Sunday, April 28, 2019

On moving to Patreon

I will be moving the posts you have been seeing on Blogger to Patreon.  I do not plan to put all of my posts behind the Patreon paywall.

I am doing this to enable some income from people who want to support me.  I am putting power in my reader's hands.  I promise that whatever time is freed up from this income will be spent at the keyboard.  There's nothing I want more in life.  If no one signs up, I'll continue to write as much as I do now, it will just be published over at Patreon instead of Blogger for the foreseeable future.

For example, I support Linda Tirado on Patreon.  Linda is an excellent and insightful writer on the intersection of poverty and politics in America because she has been poor, very poor, herself.  Instead of co-opting her views to work for the man, she has clawed her own way to success and fame following her own rules and working for her own purposes.  She doesn't charge her readers for her writing, she just gives them the option of chipping in.  She's a role model for me.

My plan is to provide (almost exclusively) free access via Patreon with a few articles behind the paywall (all subscribers, even at $1/month will see them).  I am pay-walling my sensitive content only--pieces I might not want a nosy HR person to stumble upon with an automated search when I apply for a job.  My posts about sex and cannabis probably shouldn't be so readily searchable while I still may have a future in the more conservative pockets of health care.

Many of you read my writing because it is e-mailed to you by MailChimp from a link you probably filled out on my web page (if not, see below).  This works auto-magically for me.  An email has been going out at 4 am local time with every new post.

The same thing will happen with my Patreon posts.

  • Your MailChimp email subscription will continue to work.  It will stay free.
  • If you're seeing this post on Blogger at the top of my feed and are wondering why I've suddenly gone quiet, check Patreon.
  • I want money for my writing so I can spend more time doing it.  If I can someday support myself 100% as a writer I will consider my life, and everything I've ever done to get to where I am, a satisfying success.  It really is that simple.  If it never happens, there will simply be less writing available after I die.

Thanks for reading.  Please continue to do so even if you are disinterested in parting with a penny of your money for it.  Without you, I can't be a writer, at all, even in my spare time.  Thanks.

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

On the Shortest Way Home by Pete Buttigieg

This was not the book I was expecting to read.  I am both very pleasantly-surprised by what it turned out to be and also fearful that it's not exactly what a 2020 Presidential hopeful needs out there in the public sphere.

To the latter fear, this is neither a book with a plethora of policy strategies nor does it articulate a "message" on the scale that a Presidential campaign demands.  Mayor Buttigieg does tell a number of stories about how he handled being mayor of South Bend which do lend themselves to reasonable expectations concerning what he might do in the White House, but I don't have an idea, for example, about what he considers reasonable gun control, wise immigration policy or exactly what he thinks should be done first to the Affordable Care Act to address it's many uncontroversial problems.

I do come away with the faith that whatever he decides to do will probably be something I can support, but frankly I had that feeling before I picked up the book. 

The book surprised in this way.  Mayor Buttigieg has led a admirable life thus far, he is a modern Renaissance Man, he has talents that range from music to being a polyglot, a fan of literature and a keen observer of statistics and evidence-based decision-making.  Also, Mayor Buttigieg and I share a predilection for holding ourselves and our work publicly-accountable mostly because it's the best way to kick ourselves in the ass and get stuff done. 

He may be the closest thing to an anti-Trump in the public sphere since Mr Rogers died.  He describes a life that recognizes he has made mistakes and will make more.  He acts with personal courage consistently, from service in the Navy Reserves that caused him to be deployed to Afghanistan to coming out as gay on the eve of re-election by writing a prominent editorial in the newspaper.  

He came out as gay in his early thirties, only a few short years ago, to live authentically after it occurred to him in Afghanistan that life was not a dress rehearsal.  He didn't do it for applause, he did it because he wanted to have a boyfriend.

Mayor Buttigieg and his husband Chasten are every bit as lovely as Barack and Michelle Obama.  Chasten is a teacher who originally trained as a nurse.  Chasten was essentially his first real boyfriend, they met via phone apps, but Mayor Buttigieg asked him to get married after a long courtship.  I am as curious about their sex life as I am about the Obama's sex life, which is to say, not at all.

I want this guy to be President, but honestly I am comfortable with all of the truly viable candidates (other than the incumbent), even the Republican William Weld.  This book is a good way to get to know Mayor Buttitgieg, but frankly you are probably going to hear every single story in this book on the campaign trail in the next few months.  It contains a trove of material for doing political radio, TV interviews and podcasts.  I've already heard him, with Rachel Maddow, lifting parables directly from this book.

If you're a fan, and want to get up to speed, it is a well-written book that is easy to read.

Monday, April 8, 2019

On the Jihad of Pete Buttigieg

Pete for POTUS
I will remember the moment at about 11 minutes into this 20 minute clip, when he explains why marriage equality is a moral issue in his life, as the moment he became my candidate.

You owe it to yourself to put twenty minutes aside and listen to this speech I linked.  He was addressing an LGBTQ fundraiser.  What he describes as his war with himself as he was growing up is a beautiful expression of the Islamic concept of jihad (which I shamelessly exploited as click-bait)  Tears streamed down my face as I watched it.

Objectivity is over, this is my candidate.  Sorry if you were looking forward to a long public deliberation on my part.  I feel pretty strongly about this, I anticipate active involvement in his campaign.   I am no longer an observer of the 2020 Presidential race, I intend to participate.

Friday, April 5, 2019

On one of my own (DataCamp)

DataCamp (sorry, I won't link them, Google them while they still exist), an online platform for teaching programming and analysis, announced today in a vain, rambling blog post that they are a better company now that they ran off a talented employee, hired a bunch of consultants and lawyers for protection, and let everyone know how sorry they are for all this bad publicity created by one of their executives unable to hold himself accountable for sexual misconduct.

I don't know who the executive is.  I don't know what happened, but lots of people do.  It happened at a company function. The aggressor, clearly a principal at the company, is not in possession of the modicum of personal integrity necessary to make themselves, or the relevant circumstances of the misconduct, known.

I know who DataCamp's executives are, so I suspect them all.  At the very least they are all complicit in what happened today, so they have lost all my respect.  I spent some time today deleting my paid account, cancelling plans to attend conferences Datacamp sponsors, and unfollowing various associated accounts on Twitter.

I know who the aggrieved employee is because she took to Twitter today to announce that Datacamp had sprung their bit of PR filth on her.  They assaulted her all over again by not letting her know that they would be throwing shade at her today for seeking remedy for the assault on a schedule that suited her healing process.

You know who else could have addressed all this earlier, like the very next day?  The miscreant responsible for the assault.  When I owe someone an apology, I don't wait for them to come to me looking for it.  I find them, make it, and make amends where I can.

DataCamp has been a home platform for so many R leaders I admire and respect I am left wondering whom I can trust now.  I wish I could join R Ladies.

I wanted to believe that my beloved community of open source programmers wouldn't be a safe place for sexual miscreants.  Here I was, sending hundreds of my hard-earned dollars to this organization and evangelizing it to my friends and colleagues.  Ugh, I want a shower.

If you use DataCamp. stop.  The community of my fellow R programmers and teachers who unfortunately misplaced themselves there will take another form.  This can't stop the community.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

On being uncomfortable

Throughout the day, as I interact with a variety of friends, co-workers, and strangers, I am sometimes uncomfortable.  My monkey-mind, the endless prattle of egocentric observations and judgments about the world around me, likes some interaction I have with people and doesn't like others.

I am reglarly uncomfortable with physical contact (or lack of physical contact) that seems out of place.  Sometimes it seems out of place because my awareness and attention are in a different place.  Sometimes it is uncomfortable because someone strays close to my boundaries.  Sometimes it is uncomfortable because the contact, or even sometimes the lack of it, seems forced and artificial in the context.

Sometimes I am self-conscious of my grooming, maybe it's been a long day, or I've recently been physically active.  Sometimes I irrationally fear the exposure of my own desires and attitudes concerning the person in question by holding a hug too long or not long enough, etc. 

Like having sex, there are hundreds of reasons to be physically affectionate with someone, and only a few of those (among the most popular, no doubt) involve wanting it.  I generally don't think a lot beforehand when I initiate contact, but I would guess that I most often simply want to convey something to the other person and words feel inadequate or simply would take too much time.

Now, in what I see clearly as an orchestrated political attack on Joe Biden, everyone is coming out of the woodwork with their creepy Uncle Joe stories as if this indicates he is out of step with modern values concerning affection.  I don't know Joe Biden, so I don't have an opinion on him, that's not what this is about.  I have opinion about what I see as the covert motivations for this tactic.

The power of the pull and push of sexual interactions cannot be overstated.  This mysterious force motivates population patterns, commerce, governmental structures, and every category of extreme human misbehavior from theft to to fraud to murder.  Since human beings have organized into communities, these forces for control, conquest, and gratification have never been settled.  Reasonable people disagree on what behavior is proper and what is not, they always have, and likely always will.

How do you drive someone into a gotcha "when did you stop beating your wife" corner?  Self-righteous outrage over differences we all have with other as if there's a set of correct, agreed upon standards on physical affection on which all reasonable people agree.  Bullshit.  There's not. 

I have friends who literally jump into my lap and hang all over me when we see each other, I have friends (whom I would take a bullet for) I fist-bump at most.  Sometimes the hugging and kissing is a bit uncomfortable because it is too much, sometimes the fist bump is uncomfortable because it is not enough.  I never make an issue of it, I regard these experiences as part of the inevitable uncertainty of dealing with humans.

I am also uncomfortable when I talk to someone whose views, values and ethics substantially differ from my own.  I don't like talking to people who think socialist policies are necessarily corrupt and wasteful.  I don't like talking to people who believe that free market regulation is anti-capitalist.  I really don't like talking to people who think allocation of healthcare resources should be controlled by private profit-making enterprises.  Their views make my skin crawl.  But, I listen to them, I give their vacuous polemics space to breathe as long as they do not stray into extremes and personal insult.

In much the same way, I dismiss whatever discomfort arises out of a mis-matched encounter with physical contact as long as it doesn't stray into extremes.  That doesn't mean I am retreating from my own standards, it means that I respect other people's reasonable freedom to be who they are.

Too touchy?  Ok.  Got it.  Physically distant?  Cool.  I always recognize that on another day I may have reacted differently.  Consistency is not my middle name.

This is the best we can do.    We cannot support the beloved community if we insist on having things exactly our own way every time.  This is even more true for democratic political governance according to the system we have in this country.  I cannot insist that those who enjoy my vote and campaign donations agree with me.  That's too much.

So, this is a sorry, sorry way for the democratic party to be conducting itself this campaign season.  Are we really so small that we exclude all but those who echo precisely our personal values?  What kind of leaders are we going to have if we insist that they be cookie-cutters of our own life experiences and decisions?

Grow up, people.  We have made a welcome change in our society that makes it safer for sexually harassed and assaulted people to defend themselves.  This doesn't mean that every time someone avails themself of these new changes that they are correct in doing so.  They're not.  They're being abusive. 

None of the reported incidents rises to the level of extreme behavior.  In every case it is a simple mismatch of personal contexts, like those that I encounter, dismiss, and live-through daily.

Should Joe Biden alter his behavior?  I would.  In fact, I have. The trauma of being falsely accused of sexual harassment at work ten years ago forever changed me.  I now never say anything to a female co-worker that I wouldn't say to a male, and I never touch anyone.  I haven't turned into some cold fish, I just worked out new ways of expressing my affection for my co-workers, despite the fact that a hand on the shoulder would often be so much more authentic and direct.

Does Joe Biden being on the touchy-feely side have anything to do with his fitness to be President?

No.  Stop it.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

On early impressions of the Presidential candidates.

Let's be clear.  In 1976, before I could vote, I was a supporter of Gerald Ford's.  In 1980, I worked on John Anderson's campaign. In 1984, I supported Jesse Jackson.  In 1988, Jesse Jackson again (not for any racial agenda, but for his anti-poverty agenda).  In 1992, I was an early supporter of Bob Kerry, but I was influenced by the president of the UT-Austin democratic party student organization, Paul Begala, to switch my allegiance to Bill Clinton.

1992 is notable because it's the only time I supported the winner from early in the nomination process.

In 1996, I had my own Trump-voter moment and persisted in my support of Bill Clinton because I wanted to believe that despite my disgust for his demonization of Monica Lewinsky his policies were "worth it."  I did not work in the campaign that year, a first for a Presidential campaign in my life.  I remember thinking we could do worse than Bob Dole.

In 2000, I found fault with Gore for the distance (and his smug holier-than-thou tone) that he placed between himself and Clinton, and I frankly found Bill Bradley to be a more agreeable candidate.  I worked for the Democratic party that cycle, not for the campaign. In 2004, I supported Howard Dean, even post scream, and continued the kind of work I did in 2000 for the party (volunteer organization online).

In 2008, I was an early supporter of Bill Richardson but I switched to Obama when he did.  In 2012, I supported Obama, largely because of the Affordable Care Act.  In 2016, for the first time in my life, I contributed the individual maximum to the Sanders campaign.

If you're wondering, Hillary Clinton had my full-throated support for her 2000 Senate race.  I wish she still held that seat.  She was a gifted legislator.   She did not enjoy my early support for the Presidential nomination (in any of her campaigns) because I don't think she ever came to terms, in public, with her position of privilege by virtue of marriage.  I don't only mean political privilege, but personal privilege, financial privilege, and a sense of baked-in institutional privilege.

This lack of introspection makes me suspicious of anyone's capacity for excellence as an executive (while not posing so much of a barrier for an advocate or legislator).   This is why I wish she was still in the Senate, serving alongside Chuck Schumer as my Senator.  I know this criticism of her seems comically reductionist while we have a blithering idiot as President, but those were different times.

I wrote all that to prepare you for evaluating the awesome power of my choice in 2020.

My first choice has already dropped out, you've never heard of him, his name was Richard Ojeda.  He was from West Virginia and a strong union supporter.  He dropped out because he wasn't willing to take money from people for what he knew would be an unsuccessful bid, confirming his worthiness in my view.  I only bought a t-shirt from him, but it was $30, so I hope he got some money from that.

I sent the next money of this campaign season to Amy Klobuchar (herein and going forward, sending money or putting in volunteer time is what I mean by "supporting" a campaign--its not thoughts and prayers).  Senator Klobuchar and I have some distance between us politically; I am a proud and unashamed democratic socialist (the famed congresswoman from the 14th district in New York thoroughly represents my views though I live in the 13th).

I support Senator Klobuchar at this time because I think she would make a good executive.  She is introspective and possesses the humility necessary for effective governance as an executive.  That's what I am looking for in a President, not someone who parrots my latest opinions.  I want my policy advocates to be well-represented in the Congress; I am happy enough with Rep. Espaillat, Senator Schumer, and Senator Gillibrand (in that order).

So, I'm sorry Amy, I support you.  However, that support is provisional as I learn more about Pete Buttigieg.  So, there's hope, I still may switch, so you still have a shot at winning the nomination.

As for the rest of them (one of whom will likely win the nomination), here's the bottom lines:

  • Joe Biden - only for one term, you're old.  It happens to us all.
  • Cory Booker - you're out in front of your skis.  I'd like you as a VP.
  • Pete Buttigieg - get your ass on TV.  We need you.  I'd like to take you off this list and write you some checks.
  • Julian Castro - your campaign is a transparent grab for political significance.  Please stop using our primary system this way.  I like your politics, but this is silly, a waste of resources, and helps no one.
  • John Delany - see Julian Castro
  • Tulsi Gabbard -- see Julian Castro
  • Kirsten Gillibrand -- see Julian Castro
  • Kamala Harris -- you have a lot to answer for as a prosecutor.  Your campaign is worthy, but stand behind your positions, not your ethnicity.
  • John Hickenlooper -- you haven't made the case.
  • John Inslee -- hang in there.  You're a truth-telling Cassandra.  Frankly we need you in Congress working with Rep Ocasio-Cortez.
  • Wayne Messam - you haven't made the case.
  • Beto O'Rourke - you remind me of Barack Obama in 2004.  It's too soon.  Do something first. 
  • Bernie Sanders - see Joe Biden.  We had our chance, my good friend.
  • Elizabeth Warren - Please please please hang on to your Senate seat.  We need you there.
  • Marianne Williamson - I love you more than I can say, but see Julian Castro.
  • Andrew Yang - you haven't made the case.

Given my history of picking winners, the ultimate Democratic nominee will likely be in this last group.  They will likely find their way to the nomination without my support.  Just FYI

Monday, March 25, 2019

On the Barr letter about the Mueller report.

I believe, at this time, AG Barr will only succeed in delaying the report.  The longer the delay, the more that is probably in it that worries the 45th President.

Conspiracy is hard to prove,  When targets and witnesses in an investigation are living with a credible threat of assassination, as everyone involved in the matter Robert Mueller was investigating is (from Putin), it's going to be nigh impossible to prove a case of conspiracy to the beyond a reasonable doubt standard in a US court of law.  That's just US justice.  We don't ask people to risk their own lives in order to get to the truth.

That doesn't mean I don't believe it.  I do.  I think there was a direct conspiracy.  I also believe Donald Trump is too ignorant, self-absorbed, and insecure to have been anything but a useful actor, and perhaps unwittingly, but he cooperated with Russian security operatives who conducted a criminal theft of private information from US citizens.

I never really bought the narrative that this was some elaborately subtle back-room political strategy he cooked up.  He's too peripatetic to invest the patience required to conduct even a simple and straightforward international conspiracy.  He's dumb, people.  Really dumb.

Obstruction of Justice is a different thing.  It is also hard to prove, because one has to also prove intent as well.  There's not a manslaughter version of obstruction of justice.  You have to have tried to obstruct, meant to obstruct, and knew the obstruction was illegal.  All of that has to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  People have to hear you say those things, usually on tape (like Nixon), for it to rise to level one needs for a true bill from a grand jury, much less a conviction from a finder of fact.

Mueller clearly has evidence of obstruction, I have an easy time believing it is almost impossible (beyond digging up a tape if there is one) to prove the intent to obstruct when your target is intellectually vapid, emotionally volatile and perhaps mildly mentally ill.  No one knows what someone like that actually intends to do, including the person themself.

It would additionally be difficult to prove that someone as thoroughly uneducated and unread as the 45th President knows the criminal code well enough to realize obstruction is a crime, until someone informs him after the fact.  He is not an encyclopedia of any kind of knowledge.  He is utterly bereft of the intellectual discipline required to learn anything in depth.

The remedy for all this is removal from office, that would be done by the Senate, if the House decides to send them to case.  Direct removal from office is not something Mueller can do, and if he brought a case to the grand jury and got a true bill, he might well lose in court, which would be a protection against impeachment.  So, here we are.

Be patient.  Vote.