Sunday, October 07, 2018

My Parable of The Golden Grasses of California & The Regionalism of the US

I (and many of you readers) live in this huge country, the United States. It has a lot of different regions from forest, plains (great ones), swampy areas, mountainous areas, even desert! In many ways, I feel kind of spoiled, like I'm somewhat taking it for granted, and wish I had so much more free leisure time to explore and discover this vast land.

Almost two months ago, I took a trip to California that challenged my expectations of the land, which also led to challenging me about the variety and diversity of people and cultures in this country. This experience came after hearing many political commentators on podcasts discuss this regional diversity around the country and how it influences elections and sentiment about our politicians. Trying to understand this surprise-to-me landscape in California has angled me to try getting a better appreciation of the differences of landscape and people around this country.

Before going deeper into this topic, I want to present a short collage of video compiled during a car drive to one of our destinations:

For those who have difficulty seeing, the videos mostly show a view of Californian landscape passing by as the wife and I drive on state highways going through some amount of elevation. This landscape has A LOT of yellow grass that I estimate comes up almost to the thighs or hips. Almost as a contradiction, the video also shows some deciduous trees with green leaves (somewhat spread out on the branches), close and in the distance, sometimes isolated and sometimes in a bunch. A lot of the grass looks expansive and goes far into the distance, while some of it is clumped together in something of a small clearing among a copse of trees.

The yellow grass really shocked me. I had never before visited Oakhurst or gone to Yosemite National Park, but back in March 2003, the wife and I had visited Sacramento and Davis with a day trip to San Francisco then back to Sacramento. The Sacramento Valley and the foot hills then looked green, full of life, and moist. It didn't stand out to me as an anything especially amazing to me, despite how far all that green stretched. We still lived around Boston in 2003, and I grew up in a mix of rural and urban Massachusetts that had a lot of green and rolling hills. The vastness and magnification of the landscape gave me pause, but just making things bigger didn't impress me.

The endless yellow grass this time threw me for a loop, though. It started in the plane even before we landed. Cruising and pulling down to the airport, I could only see road, water bodies, and yellow. I saw so much of it, I thought it was sand, wasteland or desert. We had banked around San Jose, which is close to San Francisco but still a good distance away. Maybe the desert of southern California transitioned to green northern California somewhere between San Jose and San Francisco. Maybe the present drought caused it or maybe the area had A LOT of beaches.

After landing, getting our rental car, and heading east out of San Jose and past San Francisco, I figured out that I hadn't seen desert from the plane. I had seen vast yellow, dry, rolling grasslands. The drive from the two San's to Oakhurst took somewhere between 4-6 drowsy hours (I hadn't slept much the night before) through yellow grasses as far as my eyes could see, over foot hills and into the distance once we got out of the foot hills. Imagine being in an endless vast desert, but instead of desolate sand with nothing else, I saw endless grass. What a shock after seeing that general area all green 15 years ago and thinking about all the produce that comes from California.

The yellow grass put me off, but something about the experience unsettled me: I didn't know if the yellow grass was normal and routine or an abnormal result of dry weather and a drought. The weather in San Francisco doesn't follow the normal course of seasons that I'm used to. Last time the wife and I had visited San Francisco a few years ago, our hosts commented how October provided one of the best times to visit San Francisco because the dampness, the cold, and the fog would fall back. The summer doesn't provide a good time to visit San Francisco because it gets cold and foggy then.

Temperature margins between all the places we visited this time freaked me out a little, too. Between Oakhurst, San Jose, and San Francisco, we faced a range of twenty degrees Fahrenheit, something like 80 degrees in Oakhurst, 70 degrees in San Jose, and 60 degrees in San Francisco.

Even the range of temperatures don't seem to vary so much in and around Chicago when comparing the shore of Lake Michigan to more inland areas. The definition of inland around the Chicago area of Lake Michigan might give a more drastic impression than the temperature differences in California. In California, the distance for changing temperatures seem to occur in the 10's of miles while in Chicago, the differential in temperature seems to occur within half a mile to a mile. It's not so drastic, maybe just three to five degrees but I believe it levels off at somewhere between seven and ten degrees, rather than the twenty degree range in California for a similar traveling time. Then again, I usually travel north from Chicago and a lot of the time on the road can involve a lot of waiting in traffic, A LOT OF WAITING.

The lead up to this trip and encountering this landscape created some cognitive dissonance. We had been hearing about the rise of massive fires daily as we grew closer to the beginning of our trip, and some of the fires had died down enough that our trip wouldn't be dangerous. Yosemite Park first let visitors back into its gates on the day that we visited. While driving into the valley, I looked across the river and saw spots of fire (including one long line going up a hill) that I believe that the authorities had planned to just let burn out because they had it under control.

On the Daily Zeitgeist podcast, based in California, they brought up the massive fires quite bit and also brought up the fact that California was going through an abnormal drought, which contributed to the fires going out of control. I expected to find California more desolate, more dead, but yet not desert. The gold grass went against my expectation, though. Maybe I didn't expect desert, but I think I expected dead grass all along the ground like hay or something. This in between state of the golden grass caused me to do a double take.

How many people do what I do when I do an intellectual or factual double take? How many other people go to Wikipedia or graze the Internet for information? I don't remember the figure, but I remember that I read that Californians or San Franciscans used a huge, almost unfathomable, amount of water just flushing the toilets (which I guess from looking at Wikipedia tonight or a quick Google search, San Francisco is trying to put into place some major water use standards). Other than being gobsmacked about the huge amount of water used to flush toilets and being reminded that humans need to do stuff about preserving water and minimizing our footprint on the Earth, I got the idea that some organizations and individuals were working on the problem. Hopefully they'll address the problem with enough time, but the water felt like a universal human issue, just with some details different here and there.

(Whatever happens, though, stay away from our Lakes!)

Looking into the golden grass that felt off (though somewhat drearily comforting by the end of the rural trip) yielded an interesting result. The golden grass didn't inspire a unique reaction in me. Apparently a lot of tourists feel off put by the golden grass during the dry season. Further investigation digs up people who have California pride about the golden grass. They hate the reactions of non-Californians to the golden grass. To these Californians, the wet and dry seasons are a natural cycle, the grasses going from green to gold is a natural cycle. These "patriotic" Californians see it as completely normal and part of nature, and they feel intruded upon by non-Californians coming into their state and trying to tell them how things should be.

Reading more and experiencing the gold grass, I came to appreciate it as a natural part of California with its own beauty that fits the area. It felt foreign, but the United States is a big place. For the most part, I haven't seen much of it. I've lived just a little over half my life in the northeast, mostly around Massachusetts with most of my traveling being to New Hampshire, Vermont, maybe Rhode Island or New York, and Quebec (as a kid, I also traveled a few times in Maine and once to British Columbia and Prince Edward Island). A little under the other half of my life, I've lived in Chicago and mostly traveled around Lake Michigan and a little into the interior of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and almost to Iowa.

I've done a little traveling to Florida, the Carolinas, and from DC to Blacksburg, VA but most of my East Coast travel has been along the Northeast Megalopolis from DC to Boston. Otherwise, my US travel has included mostly pleasant touristy locations: the Northern California Megalopolis, Los Angeles, Tucson, and not really much else other than highways between Chicago and Boston.

This listing off of places I've lived and visited comes down to something simple: I really haven't experienced much United States of America. Add to that: I haven't visited that many places that have challenged my assumptions. If I did visit such places, I generally passed through town, not really even exposing myself to people in town or the culture of it.

Suffice to say, the Sacramento Valley/Northern California megalopolis genuinely challenged my sensibilities of the United States of America by exposing me to its golden grass. Even just the exposure to

  • Hearing people talk about the fires as both a routine and outlier event
  • Trying to reach a Sequoia valley in a mid-size sedan then having to turn around after dealing with roads that got thinner and thinner while winding around a mountainside, roads no longer being paved, then seeing a steep incline with a lot of holes in the road, which caused us to turn around (after we did further research later, we learned that we could have walked the rest of he way, but we decided not to go back because even remembering the drive frayed our nerves)
made my ruminating mind that always asks questions (in a good curious way) dive deeper and deeper into questions. I grew to appreciate bigger cars when I earlier felt big cars had become about protecting the drivers from the outside world or some type of display of conspicuous consumption. All the while even in the Midwest and Northeast where I've lived most of my life, trucks and cars with four wheel drive have their places for regular drivers when it snows a ton.

Even just thinking about fire as a routine event boggles the mind. However, living on the northeast coast, knowing that despite hurricanes being rare, they can reach the Boston area and cause some damage. I remember living at the time of Hurricane Gloria. The only time I ran into the basement because of possible tornadoes occurred while I lived in Massachusetts. Still, tornadoes are more likely to occur in the Midwest, though I've never had a serious tornado scare (though I did see the sky turn a sickly green color).

Then temperature and snow. I've ridden my bike in temperatures in as low as -5 or -7 Fahrenheit along Lake Michigan on the way to work with plenty of snow on the ground. Did I mention that sometimes the wind chill at those times could get as low as -20 Fahrenheit (I don't think I've ridden in temperatures lower than that) during the polar vortex of 2014? I think I even walked to bus stop, all bundled up, when the wind chill had gotten all the way down to -50!

I remember talking to a friend at a party who had traveled down to New Orleans or some other location after a hurricane to help rebuild. While down there, the friend asked a hurricane survivor why they continued living in that area, considering all the hurricanes. The survivor brought up the cold of the Midwest, especially during times of extreme cold like in the polar vortex of 2014. My friend and I had reached the conclusion that every geographical area of the United States has it's own variation on natural obstacles that humans have to deal with routinely and sometimes in extreme situations.

That discussion about extreme weather, my experience with extreme weather, and my recent experience in California has impressed upon me how human ingenuity for dealing with the environment and how that coping can mold culture and personality. This article does an interesting job to highlight how the neoliberal practice of extracting natural resources from rural areas to disproportionately benefit urban areas also provides some perspective on how the economy, business practices, and regulations can can affect cultures and personalities (even though the big "oil savior" of shale fracking is generally yielding losses and requiring a lot of borrowing to stay in business).

All these revelations have an abstract tinge and haven't made any concrete landing. The different regions of the United States are all very different and develop different types of culture and people. Even within those areas, many different types of people come into existence and develop. The United States has to come to terms with this status.

I think this revelation has led me to something more of a chilled pessimism combined with hope for a better tomorrow when it comes to nationwide politics these days. I still have some anger, but I don't feel so confident in the direction of that anger, though I feel like I know what's right and what's wrong. I don't think different regions allows for some form of moral relativism. Some people will have no compunction about hurting or marginalizing others because The Other is different or because The Other has gotten in their way.

I believe in a minimum behavior and morality, and many in the United States, aren't meeting that minimum. Nonetheless, I don't have a full picture of how to resolve the matter of many in this nation not meeting the minimum yet having the power to empower and embolden the negative status quo or to continue behavior even worse than the status quo. I say this from a platform of white male privilege, and I wish I had a better understanding and way to correct this issue, but I don't. Especially after the last couple months of confirming a Supreme Court justice in such a way that undermines the confidence of the American People in the institution of the Supreme Court, thus undermining the American People's confidence in the US government.

I want everyone who can to get out there and vote, even if they can only submit a provisional ballot. The lack of confidence that can stop us from voting creates a positive feedback loop. By citizens not exercising their right and privilege to vote, we give away our nation, our state, our government to people who want to just gather together power to further undermine our confidence in the government and institutions so that they can just gather more power. Through our confidence in the heart of our system, through our confidence in our people power, we can help to rebuild a nation, a state, the institutions, and even a world in which we can be proud of and rise far above the minimum to build a truly just country and world. We can all fully realize ourselves by fully interrelating with each other in ways to learn and teach each other something better and something real.

All the signals out there for what our government will look like after November 6 conflict with each other and won't resolve themselves until after the General Election. Since I last heard Nate Silver talk about the Democrat's chance of winning back the government, he had it at Dems have a 75% chance of winning the House and 33% chance of the Dems winning the Senate. Frankly, all the talking about impeaching Trump and Kavanaugh likely will get no where because the Democrats simply won't have the numbers. Maybe the House will be able to start the process, but the Senate wouldn't be able to complete it.

The Resistance needs to continue resisting and working to change people's minds. Nonetheless, the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings have shown how still divided this country is and has even emboldened the Right, possibly to the levels of the "Blue Wave". Turnout will matter big and getting independents to come out and participate. The Democrats have historically been bad at coming out for mid-term elections. Everyone needs to come out to vote for the national, the state, and the local elections.

Local and state elections matter just as much, if not more than the national elections. Those officials have a lot more to do with our everyday lives and making lasting changes. On top of that, those positions can be stepping stones for good candidates to step up and up toward the national level to help determine the big, sensational values to protect and mold the spirit of our nation. Starting now, our votes on the state level now start affecting the district maps getting drawn in 2020-2021. Our votes can help determine how much our states get gerrymandered for the House and the Electoral College. Our voting now and always will play a big part in affecting our lives, our futures, justice, and the spirit and fabric of our nation.

I really really hope a lot of people get out the vote and cast their votes for justice. Maybe the just vote won't be a "pure" vote in the vein of purity politics, but we can determine the future of justice by choosing a realistic good candidate. As bad as it may sound, a good candidate is better than the shit show we have running our nation at the moment. I know electioneering against something isn't nearly as good, powerful, and motivating as electioneering for a positive vision for the future. Sometimes, though, it requires voting and fighting against something negative and horrible to start the turn around to a better, kinder future.

Despite all my motivating words, I still fear for the worst. After the election of 2016, I don't feel like I can truly trust polls and the overconfidence of the people on my side. That overconfidence can stop us from going out to vote. There are arguments that our individual votes mean nothing, and logically, it makes some sense. A lot of people haven't gone out to vote because they felt both big parties made a trashfire of a system and couldn't bring themselves to vote for either party. Regarding the first argument: your vote matters because the Left-Right divide is close enough that a few hundred votes here and there could make a big difference.

As for the second argument, the two parties and the system trashfire has come about because people like Manafort have been successful in destroying our confidence in system. We can only get confidence again in the system if we make it a system to be confident in it, and we all have to participate in making it better, through voting, through donating to parties, candidates, and nonprofits, through volunteering, and engaging civically in society.

So you hold our futures in your hands. Please go out and vote. Please help make this country and the world a better, kinder place.

I have a final correction and ending story that I feel discredits my feeling that everyone is as different as I had come to believe and also attacks the facade of our low-confidence government and system. As things turn out, the golden grasses of California is an invasive species. In one sense, it feels disheartening because the natural fauna that was suited to the local environment (the native plants had a lot more resistance to fire) has died out and likely can't be revived to its past glory, especially in our lifetime.

The golden grasses in California feel like a parable for our passionate partisan divides. People who grew up in California feel strongly about the nativeness of the golden grass. They argue with people outside the region about the naturalness of the golden grass. History has buried the truth of the golden grass's invasiveness, though, much like how the divisions of partisanship has come from the lies of ignorance, essentialism, and history. Like learning about the true native fauna of California, the truth of
  • the divisions
  • the justice
  • humanity
  • kindness
  • climate
  • systems
can be found and acted upon to make a better world. To do that, though, we have to exercise kindness, humbleness, and desire to
  • learn
  • teach
  • empathize
  • connect
with each other. Exercising all those characters will help us get to a better place for all.

I believe we can do it. I believe you can do it. Now you just have to believe and execute that belief. If you haven't done anything to embolden justice in the world, start with voting on November 6. If you've already voted and done other things, keep on doing it.

Over and above that, though, we all need to humble ourselves, learn kindness and caring, and work really damn hard to learn and work to make the world better. Don't forget to vote on November 6, though, because you can do that while doing all that other great stuff, too.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Not Must to Say Except for Some MastoTwittervism

The title above just about says it all. Enjoy the MastoTwittervism!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Case for Increasing Interest Rates and Speeding Up Quantifiable Tightening Just a Little Faster

An episode of The Daily podcast, "The Economic Cost of Authoritarian Rule", though not mentioning stock buybacks, leads me to think that the US needs to increase interest rates just a little faster to encourage the increase in worker's wages.

Based on the next couple podcasts I cite below & random errata I've read and heard over the years,

My reasoning:

Low interest rates make saving in

  • Savings Accounts
  • Money Market Accounts
  • CDs
  • Bonds
unattractive compared to stocks (though the liquidity, stability, and security of some of these options can make them attractive if your goal isn't just maximizing the profit on your investment for emergency funds, expense accounts, etc.).

Low interest rates make it easy to borrow money. Per the cited Slate Money podcast, companies actually finance stock buy backs through borrowing.

Stock buy backs increase per share value because buy backs take shares out of the open market, creating more scarcity and/or altering the balance between supply and demand. Executives and other employees paid in stocks and options get tax advantaged cash since stock buy backs are taxed on a capital gains basis rather than an income or dividend basis.

While profiting insiders & employees with liquidity, people who continue owning stock profit since their shares increase in value. The total value of the company doesn't increase, but the value of shares held onto by investors go up, so insiders selling back stock likely "break even" in stock value while "outsiders" profit a good amount on the increase of their shares of stock in their portfolio.

Per the cited Daily Podcast ep, there are three ways to stimulate the economy: low taxes, borrow money, and low interest rates (and a way to cheat: print money). The problem with stimulating the economy fully through all three means or not moderating them: growth can happen too fast. It leads to hyperinflation, leaving a good amount of people in the dust. In attempts to control an out of control inflation bubble requires austerity measures and that screws everyone, then the economy crashes and bubble bursts.

The 2018 tax cuts were stupid. It's rarely a good idea to increase deficits in a good economy when money doesn't need to be borrowed. The United States government won't do anything about it, though, because attempts at populist politics and the rich wanting to preserve their wealth have the run of the country presently.

Governmental borrowing money is obviously stupid, too, but the tax cuts pretty much require borrowing. Not much can be done to reduce borrowing when tax deductions require the borrowing to pay for what taxes aren't paying for.

Increasing interest rates seems like the best bet. It's in the control of the Fed. Federal Reserve Jerome Powell has already stated that he's beholden to facts and the state of the economy, not to politics. Arguably, his slow interest rate increases, as much as they could be about not trying to cause a sudden bubble burst by reaching an austere level, could also seek to work with the politics of Trump. Even though Trump wants to keep interest rates low longer to slow down the increasing value of he dollar, imagine how much more crap Powell would have to deal with from the President if he increased interest rates a little faster to direct the speed of the economy toward employees, not investors and CEOs and other highly paid executives.

How increasing interest rates will help cool down the high-asset, high-income class economy and speed up the economy for mid-income to low-income employees:

Investing in stocks will become less attractive. Since stocks are so attractive, the market has become heavily invested in them, pushing their value sky high. Many would argue that their values have increased this high with good reason and base that argument on pretty complicated finance and economic terms. That's all very well, but it has the potential of creating a stock market bubble that could burst.

Investing in just stocks also stunts the rest of the economy since it halts value from circulating except through complicated machinations like stock buy backs. Increasing wages and hiring new employees has become unattractive because it doesn't seem like "a worthwhile investment" and can make a single company "uncompetitive" since that money for wages has to come from somewhere, generally by increasing the price of a product, making it less attractive to consumers.

I guess stock buy backs makes some sense here since they're a one time outlay versus new employees and higher wages are ongoing outlays, thus making stock buy backs more predictable and less risky down the road if the economy halts or something like that. This type of decision might make sense in the short view and microcosm of of an industry.

My problem here comes down to slowing down the economy eventually because if all the companies engage in stock buy backs rather than hiring and increasing wages, all the money will rise to the top and the bottom will get sucked dry through inflation. Prices will increase while wages and salaries will become smaller (nominal value of the pay check remains the same while the price of goods and services increases).

The consumer base will shrink as the base can't afford products that they want or need. This creates an obvious moral and ethical issue that tugs at my heart, but this economic discussion doesn't need it. An economic trope addresses the matter well enough: Distributing wealth to the poor leads to better economic growth, mainly because those with less wealth will tend to spend that money while those who already have enough will tend to save that money (or invest it in a company that will later buy back the stock). That's one reason why Trump was right about one thing: 'The economy does better under the Democrats'.

Increasing interest rates will also lead to a faster growing economy by making investment in stocks less attractive. Investing in savings accounts, money market accounts, CDs, and bonds will become attractive again (I could write a whole other essay about how these accounts do good work building REAL wealth rather hot potato wealth based on a lot of money in circulation is actually borrowed money, but such an essay has little place here). People will take money out of the stock market to put into these secure and more liquid accounts become attractive again, causing stock values to go down again. The stock market bubble will deflate, which would be safer than the bubble popping because the consumer base grew too small or disappeared.

At some point in time, I think after the housing bubble burst, banks found investing in bonds more attractive and safer than taking chances on lending money to commercial and personal borrowers. Job losses, customer base disappearing, demand deflating, people going underwater on their loans, etc etc made loaning out money to the public too risky. Making a small amount of money on interest income with bonds is better than the public defaulting on loans, causing the bank to flat out lose a ton of capital. The Federal government also putting capital requirements on banks and other financial institutions also encouraged bond investment and saving money in the Fed rather than loaning out money (though I think these capital requirements are important). If the banks get more capital into their accounts through deposits (and payments of credit cards), they will be more willing to loan out money to some people and business they might have been willing to do so before, which leads to more spending, which leads to the economy growing more by increasing demand and actual purchasing of goods and services.

At this time, I don't believe commercial businesses are feeling enough demand for actual products and services to increase wages. We're living in this weird hypnagogic state of the economy in which companies have more willingness to hire part time and low-wage workers to address something that needs to be done, but not enough to warrant higher pay (since borrowing money to do stock buy backs is a more attractive allocation of resources to increase stock value and provide tax-advantages liquidity is "more valuable' than growing a workforce, putting money into the investor class's pockets rather than providing money to the employee class to spend and meet needs). Maybe hiring the part timers is about setting up a reserve force to address an expected and hoped for demand in the future.

If stocks become less attractive and interest rates increase, however, the best way to increase the profits of a company will be to actually sell goods and services. Companies won't find it profitable to finance stock buy backs by borrowing money. Their collateral value of stock to borrow money will also decrease, leading interest rates to increase there, also.

Initially, I could see a deflationary and economic shrinking stage occurring because less of that circular financial activity would occur, leading to less money circulating. Costs for goods and services would likely decrease because companies would feel more of a need to actually make sales and currently, the low- to middle-income consumer price point is lower than what companies can see as a profitable sale. Once the commercial price point of goods and services synchronizes with the low- to middle-income consumer price point, purchases of goods and services will increase. Increased purchases, especially for consumables and durable yet obsolescent devices, will lead to inflation because of consumer activity, not high-income financial activity. As this type of inflation and demand increases, companies will need to hire more people to help produce goods and services to meet the needs of consumers.

Other options for the government to help grow the economy for the low- to middle-income employee income class:

  • Provide more assistance to the lower income set
  • Provide more innovative student loan forgiveness programs
  • Even some Guaranteed Basic Income
I don't see the current state of the United States Federal and State governments doing anything like that. Again, the high-asset and high-income financial, wealth, resource, and capital class control the government and want preserve all that. Voters can do something about that by going out to vote in November 2018 and other voting and campaign activities in 2020 and later to try electing officials willing to behave in the interests of The People and to put into place policy in the service of The People.

So until us voters and civic participants get out government into shape, my most rational hope at the moment is for Jerome Powell and the Fed to speed up interest rate increases and speed up on the quantitative tightening. Doing so will help cut down on the attraction and profiting off of abstract financial transactions when we need to take action to encourage the growth of profiting off of actual, concrete goods and services.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Almost Back into the Swing of MastoTwittervism

Sorry, but just MastoTwittervism for this edition:

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Trepidation for Post-2018 General Election, Eerie Quote, MastoTwittervism


1. Brief Introduction without Header: Trepidation for Post-2018 General Election
2. Eerie Quote Relevant to Present & Possible Future
3. MastoTwittervism

I think I've been procrastinating on thinking about politics or getting involved too much in poltical discussions and arguments since returning from the 1-1/2 week trip to California a couple weeks ago (though I plan on posting some ruminations about regionalism and some videos of the landscape at some point, but that requries some sound editing). I only just caught up on local Chicago and Illinois politics over at the Chicago Tribune Clout Street section (the Chicago mayoral race has gotten crazy since Rahm declined to participate in the election). The podcasts have piled up a bit, but I'm making headway there.

This procrastination has a little more psychology to it, though. Part of me doesn't want to move past the Primaries and the 2018 General Election. Or a better alternative: fast forwarding my perception of time until the hands of government change drastically. Now sucks, I miss the old days when the United States government and the Western world felt sane, but I feel like things will get even more crazy and even more tense after the 2018 General Election.

The 2020 Presidential Election cycle will start, along with the 2020 House elections (2-year terms now feels like a breakneck pace, now that I've learned about it and have come to actually pay attention to the House), and also some of the 2020 Senate races. The Chicago mayoral race with the initial run-off election in February will feel somewhat like a pleasant diversion (and a follow up race later if one candidate doesn't get at least 50% of the vote, which I doub will happen). The 2020 races will start on November 7, and with Trump at the head of the GOP, all this shit will explode get even worse. Hopefully some other Republican(s) will run, too, and help to dampen Trump's impact.

Either which way, I expect the rhetoric and attacks to get tense, rapid fire, ugly, and even more divisive. The effects could expand further out from just rhetoric to action, which could get worse than ugly. Dang, I didn't even think about attacks on the media, social media scrutiny, and tampering in the US Elections, both from the aftermath of Election 2018 and the attempts to further secure and desecuritize Election 2020. Let's not forget voter and turnout suppression, either!

Admittedly, I've all but determined where my votes go in November. I expect to vote the first weekend that early voting becomes available in my district/precinct. I'll just want to get it over with, like tearing off a Band-Aid (TM).

While waiting for that day to come, though, part of me wants to avoid politics and news. That part of me just wants to pamper myself in escapism and enjoyable things. My sensible side, however, tells me not to succumb to this thinking, laziness, and lack of participation. I might enjoy myself by relaxing during these days of relative calm before the storm of the 2020 Election that will start in a little less than 50 days. I might become complacent, especially not good because I have that luxury.

I need to get my ass more into gear. I need to get my politics and news bandwidth open again. Things need to change. The present state of things is not tolerable. Eligible voters need more urging to get out to their polling places, whether through their own initiative or, if within my power, with the assistance of others that can help voters get to their polling places. Even though Trump's approval has declined below 40% again and the generic polls have stayed relatively steady (but still scary close), we can't take those polls for granted. Those polls don't become reality unless we get out there to vote.

So I need to get my ass into gear more to become active and facilitate other people's activity. I need to shake this funk. Come me, let's do this! Let's get into action and raise motivation among the people. Let's "be the change I want to see in the world." Let's revive hope again. I can do this, and so can you!

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From page 21 of The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazy Europe - What Led Ordinay Men and Women to Risk their Lives on Behalf of Others? by Samuel P and Pearl M Oliner (The Free Press, a Division of Macmillan, Inc., New York, NY 1988):
In Germany, the persecution of Jews was official government policy and had evolved gradually during the years when the Nazi regime attained the height of its popularity and power. Here, unlike conquered or satellite states, the assault on the Jews could not be discredited as a program imposed by a victorious foreign tyrant or enacted to ingratiate a dominant ally. Any German opposition to the persecution of the Jews was interpreted as a form of treason. This does not mean that most Germans shared Hitler's racism and sought the physical annhilation of European Jewry. Instead, the accepted anti-Semitic discrimination as just one plank in the Nazi platform for the restoration of German power. Their support for the Third Reih was predicated on Hitler's overall success in overcoming the civil strife and depression that plagued Germany in the early 1930s and in freeing Germany from the shackles of the Treaty of Versailles had clamped on the country's irredentist and military aspirations. When Hitler succeeded in achieving these goals between 1933 and 1941, the suffering of the Jews seemed to be either a necessary or small price to pay for this national revival.
Sound familiar?

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I've changed from Twittervism to MastoTwittervism because I want to switch over most of my social media activity to Mastodon. I appreciate, though don't fully understand the implications, the Federalism of Mastodon and also like that some Instances (servers) feel comfortable to assert more moderation than Facebook or Twitter, willing to take action against harassers, hateful, and abusive people. Mods and admins have a bit of learning and figuring out to do, but I like the idea and spirit.

The main worry/drawback at the moment: I don't have too many friends, acquaintences and/or followers using Mastodon. I had a lot of hope for Google Plus and the social media system they tried launching before that, but neither of them worked. Mastodon feels the same, but I think a fair amount of people feel excited about it, too, especially regarding the assertiveness that we hope the mods and admins feel and will act upon. Their presence and willingness to act feels more reassuring than the behavior that Facebook and Twitter will tolerate and neglect these two platforms present. Like voting, however, Mastodon won't amount to much unless people adopt the system and migrate over to it.

With that in mind, please do some research and come on over to join the party. I hang out over at with user name @screwjaw. If you have an account at another Instance/server that hasn't muted/blocked my instance, you can still connect with me at From what I've, though, even if your Instance mutes my Instance/server, you might still have the ability to follow me and vice versa. Come on over to the Mastodon side and hang out!

Until then, check out my MastoTwittervism:

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