Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Realpolitik’ Category

Voting, Nightmare Scenarios, and the 2020 Election

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Folks, this past week, for me at least, has been one of great dismay.

After the death of ground-breaking Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), didn’t even wait a full day before saying “her seat will be filled as soon as possible.” (This is my best paraphrase of the many things he did say.) As I said in my last blog, this is contrary to what McConnell did the last time a Justice — in that case, Antonin Scalia — passed away in an election year, as at that time he more or less filibustered the nomination of then-President Obama’s choice, Merrick Garland, for the Supreme Court.

But that wasn’t all that was so disheartening out of Washington, DC, this past week.

Nope. We also got a very oddly worded, meandering comment by President Donald Trump (a Republican, in case anyone has forgotten), saying that he felt the ballots are a “disaster” and that he shouldn’t have to worry about leaving. (This was in response to a question about the peaceful transfer of power, something that has been a hallmark of American democracy since its inception.)

Because of that, a good friend of mine discussed with me the following scenario, which comes straight out of the Constitution: Trump is apparently leaning hard on Article 2, which would in effect throw the election (if disputed) to the House of Representatives. Every state there gets one and only one vote. And there are more Republican-led states than not, so it’s quite possible that even with a landslide victory for Joe Biden (a Democrat), Trump could still conceivably stay in office.

My response to this, aside from incredulousness of course, was as following: “If there’s a landslide for Biden and his VP pick, Kamala Harris, there’s likely to be a Democratic Senate along with a Democratic House. Trump will be impeached in short order, for pulling something like that, and he’ll have bought himself a maximum of six to nine months. What’s the point of that?”

My friend assured me that to Trump, every day in office counts. It gives him and his family more chances to amass power (and, I suppose, wealth). And, of course, the Constitution doesn’t allow for any sitting President to be arrested on any charges, anywhere in the world…mostly because the rather naïve belief was that anyone terrible enough to be charged with anything would be impeached in short order, and then no longer out of reach of the legal system.

(Ah, the innocence of the Constitutional framers. They could not have conceived of the situation of 2020, nor the naked partisanship of the Republican Party as led by Trump and McConnell. They knew naked partisanship, mind; how not? But they didn’t necessarily understand that some people are just immoral, and will grasp power for its own ends just because. Or maybe they did, but figured there would be enough good people to oppose such a power grab in the Senate…but woe betide us, as there aren’t.)

The idea that my vote, your vote, your parents’ votes, your friends’ votes, and even your enemies’ votes won’t be likely to be fairly counted because counting the votes is not in the current President’s best interest bothers me greatly. It is undemocratic and unAmerican. And it also flies in the face of Trump’s followers, because most of them voted for him believing he would be a capable President and behave as Presidents do…that is, if they get voted out, they leave, peaceably, and let the next President take over.

Even though Trump did not win the popular vote last time, he did win in the Electoral College. This still reflects that, at that time, Trump was respecting conventional norms; his was a legal way through, and also an ethical way through. It wasn’t a preferred way through — most Presidents prefer to win the popular vote and the electoral college, if they can — but it was both legal and ethical. And he did win many votes, though not the most, as Hillary Clinton led by over three million votes overall.

In the situation I’ve described, where the election is not in doubt and Biden has won by swamping Donald Trump, but there are many legal challenges — so many, a slate of electors from each state cannot be chosen in a timely manner — we’d be thrown to Article 2 of the Constitution. And while that is completely legal, it is not ethical. Nor is it moral, to overturn the overwhelming will of the voters like that, which is why up until now it’s never been tried.

This year, it may be, though. And the prospect of it vexes me greatly.

The thing is, something tells me this is being thrown out as a red herring. It’s being thrown out to suppress the will of the voters. It’s being thrown out there to make people believe their vote doesn’t matter. That nothing they do will ever matter. And that there’s no way to overcome the Trump Machine/Republican Party as led by Trump/McConnell…even by voting them out.

My belief, therefore, is that we MUST vote. (I want everyone to vote, even if you still believe Trump is wonderful in every way and deserves a second term despite his obvious mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States.) We have to vote. We have to show what our will is, and trust that there are enough good people out there to overcome the bad ones — whomever or whatever they may be, and whomever and whatever they try to do — and do our civic duty despite all efforts to depress us and make us too despondent to do anything at all.

And if worse comes to worst, and Trump stays in due to using Article 2 of the Constitution to blatantly disrespect the will of the people, I’ll have to trust that somehow, some way, the ship will be righted. And that we will not slide further into autocracy, much less a straight-up dictatorship, with a second, undeserved in this scenario, presidency.

What do you think of my nightmare scenario? Tell me about it in the comments!

Justice Ginsburg Dies, and the U.S. Goes Crazy…**

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**at least, the internet world. (Are there any others? /sarcasm)

The last few days have been surreal. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a trailblazing lawyer and U.S. Supreme Court judge, has passed away at age 87. She was possibly one of the few jurists in the nation most people trusted; they might not like her, or like her viewpoints, but they trusted her to come at them from a judicial/legal standpoint. And her death is a great loss to the nation, much less to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS, for short).

“But Barb, all you’ve explained so far is that Justice Ginsburg has died. What is this part about the United States supposedly going crazy about?”

It’s simple, dear readers. She was needed at this time and place. Despite her advanced age, and her long-time battle with cancer, her clear-headed nature and trustworthiness were a Godsend for the American people. Her death means that the current President of the United States (POTUS, for short), Donald Trump, can now appoint a new Supreme Court Justice even though there’s only forty-five days until the next presidential election.

Which wouldn’t seem that bad, until you consider your recent history.

In 2016, the Republican Party forced then-President Obama to hold a SCOTUS seat vacant until the next election. They did nothing for nine months, at all. And they said it was because they wanted the people to decide.

Now, the Republican Party, which is in power, feels they can replace a judge on the Supreme Court with less than two months to go until the next election. Their reasoning (rather spurious, to my mind) is that last time, the Rs held only the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, not the Presidency. This time, they hold the Senate and the Presidency (but not the House).

If you fail to see why this is acceptable, join the club.

**The only thing that comes to mind when I think about this whole situation is Disturbed’s song “Down with the Sickness.” (Just felt I should throw that in there. Moving along…)

Me, I see it as rank hypocrisy. And here’s why…Mitch McConnell, who was the Senate Majority Leader in 2016 and is still the Senate Majority Leader today, seemingly wants to do this so fast because Trump could lose this election. But if McConnell and the Rs can ram through another judge before Trump leaves office, they can affect laws for decades to come.

And power, after all, comes before consistency. /sarcasm (mine)

Note that it usually takes far more than forty-five days to find a qualified person (usually someone who’s already a judge, but not always), get that person through Senate confirmation (even when your party is in power, this can be an ordeal), and onto SCOTUS. But who the Hell cares about finding the right justice for SCOTUS, when it’s all about the power?

(And yes, this time, I wrote that without any sarcasm at all.)

I can tell you one thing. The people of the United States know what hypocrisy looks like. Tastes like. Smells like. And most, regardless of party, do not want to partake in hypocritical things or use hypocritical means for any reason.

Why? Because most of them have endured this in their own lives. And they know it’s wrong.

Plus, they know that in general, no one party stays in power forever. And if one party — in this case, the Rs — treats the other party (in this case, the Ds) badly, that means it’s justified — or at least justifiable — if the Ds later treat the Rs with as much vitriol and condescension as they’ve just seen themselves.

Because make no mistake about it. Justice Ginsburg died yesterday evening. And today, McConnell has already said he will get President Trump’s nominee a fair hearing. In the next forty-five days.

Yep. “Down with the sickness” is the only thing that keeps going through my head, here. Moving on…

Anyway, I do not believe in hypocrisy. And I do think it should take any party or any person more than forty-five days to put a new judge on SCOTUS as it’s a lifetime appointment.

And in the midst of all this, Justice Ginsburg’s remarkable life is being given short shrift. As is her stated final wish, as dictated by her granddaughter, which was, “Please wait to fill my seat until after the election.”

To say I find that infuriating, much less maddening, much less frustrating, much less despair and anguish-inducing, is an extreme understatement.

So, for those of you trying not to go crazy right now, I want you to think of this. The wishes of the dead usually are respected if they make sense. And in this case, they do.

I also want you to think about this: We, as people, need to stand up and say, “No more of this nonsense, please.” Because if it’s wrong for a Democratic President to fill a SCOTUS seat in an election year (nine months out), it’s just as wrong for a Republican President to fill a SCOTUS seat in an election year (forty-five days out).

And if this is allowed, don’t come back to me and say, when the next Democratic President takes office, “Oh, he shouldn’t do that! It’s hypocritical!” Because you’ll have ventured all your dignity, ethics, and morals already, and you’ll have no philosophical “leg” to stand on. At all.

Language, Editing, and THUNDER AND LIGHTNING

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Folks, my most recently edited book is Chris Nuttall and Leo Champion’s THUNDER AND LIGHTNING, about first contact with aliens gone spectacularly wrong. I was very happy with this book, because I thought it showcased Chris’s gift for political machinations of the interplanetary sort plus Leo’s gift for the nuts and bolts of warfare. Putting them together in one book was a worthwhile challenge for me as an editor, and one I welcomed.

Both of these men did what they did best, and did it superbly. And I was not disappointed.

thunder and lightning cover

But, you must be sitting there asking yourselves, “Barb, what is this about language? Why are you talking about that with regards to editing and THUNDER AND LIGHTNING?”

Some of what I’m going to say is blindingly obvious, but here goes: When you’re writing about soldiers, you cannot take the high road all the time. And you certainly can’t use what I derisively call “sparkly language,” in that you dumb-down what soldiers say during a war.

Chris and Leo’s soldiers start off in a nasty fight in Africa against terrorists they call “the Wreckers.” These Wreckers are abysmal human beings who, like others in the past, have corrupted a holy book — in this case, the Koran — for their own purposes. The soldiers call them “radical Islamicists,” which is not that dissimilar to what is said overseas now in the Middle East or in other war zones.

And there’s a reason they do this. The reason is very simple. They are fighting a war. They cannot afford to see these people as worthy of redemption, for the most part, and they have many reasons not to see them that way either as the behavior of the Wreckers is truly abhorrent. (Hell, they even take female slaves.)

So, when I saw that, as an editor, I left it alone. I’ve heard from my own cousin, who’s served overseas any number of times in the Middle East as a member of the Armed Services, that what’s said about those we’re fighting (ISIS now, Al Qaeda earlier) is far worse than that.

But will some people be offended by this term? Probably.**

My job, though, as an editor, is not to dumb down what anyone says or feels even if I think it’s something someone out there will dislike. My job is to make that soldier sound and feel real. So you can get caught up in the story. And keep going.

If that soldier says some things you don’t like, well…I urge you to read James Clavell’s KING RAT. There’s lots of stuff that’s not said in “sparkly language,” but if it were, you’d never buy into it.

And you shouldn’t.

Anyway, THUNDER AND LIGHTNING isn’t just about soldiers. It’s about an idealistic woman scientist, Samra, who first finds evidence of aliens we later come to know as Oghaldzon (kind of like three-legged deer), and believes that any aliens coming must be peaceful. (She’s wrong, but you can see why she’d believe otherwise.) And what happens when she finds out the Oghaldzon are almost completely incomprehensible to humans, and humans to the Oghaldzon in terms, is scary, difficult to read, and sometimes incredibly sad, in turns.

We see her in lighter days, when she’s just a scientist at work. We see her finding the aliens’ signal (a fleet) in space, the scientific high point of her career.

And then, we see her disastrous fall, and with her fall, the attempted subjugation of Earth.

We also see a cyborg commando soldier, who saves Samra and stays by her side as they try, somehow, to stay alive and hope for better days. (Perhaps the commando is hedging his bets. Or waiting for a better opportunity. But it’s important to know that without him being there, Samra likely wouldn’t have a reason to fight so hard.)

Along the way, we meet numerous others. Some are politicians. Some are just average Joes. Some are Rockrats — that is, asteroid miners, extremely isolationist in outlook and incredibly hard-headed, to boot.

We need every last one of them to come together, in whatever ways they can, or we cannot save our own solar system from the Oghaldzon.

And along the way, the Oghaldzon are found to be, oddly enough, a different type of idealist entirely. But their idealism doesn’t match ours by any standard, and that is part of why we end up in a protracted war.

I don’t want to spoil the outcome of the book. So I will stop there.

Just know that as an editor, I maximized everything I could for the sake of realism, verisimilitude, and dammit all, for the sake of a damned good read. That is my job.

And if you read the book, and you like the book, do tell Leo and Chris that you enjoyed it. (You can come tell me, too. I’d enjoy that, also.) Reviews matter.

(I know that from personal experience. But I digress.)

In other words, when I edit, I try to find the authors’ voices. And I believe I did exactly what I should, to make THUNDER AND LIGHTNING the best it could be, in the hopes that people would feel, think, and enjoy the book and tell others.

Or in shorter form: Sparkly language, get lost.

—–

**Note that I, myself, have a Koran and have read it many times. My late husband admired the Sufi Muslims, and often called himself a “Zen Sufi Pagan.” And Chris Nuttall himself was exposed to all sorts of different religions when he lived in Malaysia, certainly including Islam, and knows, as I do, that people come in all flavors in all religions: that is, followers of the prophet Mohammad are mainly very good people.

Those who’d chain and enslave women, though, are hardly that. And if they’re using Islam as a way to make that palatable to their (mostly male) believers, that is disgusting.

There are bad apples in any bunch. These Wreckers definitely fit the bill for the type of people who’d try to turn religion to their own ends, rather than live in loving kindness and generosity, as I believe Mohammad truly wanted.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 19, 2018 at 6:45 am

Insist on Facts, Please

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Folks, as I watch the wrangling in Washington, DC, I get more and more frustrated.

The Republicans don’t think anything they do is wrong. So whatever the current President of the United States, Donald Trump, says or does must automatically be right.

And the Democrats don’t think anything they do is wrong, either. So whatever they say must be right, too.

What this does is alienate literally everyone. Because no one takes responsibility for anything. And no one ever admits wrongdoing.

And I’m tired of it.

The thing is, as I watch all this nonsense, I want to remind you of one thing: No matter what is being said, get the facts.

Insist on facts, please.

Do not allow your own biases to be confirmed or denied unless and until you have facts.

And when you see something like a release of a memo by one party (as reportedly will happen within days) about the FBI supposedly doing something wrong, where a whole bunch of stuff can’t be confirmed or denied due to being classified — when the memo by the other party is blocked by the party in power (as the Republicans are going to release the memo authored by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, but won’t release the memo authorized by Democrats) — you must absolutely, positively insist upon facts.

If one party — in this case the Ds — says that the Justice Department and/or the FBI should at least be consulted before releasing the memo due to possible classified information being there, and that the other party — in this case, the Rs — refuses to even consult with the professionals in the area, that is deeply troubling.

And it looks like facts are being ignored, at least from here.

Still. Even now, when all sorts of things look wrong and are annoying and frustrating and nonsensical, get the facts. Get as many facts as you can, before you condemn.

So, while I continue to condemn tribalism and reflexive thinking — if you’re an R, everything the Rs do is good (even if it’s not), or if you’re a D, everything the Ds do is good (even if it’s not) — I urge you to be smart, be prudent, refuse to be snowed, and dammit, to get the facts before you make up your mind. (Please?)

Unsettled Times

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Folks, the times, they are unsettled. (OK, Bob Dylan, it isn’t. But it does happen to be true.)

We have unrest here in Wisconsin, as there’s an important trial going on in Milwaukee that, depending on its outcome, may set off another round of riots and looting and fires. (Last year, I wrote a post called “Milwaukee Burning” about that, I believe.)

We have unrest throughout the United States for various reasons. Some comes down to how our politicians continue to make the same mistakes, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats (right now, the GOP is in the barrel over their mishandling of Trumpcare, otherwise known as the AHCA), some because of the bombastic nature of our current President, Donald Trump (a man Hillary Clinton quite correctly called “unfit” due to Trump’s willingness to shoot from the Tweet at any hour of the day or night). Some is because we’ve possibly forgotten we have more in common with each other than not…

But I think a lot of it is because too many people are working jobs that are below their ability levels. They’re not making the money they need to pay their bills, much less have any sort of decent quality of life. Way too many people work so many hours, they barely see their children, spouses, or any of their friends, all because they’re trying hard to stay ahead of their bills.

This is called “income instability.” It is not easy to deal with. At all.

Historically, when things like this happen — too many people either out of work entirely or working too many hours for too little money — we end up with a great deal of unrest.

Or, as I put it above, unsettled times.

It’s not easy to live in such times. There’s a lot of inequality out there, whether it’s income inequality, racial inequality, the fight for LGBTQ rights…and then, so many people are so very, very exhausted, they come home, aren’t able to think as well as they would if they had enough time to see their family and friends and decompress a little.

I’m wondering if this — the overarching inequity people can’t help but see —  is why the folks in our society seemingly are more likely to get angry and stay angry.

And then, we have a media that likes to push sensationalism, and only rarely talks about what binds us together. (That does not sell papers. Or buy ads for TV programs, either.)

So we hear only that people don’t agree. That they don’t get along. That maybe we shouldn’t, that our “tribe” doesn’t get along with theirs…that only Democrats/Republicans/Libertarians/Independents/fill-in-the-blank are worth talking to, and no one else need apply.

What I know, though, is different.

I have friends from all walks of life. They are all interesting, funny, special people, who have something worthwhile to say, and worthwhile to share.

Yeah, to some of them, I’m a “token liberal,” one of the few they can tolerate. And to some, I’m too conservative for them, not nearly liberal enough.

But I’m always, always myself.

That got me to thinking…if I can handle all these different people doing different things, saying many different interesting things, why is it that we can’t get it together as a society? Are we too big, too monolithic, to admit to individuality any longer?

I don’t know.

What I do know is, whether we live in unsettled times or not, we have to keep doing our best. And since we’re here on this Earth for some reason, we may as well try to learn from one another rather than insist ours is the “one, true way” (hat tip to author Mercedes Lackey).

So, this week, try hard to listen to someone you don’t normally think is worthwhile. See if there’s even one grain of anything you can agree with, and then talk civilly and with amity about the rest.

Who knows? You may make a new friend.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 20, 2017 at 7:27 pm

‘This is a Disaster:’ Federal Government Shuts Down

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What a mess.

The federal government has been shut down, all because the Congressional Republicans wanted to defund the Affordable Care Act (popularly known as “Obamacare”).  The Rs did not get their wish as the ACA was funded anyway . . . but the government is still shut down until further notice.

Does this make any sense to you?  Because it surely doesn’t make any to me.

“But Barb,” I can hear you saying now.  “You’re a political junkie.  Surely you knew this was coming, so why are you so bemused?”

I did know this was coming, yes.  But I don’t understand why anyone — especially a cool political operator like Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) — would want to shut down the United States government.  Because, as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said on Rachel Maddow’s Monday evening late night show at 11 p.m. CDT, “This is a disaster.”

Now, Schakowsky was talking specifically about the people who will be “furloughed” due to the Congress’s overall inaction tonight — many of them making less than $30,000 per year.  Those are the people who do not have the resources to withstand even a day without pay, much less weeks or months . . . and the knowledge that the current Republican leadership has absolutely no endgame in progress (that is, any way to avoid doing what they’ve just done) makes this even worse.

“But Barb,” again you say.  “The Republicans do not like Obamacare and are standing on principle.  Isn’t that a good thing?”

Um, no, it isn’t.

Obamacare was funded anyway.  So the people who aren’t going to get paid now that the government has been officially shut down are the lower wage workers Rep. Schakowsky mentioned, right along with people who work in the federal park system (shut down), much of NASA (shut down), much of the Department of Defense (yes, the active duty military will be paid, thank goodness, but the civilian analysts helping to analyze threats have all been effectively laid off for no good reason, something Boehner and his compatriots among the Rs had to know), and many, many more.

All of this gets even worse, folks, when you consider that Congress will still be paid even though most of the rest of the government is shut down.  And that is not just wrong — it’s completely and utterly hypocritical.**

All night long, I’ve tried to understand why the Republicans — supposedly the party that wants to “keep the United States safe” — would want to cause this catastrophe.  Because it’s obvious that shutting down the government is likely to harm national security.

But then again, I suppose the Rs weren’t satisfied with simply harming the people just trying to get by — those G-1 and G-2 workers out there who have been indefinitely “furloughed” (meaning: sent home without pay).

So, why did all this happen, anyway?  Was there any rhyme or reason to it whatsoever?  Or is this all the equivalent of the political theatre of the absurd?

The pundits, whether they’re on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, or some other station, all seem to blame the radical right-wing Tea Party Representatives right along with freshman Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) for the current government shutdown.  (Fox News is complimentary toward these people, while the others are all condemnatory.  But the person mostly being named as being the prime mover here is, for better or for worse, Senator Cruz.)

To my mind, though, the one person who is responsible beyond a shadow of a doubt is Speaker Boehner.  Boehner’s been in the U.S. House of Reps. since 1990, which means Boehner saw what happened the last time the government shut down.  At that point, Newt Gingrich (R-GA) was the Speaker of the House, and things did not go favorably for him or his party due to Gingrich’s insistence on shutting down the government to get his own way.

Speaker Boehner knows better than this.  He has to know better than this.  But for whatever reason, he either couldn’t get his Republican caucus to listen to him, or he just didn’t care to set them straight.##

So here’s where we stand at this hour: The federal government has shut down.  The low-wage workers will be hurt badly by this, the defense contractors will be hurt badly by this, NASA will be hurt badly by this . . . and the Congress will still get paid for their overall intransigence.

It’s at times like this that I truly wonder about the state of American democracy.  Seriously.

———

Notes:

**Before anyone says it, I am aware that the Rs wanted to level the playing field and make sure that everyone in the Congress, the White House, and elsewhere in the government that’s currently exempted from the ACA would have to abide by the same rules as everyone else.  I agree that this makes sense, and had the House tried to talk about this earlier this year — long before now — I’d have been happy to entertain the idea.

Now, though?  What sense does it make?

##I’m not enamored by the way the Congressional Democrats have acted, either.  But the Ds in the House have no real power, while the Ds in the Senate have at least tried to do their jobs, as they’ve been trying to get the House to come to the bargaining table since late March or early April.  The R-driven House refused to do so, which is why I blame them far, far more than the Ds.

Johnny Weir Goes on ‘Olbermann,’ Gets Blasted by GLBT Critics Over Anti-Sochi Boycott Stance

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It’s not every day that you see someone as articulate, passionate and honest as figure skater Johnny Weir go on Keith Olbermann’s new show (called simply “Olbermann,” natch), then get blasted.

You see, Weir appeared on Olbermann this past Monday to discuss why he is against boycotting the 2014 Sochi Olympics over Russia’s official anti-gay laws.  Weir, a proud American, a former Olympian, and a three-time United States National Champion (not to mention a World Bronze medalist), believes it’s far more important to go to Sochi and “represent” than to stay home.  Weir spoke with authority on this issue because he’s gay and married to a Russian-American lawyer, Victor Voronov, and has been known as a Russophile from the beginning of his career.

Mind you, Weir is far from the only athlete to stand against any proposed boycott of the Sochi Olympic Games.  There are a number of NHL athletes who are prepared to go to Sochi and perhaps get arrested due to their open opposition to these laws.  Former USSR pairs figure skaters Lorisa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov, now American citizens, also are opposed to this boycott**, as are Greg Louganis, Martina Navratilova and Blake Skjellerup.

All of these men and women have said what amounts to the same thing as Johnny Weir — that it’s much more important to go to the Sochi Games and participate than to stay home.  Going to the games will help highlight the problems that Russia’s outrageous, shocking and offensive new laws have brought into being, while staying home will do not one bit of good for anyone (save, perhaps, for Vladimir Putin).

Yet only Weir has brought condemnation down on his head by saying so, perhaps because during his recent appearance on Olbermann’s show Weir had the temerity to wear a Russian military uniform.  (Technically, I think it’s a Soviet-era military uniform, but I’m not up on contemporary Russian military uniforms.)  Why is this?  Well, it mostly seems to be more about how Weir looked than by what Weir actually said, though at least one commentator is more hung up over Weir’s language choices (calling his marriage a “union” rather than a marriage, for example).

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m far more interested in the substance of what Weir’s said than by what Weir looked like while he said it.  Boycotting the 2014 Sochi Games would be fruitless, just as Weir said, because it harms Olympic athletes while failing to help the Russian GLBT activists who truly need it.  Whereas if the United States and other countries’ athletes — some of whom are GLBT — do take part in the Sochi Games, perhaps that will do some good.  Watching GLBT athletes win medals will do more to make it clear that GLBT people deserve neither condemnation nor fear merely because of being what they are than any boycott could ever do.

Look.  I’m not gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.  I am also not an athlete.  I don’t know any Russians personally, whether Russian-American or not.  And all of that can’t help but make my own opinion be less important and less informative than someone who is any of those things.

However, Johnny Weir’s opinion should be heard and appreciated (regardless of appearance) precisely because he has so much credibility in this particular area.  Weir is married to a Russian-American man, has competed in Russia many times, and took lessons in Russian so he could better speak with his coach, Galina Zmievskaya.  Because of all this, Weir has to understand just how harmful these new laws have been in Russia.  Weir has said firmly that he is opposed to them##, but he also doesn’t understand how boycotting the Sochi Games would help anything — and this is a stance I can’t help but agree with.

You don’t have to like how open Johnny Weir is now about his sexuality after years of telling everyone that it was none of their business.  (Personally, I understand both stances.  But not everyone does.)  You don’t have to like how Weir dresses.  You don’t have to like how Weir does anything at all, in fact, if you don’t want, because this is a free country and we’re allowed to speak our minds without hindrance.

But you should agree that Weir has a right to say what he wants.  And in this particular case, where Weir’s far from alone (Athlete Ally is also against a proposed boycott, as is the LGBT Sports Coalition), it seems really odd that Weir would be condemned while all the other voices saying the same thing would be ignored.

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** Some people would probably say that a straight, married pair of retired figure skaters — even if they’re from Russia and know intimately the problems Russia has — have nothing to say about a proposed Sochi boycott.  For those people, I have nothing but contempt.

## In August of 2013, Weir said he will not wear a rainbow flag pin in Sochi, while Skjellerup said he definitely will wear one.  Weir not being willing to wear a rainbow pin at this time may be what’s really upsetting people in the GLBT community.  But if so, I’d rather that they just came out asked Johnny Weir directly, “Why won’t you wear a rainbow pin?”

Because really, anything would be better than the current, nasty Internet flame wars going on right now.  Especially among people who are normally reasonable.

WI Recall News: Bill Clinton Will Visit Wisconsin Tomorrow

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Earlier today, the Washington Post reported that former President Bill Clinton will visit Wisconsin on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett in the Wisconsin Gubernatorial Recall race.   Here’s a few words from Bill Clinton’s statement as quoted by the Post:

“Folks in Wisconsin have been on the front lines of fighting for working, middle-class families across America for more than 16 months,” the former president said in a statement. “I’m coming to Wisconsin to help Tom and the extraordinary grassroots volunteers on the ground.”

Now, why is this happening at this late date?  It’s because voter turnout must be high from Democrats and Independents if Wisconsin truly does wish to recall Governor Scott Walker (R).  The Republicans know it; the Democrats know it.  And what everyone knows, but very few polls have pointed out, is this: Independents, in general, do not like Scott Walker very much.  And what living Democratic President fired up Independents along with Ds?  You guessed it — Bill Clinton.

Note that Bill Clinton, in the past, was not in favor of recalls; he went to California to prevent the recall of then-Governor Gray Davis in 2003, as did several other prominent Ds with national standing (such as John Edwards, then a Presidential candidate).  So for him to come here on behalf of Barrett most likely means that Clinton believes the recall of Walker is the right thing to do (in addition to the realpolitik of it all, which is that Clinton, a former D Governor from Arkansas, certainly wants more D Governors).

This visit by the former President should help boost turnout, but more importantly, it will boost optimism that the recall of Walker can and will succeed because Clinton has an excellent record when it comes to helping embattled Ds.  As The Hill reports tonight:

Clinton’s entrance into the race could disrupt what had seemed like a likely victory for Walker, however. The former president has posted an impressive record in 2012 endorsements to date, helping Rep. Mark Critz (D-Pa.) and Pennsylvania attorney general candidate Kathleen Kane both win their Democratic primaries after trailing early on. Clinton also helped Maryland businessman John Delaney to a unlikely primary win in April.

So, will Clinton be able to help Barrett also?  My best guess is that yes, Clinton’s visit will make a positive difference on behalf of Barrett, Lieutenant Governor candidate Mahlon Mitchell, and the four D candidates for state Senator, including my own candidate in District 21, former Sen. John Lehman.

But with all the will in the world — and Clinton does have a tremendous will — this race still comes down to turnout, which is what I expect Clinton to say tomorrow during his visit as he’s no fool.  Clinton’s visit will be a boost to Barrett, Mitchell, Lehman and all of the other D candidates for state Senate, but Wisconsin’s voters must go out and vote.

As I’ve said before, my intentions are clear and have been so from the beginning.  Scott Walker deserves to be recalled.  So does his Lt. Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch.  So does my sitting state Senator, Van Wanggaard (R-Racine).  Which is why I will be voting to recall all of them on June 5, 2012 — and while I would do so without a visit from Clinton, it’s nice to know that Clinton hasn’t forgotten Wisconsin or how hard we’ve been fighting here for the past year and a half ever since Walker “dropped the bomb” and started his “divide and conquer” tactics.

Two Japanese Scientists Invent “Stop Talking” Device

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Two Japanese scientists have invented a device that will make people stop talking in their tracks.  It sounds like science fiction (hence my “SFnal” tag), but it actually is quite a simple thing: human beings cannot handle hearing their voice with a few milliseconds delay while continuing to speak — if this happens, human beings stop talking.  (Psychologists have known this for years.)  Now, these two scientists (Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada) have invented a gun that after pointed at a speaker will actually stop someone speaking in his or her tracks without physical discomfort.

Here’s a link:

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/27620/

The ethical implications of this are appalling, though the scientists believe the use of their invention could be benign; they envision the gun being pointed at people who insist on talking on their cell phones in a library (or perhaps in the office) rather than this gun being used, en masse, to stop peaceful protestors from speaking their minds by the powers that be.

Maybe it’s just me, but I believe this technology is incredibly dangerous.  It has the potential to completely silence dissidents, forever; it makes George Orwell’s restrictive society envisioned in his book 1984 look paltry by comparison.  Because what one group of politicians thinks is “right” and “just” speech would be hated by another group of politicians; this has the potential to cause massive unrest that would be totally unable to ever be relieved, unless this technology is somehow countered.

While this invention was probably going to come about sooner or later, I wish for the sake of humanity that it hadn’t happened now; there are protests going on all over the world in favor of peace and financial equality that could end up being prematurely silenced. 

Worse yet, now that this invention has been made public, every military branch in every country in the world has to want this technology, as it would obviously aid them in their work.  And an unscrupulous country’s military getting this technology before everyone else would be a deadly scenario that even Andrew Krepinevich (he of SEVEN DEADLY SCENARIOS fame, a book I reviewed a while back at Shiny Book Review) would have reason to fear.

Now that this technology has been made public, my hope is that other scientists will be working on a way to counter, or at least minimize, the damage this technology could easily cause.  What one technology gives, another technology can take away, and in this case, this is definitely a technology I believe should be countered as soon as possible for everyone’s sake.

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Note: the reason I tagged this with “framing narrative” is because the scientists’ reason for narrative framing is simple: they want to make money off this device, so they’re emphasizing the more benign purposes for which such a device could be used.  My view is much more along the “realpolitik” line — what is such a device likely to be used for, and why?

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Robin Vos, R-Rochester, Wants to Limit Recall Elections Rather than Push Job Creation

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And here I thought I’d said all I possibly could about the need for Wisconsin recalls, when wouldn’t you know it?  There’s something new to be said due to Wisconsin Assemblyman Robin Vos, R-Rochester, as he wants to limit recall elections.  Vos calls this initiative “recall the recall elections.”

But why is he more worried about this than job creation, you ask?

You see, Vos is a far-right Republican who started saying in public only after two Republican state Senators were recalled from office and replaced by Democrats that the Wisconsin state constitution needs to be amended.  His new bill, which probably will pass the Republican-controlled Assembly and possibly pass the Republican-controlled Senate, would limit recalls to petitioners who “give a specific reason” like malfeasance in office or an actual criminal conviction — and that’s just wrong, especially considering Vos didn’t start making an issue of this until after Republicans Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke were successfully recalled and replaced on August 9, 2011.

As state Assemblyman Cory Mason (D-Racine) said in the Racine Journal-Times article on 8/10/2011 (note that date, please, as it’s one day after Hopper and Kapanke were recalled and replaced):

“This is the most self-serving piece of legislation we’ve seen so far this session,” said Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine.

I agree completely.

Then, Mason went on to say that:

the right to recall state elected officials is a constitutional guarantee and Vos is proposing to limit that.

“I understand the motivation behind it,” Mason said. “But it seems more about keeping a Republican majority than protecting Wisconsin citizens’ constitutional rights.”

Vos pointed out in the above-quoted article from the Racine Journal-Times that an amendment to the state Constitution requires two separate, successful votes in the state Legislature, then the voters of Wisconsin will get the opportunity to vote the amendment up or down.  But a recent poll from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Survey Center pointed out that 78% of Wisconsinites surveyed — an overwhelming majority — believed that recalls are a good thing, while 50% — half the electorate surveyed — believe that the then-current recalls of Wisconsin state Senators made them feel better about Wisconsin politics.  Which would surely make getting the public to throw out recalls as a way to remove a legislator much less likely, now, wouldn’t it?

State Assembly minority leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) had this to say about Vos’s proposed amendment:

“On Tuesday we saw two Republicans who ran on a message of creating jobs, yet spent a session pursuing an anti-middle class agenda, being removed from office by the voters who felt betrayed by their actions. The results of the election should serve notice to all politicians that they cannot ignore the will of the people.
“Floating this constitutional amendment the day after successful recall elections that held legislators accountable appears to indicate that Republicans are frightened that future actions to hold them accountable will also be successful.
“We must encourage and build on the amazing outpouring of public involvement in democracy that we have seen this year. The people of Wisconsin deserve to know that we are listening to them and responding to their concerns.”

Then Barca reinforced the whole “job-creation” issue with this comment, also from the WisPolitics.com article quoted above:

“The first bipartisan bill should address the vital issues of job creation, job training and improving public education in Wisconsin.”

And Barca is far from alone.  Overwhelmingly, the American people as a whole (not just in Wisconsin) want politicians on both sides of the aisle to concentrate on jobs as this recent poll from the New York Times and CBS News shows.  As this poll pointed out, people are extremely frustrated with the United States Congress and a record 82% of people disapprove of them because most of the folks who are “on the ground” in America know that creating jobs is the only way to cut the budget deficit in the long run.  It’s also the only way to have a healthy, prosperous society, as the recent poll said: by a ratio of two to one, more Americans believe that job creation, not deficit reduction, is what American politicians should be talking about.

So as you see, it’s not just in Wisconsin that joblessness is an issue.  Even brothers of members of Congress are not immune, as recent comments by Representative Maxine Waters (D-California) and the actions of Republican Rep. Allen West (R-Florida) have shown.  West sent his brother to a job fair in Atlanta, and he’s admitted doing so in an e-mail response from his office to Ed Schultz’s “The Ed Show” on MSNBC.  This should be a link to the segment on Ed’s show last night that discusses the whole issue; note that West is the only Republican member of the Congressional Black Caucus, which supported a job fair in Atlanta, Georgia, yesterday.

But job fairs and unemployed people are not found only in Atlanta, which leads me back to to Governor Walker and Wisconsin, as the July unemployment numbers in Wisconsin went up to a seasonally-adjusted 7.8%.  Some of this may be due to the fact that many people finally received unemployment after federal Extended Benefits were accepted earlier this month by the Wisconsin Republicans in the state Legislature after being out of benefits since April 16, 2011.  (The Democrats had wanted to approve the benefits as soon as they were aware they were available, probably back in June of this year, but as the Republicans control both halves of the Legislature, the Ds had no power to bring a bill to the floor.)

Why is this noteworthy?  Well, only a month ago, Walker was all over the news crediting the “Wisconsin Miracle” as in June there had been a net increase in job creation, even though Media Matters debunked this — so the fact that the July numbers were bad just underscored how dubious the previous claims were.

I don’t know what the answers are.  But I do know that focusing on limiting recalls in Wisconsin is not the way to create any jobs.  Because the only way to “limit recalls” in the future is simply this: legislators from both parties need to be responsive to their constituents, including focusing on job creation rather than stupid and petty crap, rather than insist they’re right until they’re blue in the face no matter how many people tell them they’re wrong.

If Walker was a truly gifted politician, he’d realize this and start dialing his rhetoric — and his actions — way, way back in order to avoid his potential recall.  While the Wisconsin Rs should distance themselves from Vos’s bill as most of us in Wisconsin know that the Rs also pursued recalls of Democratic Senators — they just didn’t manage to get any of them out.  This means that any vote on “recalling the recall elections” will look extremely hypocritical at best, which will make every single member of the Assembly who votes for this vulnerable to being voted out in November 2012.

But my guess is that most of the Wisconsin Rs, including Walker and Vos, will continue to insist they have a “mandate” and that they’re right, until they’re all voted out by a disgusted Wisconsin electorate.