The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

I Am Tired of “Protecting” the Unvaccinated

I am tired of “protecting” the unvaccinated.

Look, there are no undecided people anymore.

The actions of state governments (or inactions, e.g. Texas, Florida) aren’t an excuse. Your leader doesn’t determine what you do. Only you do.

And if they’ve decided not to put a mask on, not to get the vaccine, they’re not going to. Nothing short of devastating personal loss is going to motivate them to do anything. The constant pleas to “wear your mask”, “get vaccinated”, “beware the delta variant” are falling on deaf ears. And I’m sick of hearing it. People are going to do what they want to do. They view it as legislating morality, which can’t be done.

It’s not like the abortion debate, where there are multiple solutions to a single problem and we can’t decide on which solution is morally the rightest. You can say contraceptives. You can say extend it to X weeks but not Y weeks. You can say under A conditions but not B conditions. You can say no abortions period. You can say abortions for some, miniature American flags for others. And all these are legitimate.

Covid is a gun. It’s a cold dead thing that doesn’t do anything but kill you. You can’t argue it might grow into the next Einstein. It’s a bunch of tiny invisible guns shooting everywhere. The vaccine gives you a bulletproof vest. You might still get a bruise, but it will prevent death. If you don’t get the vaccine, you are carrying a gun that’s constantly firing in all directions. Most of all at yourself.

No, either you have gotten the vaccine or you’ve chosen to be a vector for the disease. You can’t be a centrist fence-sitter on this one. There are three options: you can decide to do something, you can decide not to do something, or you can decide not to decide. And the last is always taken by fools and the ignorant. And in this case, option two and three are the same. And those options are putting me and my family at risk. No bones about it.

At this point, it’s the unvaccinated who are suffering most. They put themselves in the hospital. They spit and cough on people going to the grocery store and on airplanes. And you’re telling me to put on a mask to protect them? Funny, I don’t feel much like doing so.

All their beliefs are rooted in conspiracy theories and who’s yelling the loudest, not science. Facts don’t matter to them. They say “You have facts. I have alternative facts. Who’s to say who’s right?” Well, that’s not how discourse works.

Batman Begins - "I won't kill you...But I don't have to save you." (480p) -  YouTube
“I won’t kill you… but I don’t have to save you.”

I shouldn’t have to set myself on fire to keep others warm. I did my time. I put on my mask. I went without local businesses. I stayed away from public places. And now I have to go back to that? For people barely contributing to humanity in the first place?

In American Gods, the protagonist, an ex-convict, says that everyone does their own time.

“One thing he had learned early, you do your own time in prison. You don’t do anyone else’s time for them. Keep your head down. Do your own time.”

-Shadow, “American Gods”

In the context of the book, that means you don’t become involved in anyone else’s situation, or you end up serving their punishment for them.

Doing your own time, in this case, means letting the anti-vaxxers catch the disease and die. Because in this case, that’s the only way they’re going to learn. Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is a novel that takes place in a world where everyone is immortal because people can make back-ups of themselves. After a while, the only population left are those who follow this culture, because those who didn’t… well, they chose to be left behind.

But unfortunately, as we’ve seen in Florida and Texas and Ohio and other “red states”, letting them die means fewer resources for us. We’re seeing full ICU wards, hospital beds full of covid sufferers wishing they’d just gotten the vaccine. Those beds should be ours. And if I get a broken bone or my daughter gets encephalitis, we might not be able to get in. Is that the price we have to pay to wait for natural selection to weed out these refugees from reality?

Maybe. Could be worth the risk. Your freedoms are not worth as much as anyone’s life.

You think your freedoms are worth dying for? You first.

My Three Goals as a Writer

I want to be a writer, as you can see from the one thousand plus posts I’ve put up. But I also like to make money, which is why I’m not a capital-“A” author yet. There are only so many hours in the day. So for now, writing is a fun thing until I hit that publishing lottery and get something in print.

But there are other ways to get a steady job in the printed word. I’m too introverted for journalism (except as a columnist or editorial writer) and I’m not fast enough for freelancing. But there are some fun things I’d like to do. Here are three.

I would like to write a porno. I know what you’re saying–pornographic movies don’t have scripts. All you need is a girl and a light and a room. And that’s true. But you know what, some people want a little more. Someone has to come up with why stepsister got stuck in the laundry machine again.

And there are high-end films like Pirates and stuff by Wicked Pictures and Vivid and others. Those Wood Rocket parodies, terrible as they are, have a fair amount of dialogue. And there are erotica films (nice ones like Emmanuelle, not Blue Velvet or Secretary). And I’ve certainly watched enough material to be an expert in the genre.

The Sexy Movie (A Hotwife Romance) Revised: Working Girls: Book 1 - Kindle  edition by Semenov, Cathy. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

I had an idea for a sexy movie based off of Rusalka, which is the Russian version of The Little Mermaid. I think there’s untapped potential in “woman as non-human” market, like Monster Musume or furries. A movie like that would be expensive — make-up and prosthetics and body paint that doesn’t rub off. You wouldn’t want a cheap script to bring it down.

File:May Irwin Kiss.ogv

But honestly, I’d be pretty happy being able to write a script even for a straight-to-video B-movie of any kind. Although I’d most like horror or sex. Hey, I’m setting unrealistic expectations anyway, why not? And someone had to write “Killjoy”.

I would like to be a political speechwriter. There are certain issues I’m passionate about, and I get real sick of not being able to do anything about it. My only options are to vote, which I can only do every four years, or “write to my congressman” which does fuck all. Do Matt Gaetz and Susan Collins act like they read any of their letters? So no, I’m not going to waste my talents on that.

But I’m not extroverted enough to be the guy who makes the change. I don’t have a likable personality. I’m not friendly. I can’t be insincere or dishonest. And I hate long meetings. I can’t be the guy who heads the charge. But I could be the neck that turns the head.

How to Become a Better Storyteller: Tips from Obama's Speechwriter,  Unpacked | by Steve Seager, Storywise | Medium

Being a speechwriter would be pretty cool, I think. I could nudge my ideas while someone else is my mouthpiece. Ben Stein was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon and he has some memorable stories from that time. Certainly some memorable speeches from that time (infamous, but that’s not Ben Stein’s fault). And I’ve heard a Moth story about a speech writer who worked personally with Bill Clinton. He even risked his job for integrity to preserve for what he’d written. And it was just a comedy speech.

No one listens to speeches anymore. There’s no Fireside Chats or “And now a special announcement from the President of the United States.” (I mean, yeah, I’d get hella pissed off when that interrupted prime time TV, but I think bringing back the personal presence of the commander-in-chief is important. Not just a tweet from @PresBiden saying “Get Vaccinated”).

But even if those existed would anyone listen? Today’s speeches aren’t sharp. They’re not brevitous. Their sentence structure is not meant for speaking. They don’t commit to anything. They hedge and hedge so that everyone’s happy and the result is no one is. Why don’t Americans listen? Because they’re not entertaining.

Jon Stewart explains why he quit 'The Daily Show' - POLITICO

But you can be entertaining AND informative. The Daily Show proved that. Last Week Tonight proved that. Fox News proved that. (I said “entertaining and informative”, not truthful.) We need something to get behind. The last memorable political slogan was Obama’s “HOPE”. A single word. That’s silly. We need a “We choose to go to the moon…” We need a “The only thing we have to fear…” The only time I get directed to viral speeches these days are commencements by funny people like Conan O’Brien and Jim Carrey. Books and movies have more motivational political lines than this.

“We burn, you burn with us.”

—The Hunger Games

“You don’t have to be the bad guy.”

—The Lego Movie

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

—Spider-Man

“We are cancelling the apocalypse.”

—Pacific Rim

“Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me… can’t get fooled again.”

—George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States of America, head of state and government of the most powerful nation in the world from 2001 – 2009

And I shouldn’t have to list any #45 quotes.

At work, the CEO and VPs always make sure to tell us how great everything is and what progress we’re going to make and how we’re going to make our product fantastic. But never about how we’re going to get there. Sounds a lot like today’s promises with no action plans. I’d want to change that, to give confidence to the people.

Ode to Remus/Sirius & Newsies...: remusxsirius — LiveJournal

I like to think I’m good at entertaining and editorializing, as this blog might prove. I’d love to make change, but I’d have to work with someone else. Like in Newsies, where Jack has the charisma and leadership and the guy from Glee tells him what to say. But every time I’ve been a leader I’ve fucked it up. I need to cater to my strengths and eschew being a figurehead. Besides, this way I don’t take the blame when scandal arises.

I would like to write licensed garbage. Okay, garbage is a bit harsh, but I’m assessing my own skill level here. One of my favorites authors is Peter David and some of my favorite books written by him are licensed Star Trek novels. Now I’m certainly not at Star Trek/Star Wars level, but there are all kinds of IP. Every time I’ve tried reading them, it’s always a disaster. I’ve tried Dishonored, Bioshock, Marvel’s She-Hulk, Disney’s Descendants, and even My Little Pony.

There was even a whole podcast dedicated to books about video games (not tips & tricks, like stories). Someone had to write them. I think it would be neat if it was me.

Of course, I wouldn’t want to be a content mill. I have more integrity than that. But I think it would be fun to write something like a Dungeons & Dragons novel. Just a space adventure or Golden Fleece quest that exists outside the realm of canon. I like lots of licensed IP–Marvel, Batman, Disney Princesses, Borderlands, Ghostbusters, Left 4 Dead, Mortal Kombat. I could even do obscure shit like The Evil Dead or Quake or Katawa Shoujo.

In Japan, they have a thing called the “light novel“. It’s just a novella and usually based on existing anime or manga. I think that could be perfect to introduce to the American market. They only seem to like doorstoppers–five-hundred-page behemoths. I don’t know why–it’s like they think a bigger book means more “intelligence points”.

All licensed fiction is fan fiction, just commissioned by the owner of the IP. I think it would be fun to take existing characters or an established universe, fuck everything up, then put it back together. I could do that, even for an IP I’m not too familiar with. Hell, it would be even better because I wouldn’t have reservations about taking chances with characters or plot.

Bill & Bob: Where Are They Now?

bill and bob's roast beef

So I’m sure you’re all dying to know what’s happened to Bill and Bob since my first article in 2016 and my second in 2019. They ain’t gone away, that’s for sure. I thought they did, but like the cat, they came back. And I still gotta stare at this shit every time I work out.

I can’t remember when it went up but the one that said “Dear Congress, ILLEGAL IS ILLEGAL, Sincerely Bill & Bob” returned. I think it originally appeared because of the disagreements over immigration policy (i.e. children in cages), but it became especially appropriate around the impeachment (they don’t change their billboards often). That was up for a long time.

Then someone spraypainted out the second “IL”, making it “ILLEGAL IS LEGAL“. Not the cleverest bit of graffiti. It was probably just some dumb kid, but I want to sing this guy’s praises from Facebook to NextDoor. Thank you for taking a stand against these cowards. Thank you for making some kind of change to the same ugly picture that stands like a blackhead at our tiny intersection.

Then a week later they took the whole thing down and replaced it with some kind of home financing advertisement. And that was even better. I thought “Thank God Bill & Bob ran out of money and I don’t have to see their trite takes anymore.”

But no, they’re back. And now they’ve got both sides of the billboard. I see it on my way to the gym, I see while I’m working out, I see it on my way back home.

The worst one has been “Dear Mayor Walz, IT’S TIME”. This was put up around March, when everything started closing down. You remember all the tension and questions: “what are people going to do about their jobs?” “Or school?” “How will I get my Starbucks?” “How long is this going to last?” “Will any of this work?” “Can the economy afford this?”

“Open Up · Use Common Sense · No Bad Data”? Well, if you are using common sense then you wouldn’t open up. And Minnesota doesn’t have bad data. We’re not like Florida where they fire people who don’t fudge the numbers to make their state look good. Walz isn’t the mayor of Amity Island.

So what do you think, Bill & Bob? Do you think people are lying about the virus? Do you think the 4,000+ dead every day are faking it? Do you think we should just go back to normal and if you get sick, you get sick? Sure’d like to see how long you last with that attitude. I can’t believe I’m wearing a mask to save you.

The irony is that this has been up since March and hasn’t come down. Through the Spring scare, the Summer valley, the back-to-school nail-biting, the steady increase through the holidays, and now this surge where we’re breaking records left and right. And these Bill and Bob assholes still think everything should reopen, if leaving their billboard unchanged is an indication. This is assuming they’re not so old and demented they’ve forgotten they’ve got a billboard up.

Okay, what does the other side say? Is that as full of vitriol and passive-aggressive ignorance as the other?

Well, that’s a lovely fortune cookie. Granted, this is the most positive message Bill and Bob have given us peasants as they sit in their wizard’s tower of anonymity. Too bad it’s so abstract I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean. Is this referring to some event I don’t have knowledge of?

Are they saying Walz should rule from a position of hope instead of fear? Okay, I didn’t know he was doing that. I haven’t felt very afraid. In fact, I’d like him to invoke more fear. Get mad. Start handing out fines.

I’m really curious. What are they’re trying to communicate with this message? Advancing humanity? We’re just trying to stay above water here. Are you talking about “moving on”? I’m twiddling my thumbs every day, hoping that my parents don’t die, hoping that the government doesn’t collapse, hoping that cops start shaking hands with Black people and shooting white supremacists instead of the other way around, hoping that lawmakers can complete some actions instead of being blockaded just because they’re members of a certain party.

It’s always remarkable how out of touch Bill and Bob are. Just when I think they can’t get more ignorant, they prove me wrong. I know there’s only so much that can go on a billboard, but jeez man. Someone had to design this. They thought this was a good idea. And I still have no idea what call to action it’s meant to convey. Except breed contempt in my soul.

Edit: Special thanks to all the readers who sent me leads on the identity of Bill and Bob. Nothing panned out, but I appreciate that we’re all commiserating in misery on this.

Who Puts the Gun Down First?

spider-man standoff

So in the wake of the election, there is this zeitgeist happening. Now that (hopefully) politics are returning to usual, how do we mend the divide that’s cleaved the country the past four years?

The election wasn’t close, but it wasn’t a landslide either. Trump and the GOP still gained a resounding collection of votes. They gained a few seats in the house and didn’t lose the Senate majority. Nearly half the world looked at the past four years, the pandemic, the white supremacism, the economy, the crimes, the fascism, the impeachment, the children in cages, and said “yes, I’d like more of that“.

It should be an easy moral litmus test. But in the privacy of the polls, 57% of white America proved they don’t give a fuck about anyone but themselves. “I’m gonna get mine,” they said, because none of the past four years’ strife involved them. It involved women, Mexicans, Muslims, LGBTQ, Blacks, and so on. Anyone who was a straight white male got what they wanted (or at least didn’t get theirs taken away).

We are still in the war of rural vs. urban. Country mouse vs. city mouse. The pendulum is swinging, but it isn’t swinging far. We’re reaching equilibrium. Which means no consensus on issues. Which means nobody’s happy. Which means people keep fighting for their causes with vigor because the margin is small enough that they believe they can win.

So in the aftermath of the election, there have been calls to reach across the aisle. Understand the red voter. Work with your GOP senators and congressman and compromise with them. Because there isn’t going to be any progress without their votes.

On the other hand, there have also been calls to, as the young people say, “fuck that shit.”

For the past four years a vocal number of Americans have been projecting “fuck your feelings” and “own the libtards” and “fake news” and all that shit. Behaviors that deal with “no compromise”, “no kindness”, and racism and criminals acts and vaguely supporting white supremacists. Stop anything “they” do just because it’s “them” doing it. Republicans keep calling it Obamacare so they can tie it to the “evil Democrats”. Meanwhile, Democrats consider that a compliment. Obama was able to do something no one else was able to do–pass government-mandated healthcare.

I once heard a guy on the conservative talk radio talking about “the Democratic Party… or as I call it, the Anti-American Party…” and I was like “Really? You really think the Democrats motivation is their hate for America? That their primary goal is to dismantle the country? You don’t think they just have different priorities or different ideas on how to execute solutions? No, we’re just going to call the group that makes up half the government ‘anti-American’ and leave it there?”

The Republicans and Democrats have their power split evenly. One side wants revenge for Obamacare and Bernie Sanders. The other wants revenge for Trump and Mitch McConnell. So here’s the question: who puts the gun down first?

Personally, I’ve always felt the DFL needs to be more aggressive. They’ve never had a strong leader (see my last political post). They let the opposition get away with things without reprisal. They gave up easily when Gore won the popular vote, and again when Hillary won the popular vote. Not even a proposal to say “hey, let’s fix this so a candidate who wasn’t elected doesn’t get elected again.” We need to make it so “control of the Senate” doesn’t mean total domination.

But they don’t want to fight a war. Maybe that’s part of their philosophy. Nonetheless, a war has been thrust upon them.

Democrats tried to be kind. When Anton Scalia died, Obama nominated Merrick Garland and the Republicans said “no” for a year. A year! Because they wanted to bide their time until they could install their candidate. And they gave bullshit excuses like “oh, you shouldn’t nominate a Supreme Court justice in an election year.” And what did that compromise get us? They shoved in three of their justices within four years. THREE! The last providing clear damning evidence of the hypocrisy of Lindsey Graham, and by extension, his party.

And what will the Democrats do about that lie? How will they punish the Republicans for their actions? They won’t. What did they get back from that compromise? Nothing. Democrats give and give and give. Republicans take and give nothing back. They’ve proven they only want power and integrity is no obstacle to get it. Why should Democrats keep letting bullies get what they want simply because they’re the most aggressive and griping about it? The squeaky wheel keeps getting the grease, when it should be replaced.

So what is the solution? Strike back? Stack the courts? Revoke all the policies Trump made? Push the policies that keep getting stonewalled (e.g. gun control, healthcare)? Is that what politics is now? A revenge game? If you’re going to pass this law, then I’m going to pass this law. Well, if you’re going to do that, I’m going to do this. Just a cycle of revenge. It displaces order, but it does set a precedent that actions have consequences. They were breaking the postal service, for God’s sake. They were telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”. That doesn’t deserve forgiveness.

The best part of the post-election celebration was the reporter turning to an Trump junkie redneck (yet still wearing a mask) who interrupted him and telling him to fuck off.

trump supporter reporter fuck off

After years of mainstream journalism being called “fake news”, being attacked anytime anything negative about the president or the GOP was said, this was satisfying. I took it as a sign that no more would Fox News and OAN get attention pellets for their biased reporting, scare-mongering, and audience-pandering.

It makes me wonder why we tolerate these fuckers, like QAnon and the Proud Boys and Milo Yiannopoulos and Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan. Why are these idiots allowed to preach their ridiculous conspiracy theories and rhetoric of violence & hate. Because we believe in free speech? That only applies to the government. Everything else has the ban hammer.

White supremacy isn’t just tiki torches or viral Alex Jones rants. It’s greed for your own race–your own life–and not thinking about how others live. If you don’t notice things like how few PoC the book you’re reading has or where are all the women in your office are, you’re part of the problem.

But if you take out your pound of flesh, what’s the end game? What’s the result? The country is so split down the middle that if no one yields, nothing will ever get done. If you want to pass a “Green New Deal” or “Planned Parenthood” laws, you’re going to need Republican votes. Remember the north-going Zax and the south-going Zax? Or the Bitter Butter Battle? Whoever wins doesn’t matter, because whoever yields first is considered the loser.

Conclusion

Here are the two arguments. One says “we have to work together/love thy neighbor/kill them with kindness”. The other says “you can’t just pretend the last four years didn’t happen. The last four years of entitled hillbillies and rich white button-downs waving guns around and Karens demanding to see the manager. Killing innocents is fine if they’re not on your side. Compromise and kindness is weakness.

So who does put the gun first? I certainly don’t feel like it. Even though books and movies keep telling me it’s the right thing to do. In Tangled, Mother Gothel kidnapped Rapunzel for eighteen years, kept her identity hidden, exploited her magic power, chained her up, stabbed her lover. And still Rapunzel reaches for her as she’s falling out of the tower. It’s a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” shot, but Disney put that in so Rapunzel didn’t seem like she was turning a blind eye to her death (or to show the effect of long-term abuse).

The choices are to respond to the past in kind or forget it & move on. If the former, we sink to their level. But if the latter, their bad behavior has no weight. Can you imagine if we did that to Japan and Germany after the World War II? Just said “Okay, fighting’s over, everyone go back to your homes.” No, we held the German and Japanese leaders accountable for their crimes. But only because we won. The victor gets to define history.

I can’t pretend the last four years didn’t happen. Not after so many deaths, so much fear, so much crime. Why are there no good ways to deal with bullies? Why do they always get their way? Why is it when you strike back, you get punished just as bad?

“Meet me in the middle,” they say. You take one step forward. They take one step back. “Meet me in the middle,” they say.

Moral of the story: Punch a Nazi. That’s what they’re there for.

Follow the Leader

peter pan john following the leader disney

I think I’ve figured out a universal truth.

A lot of days I look at the polls and see, yay, Joe Biden’s ahead, but only by five or seven points. Never more than ten in any state. It’s always close. That means 45% of America is voting for Trump. 148 million Americans saw the past four years and want more.

And it boggles my mind. What do they see in him? What do they like about him? Have they not been paying attention? Tax cuts for the rich, quid pro quo in Ukraine, impeachment, children in cages. Children in frickin’ cages. It should have stopped there.

Cleanser

Twitter wars, name-calling, petty insults. Illegal activity after illegal activity (or at least ambiguously legal — but just because he can do it doesn’t mean he should). More vacation days than any president. More advisors indicted than any president. More scandals than any president. Has he accomplished anything good? Anything positive? Isn’t there one thing history can point to and admit “well, that was good for the country”? I can’t think of any.

Yet 45% say “Yep, he’s our man. I like him. He’s a good leader.” Who are these people? How are they thinking this? Are they lacking empathy? Are they just on a train and too scared/lazy/embarrassed to get off? How can any intelligent person be for him?

But I don’t think it’s about intelligence. Not for these people. Look at these two maps. Is it a coincidence that the least educated states tend towards Republican and the most tend towards DFL?

But I’m not saying Trump voters are dummies. I’m saying they’re using different criteria to evaluate their decision. And that criteria is emotionally-based. It’s a gut check. Does Trump care about me? Does he have my interests in mind? Will he bring to change to a stuck-in-the-mud system? It’s far less rooted in logic and rationality. And that’s okay. To a point.

Let me explain. I saw a clip of Sarah Silverman telling a story about a friend of hers recruited by a neo-nazi party. He wasn’t a neo-nazi to begin with–he had no strong feelings about Jews or the white race or anything. He lived a normal boring life with two parents who didn’t pay him much attention and didn’t care what he did. So he was at a party smoking a cigarette and a man knocked it out of his mouth and said “don’t put that shit in your lungs”. That was his path to joining his neo-nazi group. Not because he believed the philosophy. It was because someone gave him what he wasn’t getting from his own family–love and attention–so he joined another.

Now combine that with this. On Reddit, I was reading a post titled “Trump voters – what made you vote for him?” The first comment was “I live in a small blue-collar town in the south and he was the only one who came and talked to us. Hillary Clinton didn’t do that. No presidential candidate had done that.” So this guy didn’t size up Trump from his past policies or expertise. Just the emotional experience of meeting him. That he spoke like a normal person, not a dry “offend nobody” politician. That someone came up to him, personally, and said “I’m going to look out for you.” Something no one had done.

That 45% isn’t voting for Trump because they agree with his policies. They’re voting because Trump makes them feel good. And if someone accepts you and gives you love, you feel obligated to return that love. That means doing what they ask you to. That means putting up signs, fighting against a mask, shouting “lock her up”, and watching the same news station he does, and believing the conspiracy theories about “the enemy”.

If you’re into Trump, it must feel good to be the little guy in locked arms with others fighting against the progressive Democrats who pushing policies that have nothing to do with you. LGBTQ rights, civil rights, money for the poor, immigration, abortion, healthcare-for-all. Have they forgotten about the regular middle-class Christian white man? The person who makes up the majority of voting America?

The answer to that question is “your house isn’t on fire.”

The regular middle-class Christian white man is doing fine. He’s not getting killed by cops. He’s not living hand-to-mouth. He’s not barred from seeing his spouse at the hospital because they’re not “family”. True, he’s not living in a mansion, but he’s already able to see the baseball game. The goal is to give everyone boxes so they can all see the game, until we can take down the fence.

Of course, then comes the question of “how do you persuade someone to turn away from the person providing them the love and attention they need.” You can’t use levelheaded analysis because they don’t subscribe to that magazine. Can you convince them their fearless leader is a bad guy? Well, if they didn’t leave him at “Grab ’em by the pussy” there’s not much hope for that. When you reach that level of loyalty, the only cure is time and membership dying off.

I read something that said “The key value for Democrats is experience. The key value for Republicans is loyalty.” Not sure where, and I might be misphrasing that. But there’s something about loyalty that I just can’t grok. Loyalty is… worthless. How can you live with serving someone who’s hurting so many others? Does it feel that good to win the “us vs. them” fight? Don’t you realize the “them” is on the same side as “us”?

That was Darth Vader’s whole problem. Palpatine asked for his loyalty and he pledged it, because it was the only way to save Padme (and because the Jedis screwed him over). Even when Padme died regardless, Anakin kept by his side. Not until Darth Vader switched sides were the good guys able to win and fascism able to fall. America’s greatest story teaches the vice of loyalty and fault of blind dedication.

For me, I base judgment on a person’s actions. Not charisma, not strength. Because we’ve been down that road before. We’ve seen what happens when the most liked person in the room takes the wheel–they do what’s on their agenda and ignore your needs. It happens in high school, it happens in real life.

The problem with the Democratic party, and why they can’t mass a strong showing against Republicans, because they don’t have a strong leader. Despite their policies being more popular (e.g. most Americans favor keeping abortion legal), they don’t have a unifying force to follow. There are beliefs, but beliefs are intangible, morphable, and every person’s belief is slightly different than another’s.

Democrats have dyed-in-the-wool, inaccessible politicians like Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi. They need someone like Trump–someone angry and charismatic and personable. Someone who shouts “I’m mad as heck, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

A political tirade from 1976 should not still have relevance in 2020

I see a little of that from AOC. She’s willing to point a finger at allies and say “that’s wrong” (like her Campaign Finance Reform examination). But goddamn, you have to put in a lot of work to get to that point. She wore out her shoes campaigning for her position. We’re not going to get by on just one of her. And I’m afraid she’s going to burn out before she gets to where she can become a party leader.

But I’m digressing. The point is, last election, everyone was complacent. We thought “the oddball votes won’t matter–the Bernie bros’ protest ballots, the ones who don’t think women belong in politics, the anti-Hillary, the anti-Obama. The winner will be the one most qualified for the job, who’s been in the game since we were kids. This trust fund billionaire with all his reality shows and failed businesses and sex scandals can’t possibly win.” We were wrong.

I guess the best thing you can do is say that voting for Trump will hurt others, including yourself. I’m imagining old folks in their old conservative ways having to be convinced by their sons and daughters, their grandsons and granddaughters, that Trump will worsen the world being left to them. Everyone wants to leave a legacy. No one wants to die forgotten. (I know I certainly don’t. That’s why I write.)

Another cleanser

Ultimately, all you have to go on is promises. Promises have as much substance and value as a fart in the wind. A resume can tell you what they say they’ve delivered in the past, but it’s no guarantee of what they can do in the future. If a candidate promises to prioritize climate change or build a wall across Mexico, there’s no guarantee that will be done. And not just of their own fault–they could be stymied by a low budget or an obstructive Congress. All you can do is match your views to theirs and hope for the best.

P.S. I think we get far too much of our perception about politicians from media, which can pick and choose what to show. SNL plays Trump as a borderline dementia victim, but still likable in his bumblingness (too much for my taste). Biden is an out-of-touch skeleton out of a Western, akin to Reverend Kane from Poltergeist II. You never get to hear the stories like this:

The Return of Bill and Bob

bill and bob billboard

I thought I was done with them. I thought maybe they’d died or run out of money. But nope, they’ve put up a new billboard.

Granted I was sick of the Lord Fletcher’s one that had been there for years. All it had was an image of a walleye dinner with “Wally Wally” as a caption. Didn’t make a lot of sense to me, and all it did was make me hungry. But when I saw it, I was usually on my way home to dinner anyway. And after two or so years of looking at it, it started to become unappetizing.

Two years is about the same amount of time that stupid “Illegal is Illegal” billboard has been on the back of it. Maybe three. I’ve had to look at that damn hypocritical, cowardly letter to “congress” for, like, three years of my life. I thought “oh, maybe someday they’ll replace it with a puppy, or advertisement to join the National Guard, or at least SOMETHING new.”

But no, they replaced the backside with, instead of legitimate advertising, another Bill and Bob note. Should have known they weren’t going away. This one says

Dear Congress and Fake News,
QUIT WHINING
Do your job
Respectfully, Bill, Bob, et al

First of all, there’s nothing respectful about hiding your identity.

Second, fake news? You’re calling out fake news? At first I was hopeful that maybe Bill and Bob were neutral. Maybe their “illegal is illegal” message meant illegal doings of the president and that congress should prosecute them, because an illegal act is an illegal act. I actually didn’t think it was about immigrants until someone e-mailed me about it. About six months after inauguration.

By the way, telling fake news to “do their job” is a little ambiguous. If there were such a thing as Fake News, their job would be to print “fake news”, not real news. You’re telling them to do the job that you hate.

Thirdly, this is just as ambiguous as “illegal is illegal”. To me, congress doing their job would be to file articles of impeachment, since there is plenty of evidence that the president is not not guilty. Double negatives cancel each other out, you know. And when you’ve got ambiguity on a billboard, the amount of meaninglessness is proportional to its size.

So thanks a lot Billy and Bobby. Here I was hoping you had faded into obscurity, but I guess you managed to scrounge up $300 more to waste on an idiotic, poorly worded advertisement. At least it makes for nice motivation, because it sits outside the window of my gym.

Pawlenty as Governor Part 2: What I Do Care About

government building icon

I talked before about things politicians keep bringing up that aren’t things I care about. Here’s what I do care about.

Education – this is, and always shall be, my number one priority. Because my biggest fear is living in a country of ignorant. Ignorant people are like play-doh–they have no substance and even a mediocre leader can mold them into zealots. Smart children grow up to be smart adults who make smart advances. They make life better. They make medicine and businesses and inventions and because I don’t want a world where being “ig’nant” is a symbol of pride, or you’re supposed to hate school, or be a slacker/disengaged like a Kevin Smith movie. We are better off with educated people in the world. It benefits everyone. The effect isn’t immediate, but the investment can never goes down in value. Plus it’s a huge turn-on.

Net Neutrality – I realize this is more on the national radar than local, but other states are bucking the trend. Why can’t we? Technology and IT is a staple of MN, so we should sign our own Net Neutrality treaty. Let’s leap over that novelty chattering teeth with legs. Don’t let him feed his greed or drench congress in a months-long trial over nothing.

money ajit pai meme

Gun reform – I don’t know if it’s a big deal in Minnesota, but it’s an my personal priority. I do not want my children shot. I do not want my children afraid that if they go to school, they could be shot. Let me elaborate.

Statistically, you are not likely to be caught in a school shooting. Or a victim of gun violence at all. They’re declining, Since Columbine, 200 people have been shot in a school shooting. That’s a 1 in 614,000,000 chance. It’s not zero, and Minnesota is not an exception, but juvenile crime rates are dropping. It’s the phenomenon of a single huge news event looking like it’s a rampant problem (like airplane crashes). My daughters have a better chance of getting an STD or a lifelong sports injury than shot in a school shooting. Out of all the classrooms in all the schools in all the states in all the country, if you look at the numbers, it’s not going to happen. (source)

However…

The psychology of it all takes a toll on the psyche. You’re not likely to be shot but you are guaranteed to see all the measures to prevent those shots. The constant state of fear and paranoia. Carefree days that kids should be experiencing are gone, and that results messed-up grown-ups.

school security metal detectors

Imagine your own elementary school. Little lockers, weird art on the walls, and crappy paper crafts hanging from the ceiling. The lunchroom, the classroom, the bathrooms. All those memories. The smells of corn dogs and breadtangles of pizza. Snicking scissors. Papers shuffling. The smell of glue and crayons.

Now add metal detectors. Now add police in your hall, monitoring everybody. Add monthly lockdown drills, doors that auto-lock at the start of class, and cameras in every corner. Now add clear backpacks and fencing that corrals you down a single path like cows in a stockyard. Now add teachers with gun holsters, students with bulletproof vests, and crisis conduct class instead of music. How does that affect your personality for the next thirteen years of your life? You thought schools were like prison before…

Like they say in the military — it’s not that you could die, it’s that you will see your friends die.

I’m also looking at the police. They have guns too, and their indiscriminate use does nothing to assuage fear of firearms or law enforcement. Minnesota isn’t an exception to Black Lives Matter. I’ve blogged before about my outrage at the Philando Castile verdict after the video was made public. It made me sick that it happened so close to my old house, like a desecration. Which segues to my number three…

Accountability – We are no longer in the era where we can allow consequence-free conduct. This is the era of #timesup. Actions cannot be brushed off or ignored. Truth has outvalued thousands of dollars of NDA settlement money. Those blind eyes are what let everything get out of control in the first place. So much suffering, and we let it happen. How did we let it get so bad, letting the spin doctors and armchair psychologists brush off sociopathic behavior? It should not be this hard to act like a decent human being.

So when Tim Pawlenty says that Trump is unfit to be president but still votes for him, my nose wrinkles. In IT we have a thing called “code smell“, where certain patterns or structures correspond to negative impact on the application. This is “rhetoric smell”. Is he interested in improving the quality of life for his constituents or his own party? From that action alone, how can you trust a leader who’s philosophy is “do as I say, not as I do”? That is not acceptable. We must demand better.

So Mr. Pawlenty starts, in my eyes, with a hill to climb. He’s starting at the back tees. He better have a good drive to get back into good standing (I don’t know why I’m using a golf metaphor, I don’t even like golf).

So Pawlenty as Governor…

minnesota blue

So I used to ignore politics. But in my state, the governor race has begun. This is going to be interesting because, for the first time in my life, I’m scrutinizing candidates and vetting policies. I even sent in a ballot for my Homeowner’s Association election. So revel in the bantling thoughts of a guy coming to government as unsteady and moist as a newborn calf.

In my state, Tim Pawlenty is running for governor as a Republican.This is noteworthy because he already served from 2003-2011 (and then took six years off to go backpacking in Europe?). I don’t know why he wants to run now. Is he afraid the backlash during midterm elections will eclipse the GOP? Maybe he thinks he’s got a strong chance because the current governor, a democrat, won’t be running again. Which means they’re going to have a fresh candidate, while people already know Pawlenty’s name. (Better the devil you know?)

Sorry, I don’t mean to rag on the Republican party, though their actions in the White House have left a sour taste in my mouth. But there is no reason I wouldn’t vote for a Republican candidate… as long as I agree with that candidate. It’s just that I rarely ever agree with Republican behavior.

calvin tantrum

Democrats seem to focus on people (civil rights, economic equality, focus on domestic policy over international etc.) while Republicans focus on business and money. And don’t get me wrong, I like businesses. I look at all the empty land between the Mississippi and Rocky Mountains and think “Build something there! Make some cities!” But I’d rather my friends be able to get married or emigrate to the US than if one of the tiny coffee shops or banks near me gets a tax break.

I do know I’ve had an assful of people like Bill and Bob and all the other conservative PSAs around me. Since I’m on the rural border, I gotta see all those anti-abortion billboards. At this point I know all the phases of fetal development when the fingerprints form, when the heartbeat starts), but it’s such a shallow tug, meant to appeal to emotion and not reason.

I have to drive by one every day that says “trashing an egg is the equivalent of wasting 55 gallons of water”. Is egg-wasting really such a problem you had to spend money on a billboard about it? What is this supposed to stop? All those people throwing eggs into the river? You really think this is going to have ANY effect whatsoever? But I’m digressing.

egg trash billboard
Whoooooooooo cares?

Okay, let’s try starting over. According to his introduction video, Pawlenty says he’s going to focus on a few things, but the basic “slogan” is loosening the squeeze on the “middle”. I don’t know what that means. I’m middle class and I don’t feel any squeeze. (BTW, I checked, according to this, I’m middle class, though on the high end of the range). I’m fine. I have plenty of taxes to pay and I don’t mind paying them.

han solo we're all fine up here control room
“We’re fine. We’re all fine here now, thank you. How are you?”

Sometimes I owe taxes. Some years they owe me. Seems balanced enough. I never worry about my financial situation because I don’t spend stupidly. (That might change when the kids go to college, but chickens and counting). My health care premiums don’t seem excessive, but I gotta believe he’s talking about MNCare, and I don’t have insight into that. I work for the largest health care company in the U.S. and after 5+ jobs and different health care plans, it’s nothing I can’t handle. I’ve even grown to like the HSA.

I do mind living in the wrong area. The county lines are drawn so that everything I do is in another county–schools, stores, etc. But my taxes and votes go to the Minneapolis one. I don’t know if this counts as someone gerrymandering boundary lines per se but it sure doesn’t feel right.

And tangentially, Pawlenty drops a line about us “trying to afford a decent life”. Is that a problem here? The unemployment rate is 3.1% in Minnesota right now (compare to 4.1% nationally). That’s five points below what it was eight years ago. Even industrial labor (I don’t like the term “blue collar”) wages are increasing nationally. Is there increased poverty? Well, in 2017, the number was 533,000. In 2011, almost 600,000. Again we have a drop (of 11% — and we went from 10th place to 5th [source]). It doesn’t mean poverty should be ignored, but when Minnesota has the second lowest poverty rate in the United States, it’s hard to see it as a priority issue. His closing sentence (the one that’s most important because it’s what lingers in the mind) is that he’s “finally going to put those in the middle first.” … implying he wasn’t doing that before?

political cartoon healthcare bills

Here’s another: “Working-class Minnesotans are sick and tired of politics-as-usual”. NO. I want politics as usual. Please, take us back to politics as usual. Take me back to the times when I didn’t have to attend two separate marches to feel like I’m doing something about this maniacal tyranny. When white supremacists were ashamed of their beliefs and had to hide. When I didn’t want to punch Facebook in the face and I didn’t have to pay attention to Russia and there wasn’t a jaw-dropping news story every Friday. Take me back to when I wasn’t worried nuclear war could start with a tweet.

And lastly–immigration. It’s a “no-brainer” to make sure illegal immigrants aren’t getting government benefits. Well, sure, no one would argue with that. No one likes freeloaders. But is it actually a problem in Minnesota? We don’t have people sneaking across a border, so the immigrants we have here are legal. We’ve got a nice Hmong and Somalian population, two very different cultures that help us expand our horizons and increase perspective and empathy. This isn’t like Arizona or New Mexico. We’re not worried about the invasion of Canadians.

You know what I think? I think he’s just jumping on the GOP’s immigration platform because that’s the only issue to get a reaction out of anyone. It’s what Trump rode into the White House on.

donald trump political cartoon

Here’s how it sounds overall: he’s trying to imply there’s a problem where none exists (and that he’s the one to fix it). This sounds like how door-to-door salesmen did their thing back in the 1950s. Still exploiting the cult of personality. Focused on money, economy, and taxes. Not about advancing the human race, improving quality of life, or society as a whole. Immigration, a “middle-class squeeze”, and poverty are non-issues right now (in this state).

I’m not saying none of these issues aren’t problems. I’m saying there are bigger fish to fry. The mice in the kitchen aren’t as important as the stove on fire.

Next time: what I do care about.

What is the Point of the Sith?

hot sith woman star wars

What is the point of the Sith? They don’t seem to have a goal that their reaching towards, except for opposing the Jedi. Meaning they seem to be one-dimensional villains that only exist for the purpose of the story.

They act as a counterpart to the Jedi. In fact their credo exactly mirrors all their traits. No empathy, just ambition and power and victory. But to what end? What do they want? Keep in mind Sith is not the Galactic Empire. The empire wants control over all planets in the galaxy so they can have power/unity/order. Or so other planets with a resource can’t just say “mine, you can’t have”.

But the Sith is a philosophy/martial arts discipline, like being a Jedi. It has a credo, it has a beliefs, deities, temples, artifacts. Its main idea is obtaining of strength and power through the “dark side of the force”, meaning greed, hate, anger, and fear. It’s a very Klingon way of life–focus on fighting, victory, and passion. 

The thing about the Sith is that, instead of the Jedi who teach in collections and have a widespread population, there are only ever two Sith at one time. In the whole galaxy. Somehow they lasted a thousand years doing this, but this seems a real flawed way to establish a dominating force. You can’t exactly take over the galaxy with two people*. Not to mention that once you become a Sith, you’re either an apprentice scheming how to kill your master (which means your teaching will always end prematurely) or a master always worrying about when your apprentice is going to kill you. That’s no basis for a system of government.

*Yes, I know that Palpatine essentially did that, but he used political influence and minions in addition. He could have done that without being a Sith. I’m talking about the Sith as an entity in itself.

The Jedi have actual goals–peace and prosperity in the galaxy. But the Sith don’t seem to have goals. Or their goals are personal to the character, which still means the Sith simple exist to oppose the Jedi.

At first I was going to rant about Sith just being a one-dimensional villain. But maybe

I thought it was rather stupid to have an entity that exists solely to oppose the other party. Seems a wasteful life if your purpose is just to be the antithesis of this other guy. Then I heard about the “steak dinner”.

It’s the meeting that leaders of the Republican party had when Obama got elected in 2008. I mean, like, the day he was inaugurated. The oval office chair wasn’t even warmed yet, Obama was party-hopping, and they were making their counter-battle plan. What was that plan? To do the opposite of whatever Obama wanted.

For the sake of “their side” they had to be a united front and fight him on everything. Didn’t matter whether it made sense or not, whether it was good or not, if Obama wanted it, they didn’t that was the policy. They didn’t want to raise America up, they didn’t have an issue to push, they didn’t have a different morality to live by. They just wanted to oppose Barack Obama. If he said yes, they said no.

And the key was being united among all the party members on this. Everyone had to be in on it. For the sake of their team, every Republican had to click that “no” button when the president said “yes”. Their goal had nothing to do with America or the country or any political issue. It had to do with hurting the other guy. You didn’t win, so make it as hard for the other team as possible, no matter how petty it gets.

In other words, I thought portraying the Sith as simply opposing the Jedi was unrealistic… until I saw this. I guess it’s more plausible than I thought.

Why I Shall March

minnesota march for science

When Donald Trump became president in January, it became immediately apparent that this was not going to be a run-of-the-mill presidency. Iran-Contra scandals and blow jobs in the oval office–those are issues that reach far away and don’t affect me. Let the kings play their game of thrones, I have a family to maintain.

But this one’s different. I worried about George W. Bush, but he played a political game. This one has made promises that will affect my friends. They will worsen the lives of people I know, people I work with, creative people like artists and authors, even porn stars I like. To say nothing of making others suffer.

Granted, it’s appearing that the big braggy show won’t be as immediate (or even as constitutional) as thought before (given the failure of health care and the “Muslim ban”). But that’s because people are fighting. They’re going to town halls, they’re talking to representatives, they’re paying attention. Good for them. Those people are my heroes, because… I’m simply not capable of doing that. I’m too introverted. They say the most effective way to fight is to call your congressperson, but I could never do that. Yes, people more introverted than me have–there are even scripts you can read–but I just couldn’t. People have listed “step-by-step” what to do so that it’s easy. But I HATE the phone.

I could write a letter. Not even an e-mail, but one that’s typed and stamped and everything. But the written word is too easy to ignore. You could write pages and pages and they end up in the circular file. But I’ve got to do something.

It would be easy to sit down as I’ve always done: watch the world
pass, go to work every day, eat a good breakfast, and wear my seat belt.
But that’s not what a hero would do. It’s not what’s right to do. I
have to show my daughters that being a good person is important in
day-to-day, but to enact change, it takes sacrifice.

Now
I’m saying what I’m doing is, in the grand scheme of things, any great
feat. It’s no Rosa Parks or even a Million Man March. It’s no MS
Walk-a-thon. I’m not saying what I’m doing will affect anything. But
it’s a hurdle for me. At work, I can go for days at a time without
saying a word to anyone.

But ever since Trump was
elected, I feel like there’s a bad guy out there to fight against. There’s a Emperor Palpatine/Nurse Ratched/Red Skull/Henry Potter out there, the kind heroes fight against. Even
if it’s just sending a message. Or I’ll just be one of those people who
said nothing when they came for the Jews/Muslims/Klingons/what-have-you.
I’ve got to do something, even if it means being another head in the
crowd. That’s one more head, one more voice. I read that the “tax
march” had some effect of irritating him. If that’s all the March for
Science can do, that’s enough for me.

A lot of people have compared what’s happening to Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. I think this trivializes the situation a bit (one is a real person who can affect real life, the other is a revenant with no nose who can talk to snakes). Even J.K. Rowling said that Voldemort was “nowhere near as bad” as Trump. Probably because the things Trump does are real. Also, Voldemort never targeted specific races or genders. He was never nepotistic. He never used his power to accumulate wealth for himself (which is kinda obsolete when you got magic anyway). And he never wasted time at his restaurant or golf course.

But the thing about books is that they are “life-simulators”. They allow us to escape into a totally different situation and see what would happen. And sometimes what should be done about it. And in this, the similarities can’t be dismissed: a totalitarian taking power, who advocates torture, removal and blockade of “undesirable” foreign others, who favors loyalty over capability, focused on “winners vs. losers”, spreading misinformation. And the theme of Harry Potter is “doing what’s right versus doing what’s easy”.

It’s thankful
that he is only one man, and that the point of Congress and the Supreme
Court is to override when necessary (and they’ve done so sometimes) but
the partisanship is ridiculous. “My constituents and basic morality
disagree with what you say, but you’re on my team so that’s more
important. You may be an asshole, but you’re my asshole.” There
must be accountability. If there is not, that’s how we end up with Kings
who think their right to rule was given by God so no one can protest.
You end up with Catholic priests allowed to continue molestations. You have police taking unjustifiable actions with their firearms.

I hope you enjoyed my ranty thoughts about this. The fact is, this has been an internally raging battle within myself for the past four months — should I go, would I go, could I go. It’s a big step for me–it’s very outside my comfort zone. But, as all the motivational posters say, do things outside your comfort zone. Do things that scare you. You regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did. You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take. Jesus saves, but Gretzky rebounds, he shoots, he scores.