A Country of Mass Child Abuse

This is what unified Republican control has taken us.

There’s all sorts of contours to the horror show (claiming that child abuse is following the rule of law while claiming Trump is above the law comes to mind) but the brute fact is they are torturing kids. By free choice.

This is where we are.

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Voting Matters!

As I recover from hand surgery, here’s another blast from the Monkeyfist Past. Alas, PA got rid of the big mechanicals.

My taste for irony sometimes finds a bit of unexpected sweetness in bitter experience or a dash of salt in singularly bland events. So it was today as I voted for the first time in Maryland in our pathetic midterm elections. I could discern no Greens on my ballot, so I voted mechanically for Democrats and those with female looking names. I don’t think my vote made any difference, much less a difference I even marginally care about. [Ed note: current me grew up and is very happy voting straight Democrat.]

It’s not clear that I even got that smidgin of personal satisfaction stemming from my childhood training in “civil virtue” — Yay, I’m a good citizen! I’m part of the process! The founders did not fight and die in vain! — On the other hand, while I don’t think I would have felt guilt at failing that taught duty, I probably would have felt odd at not feeling guilt. I guess I feel a gray satisfaction in acting in conformance with my old internalized standards, even if the motive forces have shifted. This is part of aging, I suspect; I will try to look forward to the next erosion of character.

One thing that used to perk me up for voting was playing with the voting machines. In Pennsylvania, we had voting machines as nature intended: big, hulking, industrial slabs of iron with big, heavy mechanical levers and an institutional green curtain wrapping around round like a hospital privacy screen. These things were big enough — as anyone who’s fairly adventurous or who’s seen Pecker knows — to have sex in. When you voted in one of these booths you knew you were in the rust belt and that US democracy was part and parcel of the Industrial Revolution.

In North Carolina I used little forms and felt pens: somewhat like the SAT, except with no ability to erase and no chance of a decent grade. We voters would fill out our ballots at little fold-out stands with mini-drapes — stands clearly meant to be folded up and stacked in the back of a station wagon or SUV. The ballots then got fed into a cooler-sized box which would slurp and flash a red LCD tally of slurps. I don’t know if scanning occured in these boxes, and I really didn’t care. Even more than the general character of North Carolina politics, this procedure made voting a bit hard to take seriously.

So now I live in Maryland, working in a Semantic Web research lab. As befits my post-industrial, information-age work, Maryland has touch-screen, computer-based voting machines. Though they, like North Carolina, have the little fold up stands; you’d think that the proximity to DC would inspire people to be a bit inspiring, what with all the monuments. The ‘puter-based machines did perk me up a little, as I still have a few habits left from my techno-toy influenced youth. The machines ran ugly Windows apps but seemed otherwise reasonable until the very last screen. It presented a scrolling window with an overview of my selection, a big blue button on the left for revisiting my choices, and a big green button smack dab underneath the down arrow on the scroll bar reading “CAST BALLOT”.

To add to the moment, there was a faint, pastel, small line of text along the top, which said something like “Be careful when scrolling down not to accidentally cast your ballot”.

Windows programming in embedded systems must be even harder than I thought if they couldn’t have switched the buttons or simply moved the button to the center of the screen where there was plenty of space, or put a confirmation screen between the review screen and the act of casting your ballot.

Happy Juneteenth!

Juneteenth is, by far, without question, it’s not even close, the best US holiday. It was grass roots, celebrates the emancipation of black folks in the US, and it has a cool name.

Things can get better. Them getting better isn’t inevitable and there might be backsliding, but they can get better.

It’s a shame that the Republican Party has become a force for untrammelled evil. It’s their shame. The rest of us have the shame of failing to crush that evil, or at least trammel it more.

We don’t have to accept kids in cages…again.

Juneteenth tells us that we can fight and win and make the world better.

So, happy Juneteenth. Let’s hope we don’t need another war to turn things around.

Sessions is Running a Torture Regime for Trump on US Soil

This is on the order (though different in forms of torture and number of people affect and NUMBER OF KIDS TORTURED) of Abu Gharib.

A man killed himself. We’re talking about a tent city FOR KIDS!

We’re lost. The monsters are in charge and running free.

Edited to add: Sessions giving his “we’re going to prosecute even if this means torturing your kids” line made me think of Angela Davis on prison abolition. Sessions isn’t a radical break from other parts of the justice system: he is part of a core, perhaps dominant, faction. These horrible things are visited selectively on US citizens. Because it’s immigration and constitutional protections are fewer and weaker, he has a bit more of a free hand. But remember that US policing and prosecution destroys families all the time.

The Korean “Deal”

Objectively, from the perspective of the US and most of the rest of the world, Trump lost hard. He traded away joint military exercises with South Korea, plus a summit, plus kind words for nothing at all. North Korea got everything and we got less than nothing.

So, it’s a shit deal. We might overall be better off today than yesterday because Trump now has a big incentive not to go to war with North Korea. But…that’s not a lot!

Trump, on his own terms, won. It doesn’t matter that such a deal was always available (because it’s great for NK and terrible for us). The fact is that he got it and no one else did. Since it’s his, he thinks it’s great. Since he’s shameless and ignorant, he will tout it like crazy as awesome.

The “logic” is, of course, the opposite for Iran.

Give one point to Trump, Bolton was tamed for this.

An Electoral Cause for Jubilation

Ireland voted overwhelmingly to repeal the constitutional ban on abortion. We might see legislation permitting this basic human right by the end of the year.

So many women’s lives will be improved or saved! It’s making me jump for joy. And it was a society wide endorsement of women’s rights: ~60+% for repeal on 64% turnout (which is huge for Ireland).

The anticipated legislation isn’t perfect—12 weeks on demand with a 3 day cooling off period—but not remotely terrible. I was surprised that in the UK you need two doctors to approve (which is insulting and absurd!) but on demand goes to 24 weeks.

If abortion is funded and readily available during that initial period, these limits are probably ok (as long as health of woman and fetus are legit reasons afterwards). A big thing that pushes women into later abortions is lack of availability. Earlier is easier and medically preferred as well.

All and all, a tremendous victory that put a spring in my step. Good job, Ireland!