Last of the pre-holiday work is done and the thanksgiving episodes are playing.
There's been less death, destruction, and chaos than I thought there would be, this late in this wretched year. Not to say what did come was inconsequential. Just not as nasty as it could have. And for that, I'm grateful.
Over the years, I've spent this holiday in a war zone, in the gulf of Oman, and working late for minimum wage. This year I'm spending it with the other denizens of the Outpost, with family and loved ones available through any screen I care to use, instead of waiting in line with the dozen other fucks for old workstations still running on XP. And for that I'm grateful.
I'm fed, clothed, shoed, sheltered, entertained, and loved. And for that I'm grateful.
I live in a country full of third option seeking, loophole-exploiting, fuck-you-I-won't-do-what-you-tell-me-bellowing fuckers as compassionate and selfless as they are ambitious and audacious. Not exactly the kind of attitudes effective in mitigating the spread of a pandemic, but exactly the kinds of attitudes that will cause those who survive to recover to thrive. And for that I'm grateful.
I'm already auditioning again as well as writing my second book with more planned. And for that I'm grateful.
Celebrate safe, wear your masks if you need to be around people you don't live with, a clean test is no excuse to stop taking other precautions, and if a local authority wants you to narc on who's gathering, give the authoritarian stooge an extra fuck you from me.
You're still out there. And for that I'm grateful.
In the grand tradition of "If you can't do something useful, get the fuck out the way," I'm probably gonna go silent between tonight and whenever the loudest roaring dies down post-election day.
I'll still be available via messenger and whatnot. Just don't have much to say from my lawn chair with a drinking skull holder that won't get lost in the sauce.
In the meantime, as someone who's survived their share of truly wacky shit:
As long as you're still alive, you got more options than you think.
Take care of yourselves out there.
I've given this advice three times this week and I'm getting sick of it.
If you're shopping for a gun, now, because you're worried about civil unrest and suchlike?
If your home has never been within, oh, ten miles of a riot this year?
Civil unrest ain't coming for you anytime soon. Deal with it.
If your home is within that ten-mile radius?
Taking next week off and going somewhere else is easier, cheaper, and safer than anything you can possibly do as a new shooter with a new gun in that timeframe.
Wait till next year when Ollivander's guns, ammo, & pawn opens up and we'll see if we can hook you up then.
Oh, and if you're an antimasker AND trying to get your first gun now?
Just go fuck yourself.
With something wildly inappropriate.
Seriously, it's a free country.
Anything's a dildo if you got the courage.
This is the way!
*sighs, sips my morning Dr. Pepper.*
Point one: It's pretty much impossible for a non-government entity to commit censorship.
Point one-A: Coercive and intimidating self-censorship practices undertaken in a devil's deal to avoid legal censorship is absolutely possible and happens all the time (see the MPAA).
Point two: Both wings of American politics are pissed off at social media platforms for, essentially, suppressing what they like and allowing what they don't. Wrap it up in whatever wrapper you like: foreign interference, deep fake, lies, slander, what have you, it's all more or less the same when you open the box.
Point two-A: Getting the bulk of our news from a single platform run by a guy who looks like Data's stand-in on Star Trek stepped off the set for a smoke probably wasn't the best idea ever, but it was free, easy, and popular, and we're all about that.
Point three: Aforesaid platforms plan on still being here and still being privately controlled regardless of election results, preferably with as much freedom to do so as possible.
Point four: Social media corporate cultures lean at least somewhat left. Traditional media platforms lean by a significant majority left.
Point four-A: Traditional media overwhelmingly went for the Dems in 2016 and got massive levels of egg on their collective face thanks to Trump's win.
Point five: if Trump wins, about all he can do is bluster at media platforms the same way he has for the last few years. The right's already demonstrated that they're not willing to try messing with section 230. Because they know social media platforms are their best defense and counteroffense against traditional platforms. It's not the 90's anymore, falling back to talk radio isn't a viable option now.
Point six: if Biden wins, especially with one or both houses behind him, the stakes are potentially far higher. Payback for four years of "how dare you let that happen" could and would totally be on the agenda. Punishing social platforms for promoting wrongthink, whether that's my eliminating section 230 or other means, would be easily doable. As described in point one-A above, they don't have to repeal the first Amendment to punish platforms if it's arranged that they bleed legal fees defending the actions of their users in court.
Point seven: We're already years past when the ACLU stopped giving a shit about free speech. The left will gladly watch it go, secure in the knowledge that the only people silenced will be Nazis, haters, -ists, -phobes, and other undesirables. And they'll sleep soundly, secure in the knowledge that such things have no way of coming back to bite them in the ass later.
The poor fuckers.
Long story short, more people getting kicked off of more platforms, usually for being somewhere on the right and not keeping their mouth shut.
Ready for this wretched year to be over, but it's not cold enough to hibernate yet.
Take care of yourselves out there.
I've posted my share of stores about cringy lefty folks looking for guns.
Yesterday, a gun nut group I'm in had someone way on the other side that just made me twitch.
Older than my parents boomer. Morbidly overweight. Lost all his guns to a burglar years ago. Purpleish city in a red state. Asking what to get now. Thinks civil war is coming. Wants to defend home and family. Also wants to, direct quote, "suppress self-styled liberals."
I did my best to be nice. I don't like picking on people. I really don't like picking on scared people. I don't like telling people that they're dipping their toes into tinfoil hat lake. Nor do I like telling someone that their tactical assessment is about as fucked up as a cobra at a mongoose convention.
But seriously, the fuck?
What I did say was thus:
"Since you asked, and given what you've described?
Preference and Effective are ships that sailed long ago.
Find the closest thing to comfortable you can afford in a shop that has two boxes of rounds to go with it. Shoot off one box to familiarize yourself, keep the other box handy near wherever you're locking up the weapon.
Then relax. In any but the worst case scenarios, you're not even going to be in the same grid square as anyone needing suppression. Getting used to salads and getting to know your neighbors are gonna do a whole lot more to keep you alive than anything else at this point."
About the best I could hope for actually being paid attention to, given most of the thread was touting brand loyalty like it was last year or something.
Look folks, not to suck my own dick here, but I got a resume any guerilla wannabe would drool over. Know what the top four things I did to keep me alive in the last six months?
Number one, wore a mask.
If you're an antimasker, spare me your degree in virology from Facebook U. It ain't perfect, but paired with distancing and some hardcore hygiene practices, it beats the shit out of pretending we're back to normal. And if you think it's security theater, fine. It's not the bullshit disarming you security theater of the TSA. It's the security theater that keeps the 320 million other scared and angry people you're sharing this country with from panicking. Panicky crowds are deadly enough on their own. Do your part to keep them from happening.
Number two, bought an exercise machine I actually use.
I'm strong as fuck, but I'm also paunchy and not getting any younger. I never thought rowing would be my thing, but here we are. It's smaller, quieter, easier to use and more fun than the elliptical I had. Thus, I'm using it at least twice a day.
Number three, snuck in some portion control.
Dropping my morning omelet from four eggs and three meatballs to three and two respectively doesn't sound like much, but when you have a few a week, it helps.
Number four, cuddled the cats.
World's on fire, emotional care is a thing.
I've said before, I don't think we're entering a new civil war.
I do think we're in for some election day fuckery regardless of who wins, so if you're in a contentious area, visiting elsewhere for the week of election day may be a smart idea.
But even at our worst I don't see communist hordes invading flyover country as a significant threat to the cornfed ass of the OP.
We got a long way to go and nowhere near out of the woods yet, folks. Let's not stop to squat in thornbushes along the way, eh?
Hashtags and declarations of faith and all that are great for reinforcing tribal affiliation and shared values.
That said, using them to do your character judgement for you is both lazy and woefully inaccurate.
And demanding them? Well, the precedents on that don't look too good.
So, before it comes up again,
Yes, I voted.
And No, I ain't saying for who.
So if you were relying on who as a yes/no toggle switch to determine if I was worthy of your disdain, hatred, disgust, and/or banishment from your company?
Well, tough shit.
That's your emotional labor to undertake, cupcake. You're gonna have to take a look at other things I do and come to a conclusion of your own. I ain't gonna make it that easy for you.
And fwiw, you should probably do some pondering as to why you're trying to make a decision like that easy.
Take care of yourselves out there.
So, a few weeks ago, I was asked what I think about the various second civil war scenarios that have been floating around.
Instead, I'm going to describe what the scenario that has the least amount of blood on the walls looks like. This is going off the cuff and without checking sources, so keep that in mind. Bear in mind that it's also not my personal best case scenario, just the one I think that results in the least amount of violence and misery.
To do that, I have to talk a little about how Trump operates and about how the federal government operates.
Trump is, politically speaking, an independent more than anything else. He was a Democrat when it suited him to be while rubbing shoulders with limousine liberals in NYC, and he's a Republican by the road taken. In a lot of ways, his journey parallels Bernie Sanders. Both are independent populists who tore up their milquetoast competition With two big differences.
One, the GOP had no heir apparent anywhere near on Hillary's level.
Two, the RNC wasn't willing to cheat to ensure that a member of their chosen few won.
Trump might not have been pleasant, but he could work a crowd better than the entire GOP pack. But there was no endearment between him and the rest of the party. And that got expressed in a way that's hard to notice if you're not looking for it.
Try not to think of your own personal catchphrases and bouts of profanity when I say "the worst thing about Trump is..." Was that a good practice run for everyone? OK.
The worst thing about Trump IN REGARDS TO RUNNING A COUNTRY is the inability of almost anyone to behave like a functional adult in his presence. Including himself. The Dems have been in a constant screeching tantrum since 2016 and the Republicans can't go a day without looking at him like the designated driver looking at everyone else well into their latest round of whatever his friends are drinking.
And while that excites his base, embarrasses his allies and enrages his enemies, it had another effect. Specifically, on what I'm going to call Federal Middle Management, or FMM.
FMM is a group of people you never hear about unless they're in a scandal. And unless you did a lot of extra credit in civics class or saw a West Wing episode about it, you're probably not all that up on their jobs. They're the feds who get shit done. Cabinet secretaries, task force leaders, czars and suchlike. Doesn't matter how smart or hardworking a President is, they need effective middle management to accomplish anything.
FMM's are cyclical career bureaucrats. They typically choose party identity early in their careers. When their party holds the White House, they go to work. When a change in leading party happens, they step down and go to consultancies, think tanks, or related work until the cycle comes around again.
And when Trump was elected, a HUGE swath of the FMM's said, "I'll sit this one out."
Trump had all the rights and privileges of the party's candidate, and absolutely none of the alliances, friendships and mutual respects that an effective President needs. That is why his cabinet has been filled with empty positions and acting members the entire time. The FMM refused to be associated with him. The few who did were the dregs with no friends, the ladder climbers seeking power for their own sakes, and a handful of people dedicated to being adults in the room (Kelly and Mattis, to name two).
This is also why his Presidency is so ineffective at handling crises. I'll be fair, ANY American President would have had a huge challenge with Covid-19. America is a special child of a country. I love her dearly, but even I see that.
Most countries eventually develop a subculture revolved around the concept of, "fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
America COLLECTS them.
Fuck, the American Revolutionary War was a cross-continental "fuck you, I won't do what you tell me."
It's a dynamic attitude. It gets a lot done.
It's also the antithesis of helpful when it comes to a crisis where everyone NEEDS to be on the same page to get shit done.
We'd still be in more of a mess than countries with more authoritarian traditions or homogeneous populations.
But with a functional FMM, we'd have much, much less of a shit show than we do now.
Got all that?
OK, here's what I see as the least harmful scenario.
One: Barrett gets confirmed before Halloween. (The GOP won't find out until summer that they confirmed a Constitutionalist instead of an Evangelical, but by then it will be far too late.)
Barrett's confirmation is the tipping point. With her confirmed, Trump officially becomes more trouble than he's worth in the eyes of the GOP. Nothing official gets released. But any aid to his fuckery of any kind just melts away into stone walls.
Two: Biden wins by enough to call it on election night or before that weekend, but not so much that anyone with a spoonful of brains calls it a landslide.
The GOP retain the Senate and might regain seats in the house.
Trump is largely ignored. Pence may or may not concede for him.
Three: Winter is here. The Hill puts together an aid package considered unthinkable pre-election: one with a veto-proof majority. It uses the continued infrastructure put together for PUA and fills in some of the weak spots. It passes by Thanksgiving.
Four: Between the weather and the election results, the bulk of active protests die down considerably. A lone gunman may spark bigger ones in one city or another, but the bulk of the ctrl-left and savage right see the lack of popular support they need and pull back out of the public eye.
Five: The aid package bouys consumer spending but little else. Unemployment remains high and grows higher as a number of restaurants, retail stores, and even airlines only last through the end of the year. But people eat, a wave of evictions is stymied, and a muted holiday season is survived.
Six: Academia is hit hard as a wave of students screwed over for the fall term refuse to return. The Ivy League and a good number of state schools and community colleges remain, but a lot of institutions close for good.
Seven: The Democrat FMM takes their places upon inauguration and get to work. There's a lot of neglected mess to clean up, but centralized control and working FMM helps with effectiveness within weeks.
Eight: Vaccine distribution, even when effective, makes for cautious months leading into the next normal.
Well, that's where I'm at. I might be wrong. But I have an annoying habit of thinking good of people. So we'll see what happens.
Oh, and I've already voted, so this may well be my last political commentary until after the election.
(I know, who am I kidding? But it would be nice to just look at Halloween for a while.)
Take care of yourselves out there.
Recent events being what they are, there's a lot of talk of empathy, schadenfreude, and giving as good as one gets. Or would be given.
Both spoiler-ridden parts of a recent novel and some bits of my own life have certainly convinced me where I stand there.
But to keep it simple, I'll just say I've been given the opportunity to live the rest of my life like Jet, or like Iroh. I've seen examples of both among my peers.
I won't say the choice has been easy, but I wouldn't be surprised to find that it's the reason I'm as well-adjusted as I've been.
Nothing like going through a decade's worth of archived email to reassure you you've been doing something with your life.
Dumping all the old choreography, armory, prop making, and advisor stuff. The tax paperwork is saved elsewhere and everything relevant is saved on the CV of Doom.
Still messing around on the website to get a good mix of acting, writing, and my kind of barbarism going to make it effective, but those things are always works in progress.
At this rate, my life will be considerably simplified in time for reconstruction or post-apocalypse, whichever comes first.
Musings on violence, storytelling, and humanity in general.