of the speech that affected me deeply, but I was mostly struck by how nice it was to hear an adult again, someone who can use complete sentences with grown-up words to express coherent thoughts. Even his digressions were on topic.

This speech won’t change anything by itself, but if it, and the ones to follow, fires up the Democratic base, it may. If President Obama can also energise Independents, and help disgruntled Republicans feel empowered by voting for Democrats in November, then it could change everything.

Mostly, though, it was nice to see a real president again.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Regroup – again

Yesterday was one of those days that threw yet another curveball into this Health Journey of mine. It wasn’t completely terrible, but it was unwanted and more than a little frustrating. And yet, I’m still moving forward.

Yesterday morning I felt “unwell”, a little lightheaded, but mostly just odd. I checked my pulse on my Apple Watch, and it was really high (at that point, around 117 beats per minute). So, I next took my blood pressure, which was very high because I was a bundle of anxiety by then, and it confirmed a fast heart rate (I took my BP again a little while later, and it was in the normal range, though the BPM was still high).

I puzzled about what to, and at that point I thought it was tachycardia, like I had last year, and that’s very uncomfortable, by my type (SVT), isn’t really life threatening. So, I waited it out, and sometimes it went down, other times back up, even higher sometimes.

Nigel came home early yesterday, and was worried enough that he called our doctor, who said I should probably go get an ECG.

So, we went the same A&M in Takanini that we went to last year, and it became clear it wasn’t SVT—my heart rhythm was sometimes faster, sometimes slower, while SVT is steady but fast. The doctor called the hospital and spoke with the registrar who said I should come in for evaluation. (Note: An Accident and Medical clinic is a private after-hours medical clinic that handles low-level emergencies. It’s quicker to be seen at than a hospital’s Emergency Department)

So, Nigel drove me to Middlemore Hospital, and we reported to the Emergency Department (once we figured out how to get to it… Middlemore is a big, confusing maze). The nurse at their reception, who does the initial evaluation told a person in front of us that waiting time for them was SIX HOURS (this was at 6pm). This is mainly because of people going to the ED rather than a private doctor, and at Middlemore, that’s usually because they can’t afford a doctor and/or time off work to go to a doctor (hospital emergency rooms are free for citizens and most permanent residents). Patients are seen after critical cases (heart attacks, for example), so that’s the other reason why non-serious cases take so long to be seen.

We were waved through to the medical evaluation unit, of course, because we were asked to come to the hospital (well, I was). The unit is kind of like a specialised area not quite the ED or the “short stay” unit. Most patients stay only one night for evaluation and to stabilise their condition.

They hooked me up to a full ECG machine, they drew blood, and decided that what the A&M doctor thought: It was atrial fibrillation (aka AF), which is basically an irregular heartbeat. The problem is that the heart doesn’t always drain properly, may form clots, and they could cause a stroke or heart attack.

Now, as it happens, the drug I was put on for SVT (a calcium channel blocker) is good for AT, too, because it keeps hear rhythm normal, in part because AF is a form of SVT. So, they upped the dosage of that drug and lowered the dose on my blood pressure medication because the calcium channel blocker also lowers blood pressure, which was already good—they don’t want to lower it too much!

They also put me on what they called a “powerful” anti-clot drug, Dabigatran, so they stopped my low-dose aspirin.

A few weeks ago, I had a scan of my heart (which I mentioned before the appointment), and the doctors at the hospital had seen the report (which I haven’t). They said that the scan was normal. That’s basically why the prescription is the first option—structurally, my heart is operating normally, so they just need to fix the rhythm.

And that’s pretty much it for this latest side road in my Health Journey. I was never in any distress, pain, or anything, and I’m fine. And, it was dealt with because Nigel was my angel and rock of strength (yet again). Although, he did take the rather unflattering photo at right, which I shared with my personal Facebook post, which is what this post is based on. Still, I did tell him to take the photo!

Important note: This post is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.

Nothing we didn’t know – but something’s missing

The news today was crammed full with reactions to the anonymous Op-Ed in the New York Times. The column, written by a “senior official” in the regime of the current occupant of the White House reinforced things we’ve already been told by others, but something more than a byline is missing.

The territory covered by the piece was also covered in books, such as Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury and the soon-to-be-published Fear by Bob Woodward (Full disclosure: Both links are to Amazon and include my Amazon Associates number). Many news articles have also reported many of the same details. So, despite the current occupant’s “volcanic anger” about the Op-Ed piece, there’s not really anything new in it.

There’s one important thing missing, however: Courage. Whoever wrote it will ultimately be revealed and fired by the current occupant, unless it was Vice President Mike Pence, who can’t be fired. He has reasons for not being public—it would look like he was plotting an actual coup, for one thing. But wouldn’t it be cowardly to let suspicion fall on others, endangering their jobs? Would he come clean if someone else is fired for what he did? (Of course not).

There are also issues with the punditocracy’s other favourite suspect, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats. He has absolutely nothing to lose: At his age, he has no more elective offices in his future. He can afford to burn his bridges. But if he was really the author, and the current occupant’s disrespecting John McCain was part of his motivation, then wouldn’t publishing anonymously also disrespect McCain’s legacy?

Maybe it was neither of those two, but someone else entirely. How would they not similarly be a coward rather than principled? Whoever the author is, he or she could have resigned in a blaze of protest that would have dominated the news, too.

On the other hand, maybe this was brilliant strategy. By remaining anonymous until unmasked, the author can keep the piece in the news cycle for longer than would have happened in the “resign in protest” scenario. Personally, I hope that’s what it is, not actual cowardice. We’ll know sooner or later.

But all of that is beside the point, really, because something else is also missing: A conscience. This regime has done some horrible, shameful things, but the author praises the regime for cutting the taxes of corporations and the ultra rich, something that won’t benefit even most the non-millionaires who voted for the current occupant. The author also lists “effective deregulation”—seriously? The stuff that will put lives at risk through increased pollution and looser work safety rules (among so many other horrible things)? A “more robust military”? Spending more money isn’t the definition of “robust”, and banning transgendered servicemembers doesn’t make the military “more robust”. Also, what are the “other things”? That white supremacists in Charlottesville had “many fine people” among them? That children of asylum seekers and refugees were illegally ripped from the parents’ arms? The regime’s Muslim Ban?

But at least the author recognises that the current occupant branding the free press as “the enemy of the people” is inexcusable, as are all of his other anti-democratic attitudes. Also singled out, rightly, is the currant occupant’s “preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.”

The current occupant is tearing the USA apart, and destroying the country’s standing in the world—along with the alliance that’s defeated fascism and kept world peace for three-quarters of a century. He is dangerous and unhinged. The Centre and Left are doing what they can to stop the regime and its agenda, but so far all the Republican Party is doing is a—at the VERY most—uttering a near silent “tsk, tsk, tsk”.

Plenty of conservatives have abandoned the Republican Party to call out the regime and to talk about how the current occupant of the White House is unfit for office. The problem is that politicians living in the party now, or within the regime, are publicly missing. Until that changes, the battle to get rid of the current occupant will continue to be very, very difficult—unless Democrats win in a landslide in November, maybe.

But in any case, and no matter what happens in November, this is the time for Republicans who have a moral centre to stand up and call out the man in the White House who has none.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

The state of America

It has caused a constant state of confusion, the habitual lying by the current occupant of the White House. People of good character cannot understand how anyone can so brazenly and shamelessly lie about things that are so easily checked, and transparently lies. What such people don’t understand is that they’re not playing the same game. It’s not just that the current regime doesn’t care about truth or facts, it’s that they’re focused on one thing alone: Power.

The video above is the latest in Vox’s “Strikethrough” series of videos. They said of it: “For leaders like Trump and Putin, telling big lies isn't about persuasion – it's about power.” The reality is that the constant lying by the current occupant isn’t accidental, nor is it entirely deliberate, at least, not always. Instead, it’s part of a well-proven path to power employed by tyrants since the fascist dictators of decades ago. And there will be no letting up.

What the current regime’s opponents most need to understand is the conundrum they face: Fact-checking and debunking the regime’s constant lies only serves to reinforce them. It’s not because people reject the truth, though the regime’s supporters actively do. Instead, it’s that most people simply don’t pay close attention. When the current occupant’s lies are constantly repeated—even to debunk them—the lies enter people’s vague awareness, and they recall them as something that’s probably true—the opposite of what opponents want to happen.

So, debunking and fact-checking is actually totally counterproductive: It actually reinforces the lies the current occupant tells, gives them legitimacy for the majority of people who aren’t paying attention, and it helps the regime undermine faith in fact, truth and the evidence of our eyes and ears, which the current occupant himself recently told us all to ignore.

There are well-known reasons why this happens. About a month ago, TIME Magazine published “How Your Brain Tricks You Into Believing Fake News”, and it talks in some detail about the reasons that fake news—and the current occupant’s constant lies, too—work, even for smart, educated, and aware people.

And that’s the second thing that the current regime’s opponents most need to understand: People who believe the current occupant’s lies, or his regime’s genuinely fake news, aren’t stupid. They aren’t even necessarily supporters of the current regime. The reality is that the current occupant is playing them like a violin.

How do we move beyond that? We must tell an alternative story. First and foremost, we need to talk about the things that real people really care about. This is the strategy used successfully by Democrats all over the country in special election after special election. Voters don’t want to hear what we’re against—they want to hear what we’re FOR.

Second, we need to stop debunking and fact-checking the current occupant every few minutes. Instead, we need to talk about things that are based only on verifiable truth and that are fact-based, but we mustn’t compare them to the lies of the current occupant. We must pretend he’s never said a word.

Ignoring the current occupant is the hardest thing opponents will ever be called on to do, but it’s also the most necessary. We cannot tell an alternative story if we’re obsessed with singing from the current occupant's song sheet.

There’s an added fact about this strategy: The thing that infuriates the current occupant more than anything else is being ignored. Doing so is sure to make him lash out in unhinged anger, and that behaviour is always unattractive and off-putting to mainstream people, reinforcing his well-deserved image of being “just not right” and emotionally unstable. It’s important that we don't react in anger, but to do show sadness and pity, to reinforce the obvious truth, namely, that he is unfit to be president.

None of this is about “attacking” the current occupant, but, rather, about letting him be himself. Meanwhile, we keep presenting our alternative story about the things that real people really care about, always based only on verifiable truth and that are fact-based.

We’ve tried it the other way, always reacting and debunking, and the support for the current occupant remains stubbornly high. It’s time to try a different way. And, anyway, shouldn’t we be focused on where we want to go and how we’ll get there? That’s what ordinary voters want. As well they should.

Toward better Supreme Court nominees

The upcoming debate over the nomination to the Supreme Court will be epic. Those of us who are opposed are adamantly opposed, and the folks in favour have too much to gain to offer anything other than fevered, fervent support along with bullying of opponents. It really doesn’t have to be that way.

A real-life friend posted something on Facebook that struck a chord with me:
Am I the only one who thinks that the Supreme Court should be totally Bi Partisan? No Liberal and No Conservative, No Republican, No Democrat. They should prove that they make decisions based on right and wrong and leave their personal biases at the door when they put on their robes. That should be the litmus test of how we select who gets on the Supreme Court. Then it wouldn't matter who selects them because we would have selected honorable people who hold the Constitution to a higher standard.
In a perfect world, Supreme Court justices would be NON-partisan, not bi-partisan, and they would interpret the Constitution according to the rule of law, not politics. But the reality is that that ship sailed decades ago when Ronald Reagan nominated the hyper-partisan ideologue Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. He was responsible for implementing Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre”, the event that assured Nixon would have been impeached and then removed from office if he hadn’t resigned. [See also "Not borked", my recollections about the battle to stop Bork].

Supreme Court nominations have been more or less politicised ever since Reagan, with presidents looking, at the very least, for nominees who can be confirmed, not who is the best possible candidate. Things are worse now than ever, with the current terrible purely political nominee being a prime example of that.

Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, weaponised Supreme Court nominations when he flat out refused to allow Merrick Garland to get a fair hearing in the Senate because he wanted only a Republican President to be able to nominate someone. In fact, McConnell and every senior Republican in the Senate vowed that if Hillary Clinton was elected president in 2016 they would refuse to consider ANY Supreme Court nominee from her, ever. That’s just pure partisan political gameplaying, and it betrays the Constitution and the American people.

So, the precedent of Supreme Court nominations being nothing but hyperpartisan games has now been set. Given the precedent Republicans have set, Democrats could easily choose to do the same thing if they win control of the Senate in November, and then the Republicans will do it again when they gain control, and so on.

The worst thing is, there’s not much that can be done about it. Going to some sort of merit selection of justices would require changes that are impossible, particularly the need for politicians to give up power. It would probably also require a Constitutional Amendment, something that’s so difficult to do that it’s nearly impossible.

If we change the way the US House is elected to make it better reflect the will of the people, that’s something that will eventually filter up to the Senate. Aside from that, we can hold politicians accountable: We must never—ever—let them get away with talking in slogans or pandering to people’s basest feelings. We must constantly ask them, “how?” How are they’re going to do what they say, because more often than not they—Republicans in particular—can’t answer without resorting to mere slogans and more empty blather.

What I’m saying is simple: If we want a better class of Supreme Court justices, we’re going to have to start with electing a better class of politicians.

And that’s the hardest job of all.

This post is based on a comment I was originally making to my friend’s post. For some reason, Facebook wouldn’t let me post it. It’s here instead, revised and expanded from the original version.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Weekend Diversion: Imagine Dragons

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about Imagine Dragons before, because they’ve produced some of my favourite songs of the past year or so. What reminded me to share them, however, was I saw a video about a side project by lead singer Dan Reynolds, and now I like them quite a bit more. I like when pop music and my values combine, especially when it helps LGBT+ youth along the way.

First things first, though, because it was about the music before I ever heard about Reynolds’ work. I like Imagine Dragons because of the usual things—melody, arrangement, performance of the band and Reynolds’ vocals, and also for the often very complex lyrics. I like empty pop songs as much as anyone else who, um, loves that sort of thing, but I especially love pop music that offers me more than a good beat and a catchy hook, and Imagine Dragons has always given me that.

The first song that made me finally learn the band’s name was “Thunder” (video above). It was released April 27, 2017, the second single from their third studio album, Evolve. The song reached Number 3 in New Zealand, Number 2 in Australia, Number 4 in Canada, Number 4 in the Billboard Hot 100, and Number 20 in the UK. The video is visually striking, so much so that it practically forced me stop and watch it, and because of that, I paid attention to the band. From my narrow perspective, that video was worth every cent they spent on it.

The first single from Evolve was “Believer”, which has gone on to become a sports anthem and lent its name to a documentary (more about that later). I saw this video well after I noticed “Thunder”, or maybe I had and noticed it because of "Thunder". Either way, I liked that song, too:

The thing I didn’t realise at first was that I’d heard “Believer” on the radio, though I didn’t realise it until I paid attention to them on our music video channel. In any case, the song hit Number 21 in New Zealand, Number 33 in Australia, Number 7 in Canada, Number 4 in the Billboard Hot 100, and Number 42 in the UK.

While I later heard them in other songs, it was those two songs that I was most familiar with. Today I was catching up on my YouTube subscriptions, and saw a video suggested to me, including one from ABC News titled “Imagine Dragons lead singer on his Mormon faith and supporting LGBTQ community” and posted August 8:

I didn’t know about any of this until today, and I instantly liked Dan Reynolds as a human being, not just as a singer/songwriter/performer. Naturally, I wanted to see a bit more:

I think both those videos were well done, talking about different things, but the same general topic. There’s an excerpt of his documentary “Believer”, the documentary he talked about on The Daily Show, available online (the HBO trailer can’t be viewed in New Zealand, so I won’t include that):

So this was a band I liked as soon as I saw their video for “Thunder” on our free-to-air video channel. Now that I know more about lead singer Dan Reynolds, I like them a bit more. But it really is all about the music.

In the ABC video, their song “It’s Time” was mentioned in passing. It’s a good song (from 2012):

The song was the band’s first Top 40 commercial hit, reaching Number 37 in New Zealand, Number 27 in Australia, Number 30 in Canada, Number 15 in the Billboard Hot 100, and Number 23 in the UK. Part of the success was because, as the ABC report said, the song was covered on Glee [WATCH/LISTEN], and it was used in commercials.

From their first single, on to their newest single, “Natural”:

There: I think I’ve made up for not talking about Imagine Dragons before. And I’m glad I found new reasons for liking them.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Welcome, Spring!

Today is the first day of Spring, and this makes me far happier than it probably should, but I love warm weather, and hate winter, so it figures. While Auckland winters are much milder than what I grew up with in Illinois, I don’t live there, I live here: What matters is what we face here, and I don’t like it. Give me summer!

It was foggy this morning, the third day in a row. And, of course, we had a lot rain this month, along with some fairly cold mornings the past few weeks. All of which happens in Auckland in winter, but all of it has stayed around longer than is polite.

Despite all the rain, cold, fog and other winter weather we’ve had, the month of August was productive for me: It was my most-blogged month of the year, stealing the crown from last month. Last month, I had a surplus of 8 posts above my goal of an average of one post per day. In August, I published 45 posts, which is a surplus of 14 posts more than the monthly goal. That means that over the past two months I’ve made up for three weeks of posts that I never did.

I’ve also now more than passed the halfway point of posts for the year, however, the midpoint of the year was July 2. That means I hit the midpoint in the number of blogs posts the end of August, not the beginning of July. Despite the progress of the past couple months, I’m still well behind the average. As of yesterday, I was 54 posts behind where I needed to be to meet my annual goal of an average of one post per day.

At the moment, including this post, I need 175 posts to make the annual average. That works out to about 1.45 posts per day, which is—theoretically—achievable.

As it happens, I’m not the only one who pays attention to that trivia on this blog: Roger Green does, too. Obviously, none of this matters, and the goal should be about quality, not quantity. But as any regular blogger knows, odds are good that no matter what, some posts will always be better than other ones. Publishing a lot of posts increases the odds that at least a few of them will be pretty decent. Besides, there’s so much these days that we’re powerless to control, and perhaps to influence. This is one little thing I can control, so I’m grabbing with both hands. Well, four fingers and two thumbs, which is what I usually use when typing.

That wasn’t the end to the productive month. I pretty much did all I can do to reorganise the garage without Nigel’s help (a few things are too bulky or heavy to move by myself). So, that project is now all but finished (finally). The battle now moves to the rumpus room and my office, where a lot of the stuff formerly in the garage now lives.

But, hey: Today was only the first day of September, and of Spring. Things have clearly been looking up over the past couple months, and I think this month will be productive, too. I'm glad about that, no matter what actually happens.