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Task Writing [Nov. 3rd, 2018|11:39 pm]
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The other day I was at Union Square and had an inspiration for a poem, and I decided to commit myself to actually write it. I just finished the first draft, and it was painful because it was written at a different point with a different mindset that I was under than when I was feeling inspired at Union Square, and also because it was a more specific and meaningful form of writing than journaling or general criticism, which I can burn dozens of pages in a sitting without a second thought (c.f., this LiveJournal, which at this point I've used for fifteen years (?). I'm not checking).

The painfulness was the point. Writing the feature length script was also painful and really did take sitting my ass down in front of a blank screen and just staring at it for excruciating lengths and forcing out a few words before things actually started moving. This is a common description of writing in books and articles and is exactly the obnoxious sort of life experience that can be described to you a million times by a million different people in a million different ways and still when you do it for yourself makes you go, "Fuck me, I was not prepared for this."

In order to force that discipline, I was underemployed freelancing and spending my time writing rather than searching for a job. It worked to get the writing done but once the money ran out I went and got a job.

(The problem might be that those descriptions make writing feel romantic the same way anti-war movies have entertaining battle scenes. The struggle of writing is dramatically communicated better than the boring fact that it's work.)

I once wanted to be a writer. It's probably better that I went into media production instead because I'm not sure I would ever had developed the task discipline of regularly writing before getting caught up in work and other things, whereas in media production the 'work and other things' ended up being the stuff that helped me develop the task discipline.

But the problem is that I'm pretty much in a corner now as regarding my goals and getting in the habit of writing purposefully, so I don't have a choice. I'm now paying more attention to my ideas and jotting down notes and trying to figure out a way to carve out time to regularly write.

I'm honestly worried that my attention to this goal isn't going to last long and I'm going to wake up another three, five, eleven years from now and be like, "Oh yeah, I still only have that one first rough draft of a feature film and a rough draft of a poem I wrote about transferring trains," but I don't have a choice to handle that worry in any other way than pushing forward for now.

One of the things that I realized also is that I need to revamp my idea and approach to Robinson Met Krasna. I originally wanted to make an ongoing series of essay / experimental films with a loose thread built around the continuing time travels of two filmmakers who inspired the name. It's not working because I've been vague in trying to keep the episodes out of context of the here and now (time travel, right?) and I got more involved with setting up 'the story'. Also the narrator has no point of view.

But I still need to do this project, because it's right for me to do, and because it's another thing I need to write. Robinson Met Krasna, I realized finally, is the place I have carved open to admit my own opinion about things, in the way that I don't really want to share in other formats or in social life. Robinson Met Krasna is for the points when I think about something and feel it's really important. If I feel something is really important to say, the narrator has to have a point of view.

With all the above in mind, the other issue is editing. I rarely self-edit, and when I have it's usually been superficial. Editing may prove to be as painful or moreso than writing, but strangely I'm not too worried about it. The thing is that I edit other people's stuff well. "But that's not the same thing as editing your own work" well yes but writing other people's stuff is about as painful as writing my own stuff, so... I'll figure it out when I get there.

After all, I need to write the second draft of the feature, and the second draft will require editing.

It's been a period of directional introspection recently. My job at The Skin Deep was the most meaningful job I had ever had, and there is a loss at having my position there fade away, but on the other hand I was also plateaued and maybe even stagnating. I'm now in a relationship, the first that I've ever had that has lasted longer than a year, and it follows a long period of recovery from an abusive relationship that I was in for a while. I had just hit a point of my life where I was aware and satisfied about how everything was going and then the United States surprised me by going full fascist. Somewhere between one point back when and another point here recently, I realized, my interests have changed a lot. I'm also in kinda a funky place where some things in my life were both a long time ago and not so long ago -- anything between about 2004 to today can feel like 'just yesterday' or an entirely different life that I left behind because I grew out of being that person.

I'm now making plans with a woman I intend to marry, own property with, and have children with, and have not yet done or committed to doing any of those things. Among the stuff that she's trying to do before all that and the stuff that I'm trying to do before all that, I have the sincere desire to do one more major broadening of my career and what it means, and I have no idea what that broadening is or looks like. It's not about 'finding meaningful work' anymore because I did that. It's not about learning the craft, because I did that. It's not about making a living doing what I love, because I did that. And of course am always continuing to do those things, but am now in the habit of it. It's just my lifestyle now.

So because I can't force the next big broadening, what I can do is dedicate myself to more directional writing, writing toward the purpose of completing and meaning something in a manner presentable or publishable, and be more mindful, open, and curious in the pursuit of new interests and reappraisal of my values. That part I'm doing.

Which reminds me. I posted to Facebook recently, "The Internet isn't fun anymore." I'm glad I admitted I feel that way on that platform (where I generally try to be circumspect and mostly just share quotes, articles, and art). I've complained about it before but won't go into more detail here. The happiest part of my current situation is that the introspection and curiosity I'm directing is no longer directed to the Internet but rather to the all the other 'stuff' around me. The Internet satisfied so much of my curiosity for so long of my life but it's actually overwhelmingly nice to be injecting the informational hits my brain needs periodically from other media, including poetry.

That said, if you're interested in a new favorite writer of mine, check out Ben Hunt at Epsilon Theory. He's a macrofinance investor and former professor who wraps information theory, postmodernism, game theory, cinephilia, philosophy, evolutionary and behavioral psychology, and literature into a larger conversation about markets. He may or may not make money off his ideas, and I wouldn't presume to tell you that you could make money off of them -- regardless, he has an amazing aptitude for putting diverse areas of inquiry to task while making his arguments AND tends to explain different specialist knowledge simply and understandably.

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The Twilight / Transformers Dichotomy [Oct. 21st, 2018|12:17 pm]
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A less talked about gender double-standard is what I like to call the Transformers / Twilight dichotomy.

Both franchises are pretty terrible. Both feature bad writing with pointless diversions and lack of pacing, ham acting, over-reliance of CGI, and, at root, a fucked up worldview if you take the story to have a thesis or meaning.

It's on that latter part, however, where popular acceptance of these franchises diverge. On Transformers, if you bother to take on breaking down its militaristic, fascist literalized meanings, everyone shrugs and says, "Whatever. It's just entertainment. It's not supposed to mean anything. Why do you take giant robots fighting over city scapes so seriously?"

But Twilight, if you bother to point out the abusive, mindfucking qualities of the relationship between an old monster and a young naive girl, you'll ready get a pile-on with sympathetic men, women, and whoever else wants to join in on the beatdown. Only its major fans and a few disinterested folk will shrug their shoulders and say "Whatever. It's just entertainment. It's not supposed to mean anything. Why do you take vampires fighting werewolves over a bookish girl so seriously?"

Which is just the thing. Moral outrage at Transformers, a boys' entertainment, is considered pretentious, anal huffiness. Moral outrage at Twilight, a girls' entertainment, is a spectator sport.

Now let's get into scope.

Both Twilight and Transformers are considered big budget Hollywood tentpole productions, in fact they are considered 'phenomena', considered more than just a popular entertainment and now hallowed as a certain inflection point of culture.

But compare the following budgets:

Transformers 1: $150 million | Twilight 1: $37 million
Transformers 2: $200 million | Twilight 2: $50 million
Transformers 3: $195 million | Twilight 3: $68 million
Transformers 4: $210 million | Twilight 4: $110 million

And compare the following worldwide box office grosses:

Transformers 1: $709,709,780 | Twilight 1: $393,616,788
Transformers 2: $836,303,693 | Twilight 2: $709,711,008
Transformers 3: $1,123,794,079 | Twilight 3: $698,491,347
Transformers 4: $1,104,054,072 | Twilight 4: $712,205,856

At Twilight's highest level of support, it received only half what Transformers did for budget -- despite making far more multiples of its budget back at box office than Transformers. Dollar for dollar, Twilight was the better investment, but it was consistently given half or less what Transformers did and made less nominally in box office.

The first sequels are interesting though, because it shows Twilight coming in very close to Transformers, while operating on a quarter of its budget. If Hollywood was predominantly concerned about higher margins and profitability beyond other calculus, this would inform them that it's time to make more lower budget women-focused fantasies. Spoiler alert: they don't. "Women's movies" is still considered niche market, whereas "Transformers" is "global market."

Anyway my point is this: the smaller funded, lesser viewed, yet more profitable, more maligned franchise created the larger moral outrage over "What does this teach girls?!" whereas the larger funded, larger viewed, yet less profitable and less maligned franchise generated only academic and fussy cinephile outrage over "What does this teach boys?!"

The clear issue here being, that women have to be protected from their bad quality commercial media, which itself is rarer and far less invested in, but boys, well... it's just entertainment.

This is not an argument that we should relax our criticisms about Twilight's messaging. It's just pointing out a double standard in how media and its affect on viewers is treated depending on its target gender demographics.

And that women are so starved for entertainment that includes them that they were willing to shell out 7-10x the budget of some super shitty movies because it's one of the few series that were made with them in mind. 7-10x return on investment, Hollywood. Take that for moral outrage.
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Effortful [Jul. 2nd, 2018|07:39 pm]
Back to the point where I need to be disciplined about the parts of my career that are determined by nothing more magical than effort.

Each day I need to apply for jobs, work a job, or push a project toward completion. Preferably two of those things.

No more down time.


Finished 1st Draft [Apr. 20th, 2018|01:20 pm]
I finished the first rough draft of my feature film script yesterday. It will be workshopped next Thursday. In the interim week I intend to finish an edit on a quickie short film my girlfriend and I shot together a couple weekends ago. Then I need to write out a short script she and I outlined awhile back, and we'll be moving forward with all that.

You know who really inspires me the most on this stuff? Warren Ellis. He writes these newsletters called Orbital Operations where weekly he basically dumps out his stress about juggling thousands of projects, and then soberly talks about the limitations of futurism and futurist minded techspeak and recommends a few books.

I learned after working with a mentor who was capable of sitting still for 16 hours straight to work on his creative projects that I am not capable of that without burnout within a couple of weeks. I have also learned from experience that if I juggle too many projects, none of them get completed. So I'm not trying to just jump in to jump in, but I AM trying to make up for some lost time.

So my goal is to methodical about finishing projects before jumping into the next one. There's two parts to that sentence, and the methodical preceeds the jumping to the next one. It's not just about balancing multiple projects but finishing single ones.

My experience in the industry is enough to know that the two things that matter more than anything else is showing up on time and finishing the project. You have to finish. And it's honestly been years since I've truly finished my own stuff, most of the time tinkering around while finishing other people's work. So even as I've kept productive for my own goals, I haven't left myself objects to show for it.

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(Reminder:) Writing is Work [Apr. 16th, 2018|04:30 pm]

I'm nearing completion of the first draft of a feature film. I need to have the first draft done by Thursday, after which it will be read and reviewed and then I have to do a second draft. When I do a second draft, I'm going to have to figure out some method of accountability and deadline.

If I finish it, it will be the first feature length script I've ever completed. I have had many enthusiastic starts but never gotten this far. And getting this far has made me realize why.

Some background on how this script has been coming together:

About two years ago a friend gave me a book of short stories by Lucia Berlin. Lucia Berlin was a writer who went to UNM and lived in New Mexico (as well as a bunch of other places including Texas, Idaho, California, Mexico, and Chile), and a lot of what she wrote about resonated with me. I'm familiar with other New Mexican authors who write about New Mexico (so George RR Martin doesn't count) like Rudolpho Anaya and Tony Hillerman, but Lucia Berlin's writing is the first that really felt like it shared my experiences and feelings about the people in New Mexico.

I gave the book to my mother (asking her to pass it on to my sister) during Christmas 2016 and went about my life not really thinking about it. Until one night I was thinking about it. And kept thinking about it, particularly a short story called "Strays." And then one night I sat down and rewrote what I remembered of "Strays" and a few other stories (like "Angel's Laundromat") into script form.

Then came the excitement part that happens easily enough. A new idea, one that felt like a good idea and sustainable. And unlike my other scripts, this had a source material I could crib from if I got stuck. So I decided to get to work.

(Sidenote: But I needed the source material back. Christmas of 2017, the book was nowhere to be found at Mom's house. So I ended up having to buy another copy.)

So then I poured through the stories again and outlined the beats to fill out the story, and then I wrote all the scenes that excited me. With those scenes I came up with characters I liked enough to start filling out more of their stories. Scenes would beget scenes and I'd always have like half a dozen more scenes left to write even when I started with half a dozen at the beginning of the day. This has been going on for several weeks now.

Now I'm almost done and it's very hard, largely because: I've exhausted all the good scenes I really wanted to write; I've exhausted all the scenes from the short stories that fit into this narrative; I've exhausted all of the scenes that important dramatic things happen -- now I'm just down to the scenes that tie those scenes together, bring us to where we need to be. And they're obnoxious to write largely because though they are linking together necessary scenes, it's hard to make these specific scenes also necessary. Three of the scenes I wrote today I already feel like as an editor I'd just cut right out.

So my typical experience writing feature length scripts is to have enthusiasm for an idea built around a couple-few scenes. I write the scenes, get excited, and then sort of drop out. Then there's a couple scripts I got more serious about and outlined, and started working through them until I got to the "How the hell do I get from here to there?" part and dropped out. Now I had a source material to help me get from here to there, but the links between this here to there and that here to there also needs a link that

<i>WOULD</i> drop me out if I didn't have this deadline and also the knowledge that I'm not going to move forward unless I sit my ass down and do the work.

Anyway the tl;dr of this is that like 99.9% of other people, the writing stops when it becomes work; since writing is work, that's why most people don't write professionally and why I'm not a professional writer. But I get to re-experience this again from the perspective of being in the middle of the work, and literally having to fight against procrastination and laziness to get it done.

Why I haven't gotten this far on previous scripts is because the writing is work part also includes the fuller details of the larger story in addition to it's various plotting issues. Gonna have to overcome that too, next, after this script is done.



Laying Down in the Coffin Being Nailed Shut by the Services You Use [Dec. 19th, 2017|12:59 pm]
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During this whole net neutrality debacle, I found myself wondering what I was even using the Internet for anymore, if I could honestly argue that I was protecting it for the value it gives me or only what I remembered it used to give me. So I took some time to monitor my Internet usage and what it did for me.

Conclusion: the Internet is already destroyed. For just a small sample of what I mean, switch your Facebook timeline to Most Recent versus Top Stories. In a quick glance you'll see a very, very different experience, more different than what it used to be back when doing that switch was a top-level command (now it's buried). Facebook's algorithms have already throttled the information you're receiving far before any ISPs have started adjusting to the new rules.

Warren Ellis completes the rest of it for me:

> "Discovery on Tumblr is busted, Twitter's too loud and awful, Facebook decides what you're seeing for you, don't even with Mastodon, Snapchat got murdered by Instagram Stories, Instagram algo-management is getting aggressive..."

> "Having been on the net for more than twenty years, and having been so deeply connected with it for so much of that time, it's really still kind of weird to see it all in such a state of ruin. The "Wild West" aspect left a long time ago, of course, but I'm not sure I ever expected the aftermath years to look like cheap post-apocalyptic fiction.

Which brings us to how last year Americans clutched pearls over 'echo chambers.' It's just like Americans to blame themselves for issues beyond their control.

Be clear about this:

You're not in an echo chamber of your own making, you're in a coffin that the services you use are nailing shut.

If you want good information, better information, diverse information -- you have to go back to print.

Don't take it personally. Everyone thought television was 'the most democratic medium' before the broadcast channels crystalized to just a few corporations. It's the cycle of how mass media develops.

Saved here until I determine whether to share it on FB [Aug. 16th, 2017|11:40 pm]
I'm seeing many of my left-of-center friends arguing that the 1st amendment shouldn't cover hate speech.

The 1st Amendment restricts the federal government from passing laws targeting certain forms of speech. If the 1st Amendment is altered to exclude 'hate speech', it is up to the federal government to determine what constitutes hate.

So who gets to decide what is or is not hate speech?

Firstly, Congress can introduce bills defining hate speech. Both chambers of Congress are currently majority Republican, with the majority leaders of each chamber able to determine which bills come up for vote and the majority party capable of whipping up the vote.

Do you want Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and their whips determining what is hate speech?

It falls on the President to sign or veto those laws, as well as instruct and guide the bureaus of the federal government in their implementation. In addition, even without bills, the President can inform bureau priorities and implementations of existing laws via executive order.

Do you want Donald J. Trump telling the bureaus of the federal government what should be considered hate speech?

It falls of the Department of Justice to determine due process and procedure regarding how law is enforced and judged in a court of law. The Department of Justice is currently headed by Jeff Sessions.

Do you want Jeff Sessions telling cops and judges how to determine hate speech in their deliberations of lawful behavior?

Say you sue for your right to speech, claiming it's not hate speech as defined by law by these people, and you argue your way all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is currently majority conservative, with a nontrivial possibility of new court justices seated by President Donald J. Trump. In its current form, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice John Roberts are considered the 'swing' votes on the Supreme Court depending on issue. John Roberts tends to be the swing regarding social issues.

Do you want Anthony Kennedy or, more likely, John Roberts ruling on what constitutes hate speech?

If your answer to all of the above is no, then you definitely don't want exceptions made to the first amendment regarding hate speech. Full lstop.

If your answer to any of the above is no, then you likely do not want exceptions made to the first amendment regarding hate speech. See below.

And if your answer to all of the above questions is yes, then you were one of the fascists at the 'rally for the right' demonstration at Charlottesville, and can rest pretty confident that your statements won't be considered hate speech by the current regime.

It's easy to say, "We shouldn't let Nazis march on the streets." If you decompress that pronoun 'we', the folder's contents contain a Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a House Majority Leader Paul Ryan, a President Donald Trump, a Secretary of Department of Justice Jeff Sessions, and Justices Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts. Those representatives are the ones that get to define 'Nazi.'

And that, my left-of-center friends, is why you don't want exceptions made to the first amendment regarding hate speech.

And don't give me that "Ugh, you're defending hate speech!" bullshit. I'm defending YOUR freedom of speech. You think making hate speech illegal will stop fascists from marching? Charlottesville proves they don't have high regard to following laws. They don't even have regard for human life.

This exertion of violence is assymetrical; the protections of the Constitution are to defend YOU from THEM.
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Vetoing Pax Americana [Jun. 3rd, 2017|01:14 am]
In summer of 2008, I traveled to Europe with my family. We were fortunate to have some friends to stay with in the suburbs of Paris, and when we arrived, my mother, sister, and I had dinner on Montmartre with the Parisian couple we were staying with. And since 2008 was an election year in the United States, with, at that point, Obama running against Hillary in the Democratic primary, we two families conversed about it.

There were various subjects we covered but once I had expressed that I was decidedly in the Obama camp, but my sister and mother pushed back to ask why I wanted to vote FOR Obama for any reason other than "He's not Hillary."* And the French man we were with, Pat, was similarly interested.

Where I eventually went, in an unprepared and messy live dialog sort of way, came down to a conviction I had at the time that Obama could solve one major problem for me:

After 8 years of a President who regularly stumbled over words and sounded like a damn fool, one thing Obama could do was repair our image and relationship with the rest of the world. He had already gotten remarkable coverage for his measured behavior, thoughtful speeches, and ability to sit and listen to various groups within and without his usual 'constituency.' This was a prestige Clinton was never able to overcome -- the impression that she 'listened.'**

That moment solidified for me a political expectation, as any argument does. When you speak, you're merely re-enforcing your own biases. In a large way one of my major motivations as a United States citizen is to sell the concept to the rest of the world that we're not just an evil empire, but a collaborator, colleague, teammate. That our leadership pays off dividends to the stability and prosperity of the globe.

Obama did a stellar job with that expectation. He wasn't without faults even there; by the time he left, Israel was pretty frustrated with him, Russia wouldn't talk to him, and there were other little kerfuffles. But these things all existed within the realm of what you would expect from any sort of organizational behavior and its inherent conflicts, especially such a large and uncontrolled / uncommanded organization as THE ENTIRE FUCKING WORLD ORDER.

Meanwhile yeah, okay, he pissed off the increasingly rightwing Israeli government, but look at what he did with Cuba, Iran, and even Pakistan. Mission accomplished in my view, without the banners that Bush prematurely unfurled on a flight deck signifying the end of a quagmire we're still stuck in a decade after he called it fait accompli.

Also, to be perfectly honest, your country usually looks and feels respectful and dignified when it's run by people who can speak in complete, complex sentences with correct grammar and usage.

But for all the politics and debate, values and expectations, opinions and ideologies, admittedly one of the hardest things for me about the fact of people actually putting pen to paper to fill in the bubble next to the names of people like Dubya and The Donald is that issue with the whole 'speaking in full sentences' thing. For Dubya, I can admit, I sort of grokked the, "This guy sounds like someone I could have a beer with." But please, watch any consecutive three minutes straight of Cheetoh Mussolini speak and tell me, would YOU have a beer with a guy talking like that? The person who drinks and sounds like that is the person who does it on the street at 11am and has a smell that sticks to the air, not the dude who hangs at a mahogany interior and discusses sports.

A loss of prestige and dignity, however, is repairable. The hope, at the very least, was that even as the rent-seeker administration continually gutted domestic services in the name of 'small government', at least 'conscientious' Republicans in Congress would keep the motherfucker from ruining our fucking alliances.

But then the motherfucker dropped the TPP. I know left-of-center people are fine with that -- because the left can have it's dumbassery, too -- but it was literally decades of work worth trillions of dollars of value that the United States just up and left in return for fuck all. FUCK. ALL. That value and that deal still exists -- it's being recrafted as we speak, with other parties engaged, now with new leverage and new opportunities. For all the problems of the TPP left and rightwing populists like to complain about, any actually professional review of the 'deal' indicates that like usual, the United States got the best part of it: the cheapest costs, the most leverage, and the biggest gains. And the reason why the United States USED to always get away with murder in these deals is because the United States is big, vast, powerful, and in control.

The thing is that dropping something like the TPP isn't just a temporary setback. It has cascade effects. Further trade deals with basically anyone will have the additional wariness of, "Well, maybe today the United States government is with us, but next year they might elect a leader suffering from narcissist personality disorder and the entire fucking thing will just vanish overnight." It's in fact that dependability of the United States to be a consistent, careful steward of complex dealmaking which is why 'populists' don't, or at least didn't, and definitely in either case shouldn't, have control of things. And that is their main complaint: "Nobody asked me!" Yeah, but nobody asked you because you're a FUCKING. MORON. The reason why the federal government sometimes does things the 'people' doesn't like is because the federal government is run by people in the profession known as 'government.' Are you in that profession? Then you're not a professional. Fuck off. These people are voted in to represent your interests -- not meet your demands.

Anyway, dropping the TPP happened too fast. It was before Congress even had time to work with the dumbass, and Congress still hasn't gotten its footing on, "So how far do we let homeboy go before he starts threatening our very livelihood?" I don't foresee any movement there unless a massive and disruptive sweep of Congress happens in the 2018 elections -- not guaranteed to happen, but a possibility. Such a possibility isn't just about Democrats taking control and now heading operations; it also may get Republicans to break their silence once they realize their job is at risk.

However, putting the 'Republicans' to the side for a moment, it doesn't matter anymore. The last two weeks means it's too late. Donald J. Trump, con-artist billionaire from Queens, NY, has officially vetoed Pax Americana.

When he traveled to Europe and acted like a dick to EU leadership, that was fodder for the press, but what wasn't talked about was what was talked about. While the press was sharing gifs of 45 shouldering aside Filip Vujanović, what wasn't reported was all the actual stateshood talk that came beforehand. He did his trip and looked every much the fool Americans should know to expect, having had to look at the clown visage of the fucker's face for TWO GODDAMNED YEARS NOW, but the real news was how, immediately after he left, Merkel went straight to Germany and said, "Yeah we're gonna have to stop relying on the US now." France quick to follow afterward. And the cascade of various world leaders since.

That damage is irreparable. But then idiotmonger turns around and announces in the Rose Garden, Thursday, that he's also going to drop the Paris Accord -- against all the advice of pretty much every head of an industry with a market cap worth considering and any evidence of future growth, the admonishment of pretty much literally every single head of state he met, the fucking POPE, and even his technically more urbane and wary family members. From what I can glean, the people he listened to in this decision is a group of maybe a half dozen assholes none of which provide any measurable value to any industry, country, or culture.

Whether the Paris Accord is meaningful for confronting climate change is a more complicated discussion than I can fit into this area. Fundamentally, it's mostly the first stop in dismantling the tragedy of the commons. There's also interesting debate to be had regarding how his step away from the Paris Accord reduces the influence of the federal government in general and executive branch in particular, and enables cities, states, and local interest groups to take up the mantel of change without dependence on government. The Paris Accord can't even be walked out on until 20-fucking-20, turning that year's election into a referendum in addition to the shitshow it promises to be; and time will tell whether the US's exit will have any effect on other countries bailing. Certainly the most concrete issue I see not being met by municipalities and Bloomberg-style billionaire philanthropists are the US's agreements to fund and support green tech developments in third world countries, due to a tune of $2billion.

To be clear, the environment is a much stronger existential threat to our livelihoods than Pax Americana. Nevertheless, the environment is SUCH an existential threat that the dominoes are falling pretty quickly right now with regard to humanity getting its shit together. I'm ... pessimistic. I think we're going to see the loss of billions of human lives before we stabilize. But I'm not pessimistic to think that humanity will be wiped out entirely. I don't have any good reason why. It's just that we tend to be really smart when necessary.

But the end of Pax Americana is devastating to me. It will never be reclaimed, particularly because it is, like any sort of 'world order', as much a fiction countries tell themselves than anything. Pax Americana is currency: everyone followed it because they agreed to, believed it because they wanted to, and in the end knew it could end whenever. And now it has. There's no reason for countries to depend on us anymore. We not only elected a fucking dumbass who can't speak in complete sentences, we've shown a HABIT of it; and we've not only created a habit of it, but we allow that clown to undo years, decades of hard work done by millions of people for no rational reason, in order to serve literally zero tangible benefit to us.

There is not one single thing whatsoever that the United States gains from dropping TPP, pissing off EU leadership, and exiting the Paris Accord. There is NOTHING the US tangibly gains. There's little to nothing the US intangibly gains. There's no 'better deal', in any case. We always got the best deals. Now we will never have that leverage again. It's gone. He threw it in the fucking dumpster fire that is his shithole ego.***

But the things we lose are innumerable. We lose our place at several tables. We lose leverage at the tables we remain. We lose trust. We lose influence. And we cede to other countries influence that only sounds nice and responsible if you're an unskilled, undereducated coal miner in West Virginia -- why NOT let China and Russia take charge of things if they're so willing? It's, you know, not like they have particularly harrowing examples of modern day human rights violations.

We still have the largest economy and the largest military. The economy will fall behind China soon. The military is barely more effective than an Internet connection and a few rogue coders at this point. The US had already fallen behind as 'number one' in most social and quality of life measures. There's little left to be leaders in anymore.

There was a joke that passed around the Social Networks in November of 2016: "Well we had Dubya and got our first black president, so imagine what we'll get after 45!" The problem is that there will be no Obama to repair the damage because it's no longer about any individual leadership. What 45 has done is not about the one man but the role of the United States in the world stage as a whole.


* At the time I did, in fact, have a Never Hillary sort of perspective. My belief at the time was that it is bad symbolism for American democracy as a whole to go Bush Clinton Bush Clinton. When I mentioned such, Pat's face lit up and he got more passionate than any other point during the discussion and said, "I agree!" However my stance is not the same today.

My belief today is that you should always vote FOR the best candidate, not AGAINST candidates you don't like. People voting AGAINST Clinton is how we ended up with Trump: if they voted FOR the best candidate, swing voters in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would have voted for actually capable and intelligent leadership such as Evan McMullin and, arguably, silly but non-threatening candidates like Gary Johnson and Bernie Sanders.

Also, at the time, the stakes were a LOT lower. Any three major candidates that year, Clinton, Obama, and McCain, were all perfectly reasonable candidates for the highest office. It wasn't until McCain took on Palin that voting took on the patina of threat.

** I want to state for the record I was wrong. 25 years of anti-Clinton propaganda had caused me to accept lies. It wasn't until I read about Clinton's colleagues in the Congress and everywhere else that I learned that she has a stellar reputation for listening -- she just has a tendency to not play ball with the media in general, which ultimately sank her, and the rightwing media in particular, which heightened the narrative of her dismissiveness to pure ideological requisite to hate her.

*** "But it's Obama's fault because he joined the Paris Accord without the consent of Congress! If Congress had joined by rule of law the executive branch couldn't make that decision!" Memo to fucktards: Obama and 'consent of Congress' never belonged in the same sentence together because of this little issue regarding rampant racism and unprecedented obstruction.

It's nearly 8pm in San Francisco. [May. 10th, 2017|10:52 pm]
I like to imagine Janet Yellen somewhere, probably San Francisco, fishing a pair of disposable wooden chopsticks through a lukewarm cup of office desk cup ramen in a glass cubical beside an open office lit almost entirely of computer monitors pumping in news and economic data from over the entire world, except her cozy corner under the incandescent glow of a desklamp with one of those sunlight-energy bulbs.

She's finishing up some last minute paperwork. On a desktop in front of her is a Powerpoint presentation she has been preparing for the next Federal Reserve board meeting in which they're all feeling pretty confident about announcing an interest rate raise of less than a half of one percent.

Her office aide approaches to say goodbye for the night. "Oh by the way," the aide says, "Jenny from the White House got in touch with me and asked if you wanted to schedule a time to meet with the President. She says the visitor log is getting full up really quick and if you don't schedule now, you might not be able to speak with him for as much as six months."

Yellen nods her head a bit and thinks. "He's probably really busy right now. If anyone in Washington needs me, they'll reach out."

Yellen and her aide share a restrained quarter smile, before the aide gathers up her purse and spring jacket and turns to leave. With no further hesitation, Yellen gulps down the last dregs of the cup ramen and turns back to signing off on the next little iteration of bureaucratic procedure.

Lack of Confidence Leads to Lack of Competence [May. 10th, 2017|12:07 am]
Ten years ago February, HSBC shocked the market by raising its bad-debt provisions to $10.5billion, $1.8billion more than analysts had expected, because of failing American subprime mortgages. On May 6th, 2007, Chuck Prince, CEO of Citigroup, told the Financial Times "As long as the music is still playing, you've got to get up and dance." By November he would be fired. A year later Lehman Brothers collapsed.

Financial meltdown became likely, and all levels of the federal government and finance industries were in high alert. In the middle of it all was a fussy bureaucrat named Henry 'Hank' Paulson, who was appointed Secretary of the Treasury after a stint at Goldman Sachs. Hank stepped in and forced mergers between imploding banks and otherwise structurally sound big banks, such as JP Morgan Chase's rushed union of Bear Stearns. This 'bail-in' reaching its limit, he then lead stewardship of the Troubled Assets Relief Program which forced all banks, struggling or not, to take ~$125billion of loans from the federal government. This monetary program was propped by the FED, at the time lead by Ben Bernanke, who bought Treasury bonds at a brisk pace in a program now known as 'quantitative easing.'

In November 2008, shaken Americans elected their first black President, who walked into an office currently under the workload of developing a bipartisan bill to prevent future meltdowns called the Dodd-Frank Act. In addition, the new President sought for relief spending funds from Congress to bailout others struggling in the American economy. The Congress gave him the funds, most famously to bail out struggling automakers in Detroit, but not before Republicans in the Senate stripped out the new President's spending proposal to cover and insure underwater mortgages from American citizens ravaged by the second worst economic disaster after the Great Depression. Instead, the new president lengthened unemployment benefit periods, pushed a signature medical insurance reform bill through Congress, and closed the deal on the Dodd-Frank Act.

By the time the market bottomed out at the end of the year in 2009, Americans were pissed. From their perspective, they had lost homes, jobs, retirements, their futures, and the only people who got 'bailed out' were the (now even bigger) banks and car companies. This is understandable, but hopefully the summary above indicates something few people seem to talk about that period:

The forced mergers worked. The banks were more systemically stable than they had been before. TARP worked. The US Federal Government profited by $30billion from TARP paybacks, which concluded in 2011. Quantitative Easing left money cheap for businesses to borrow and consolidate. Bailing out the car companies (in return for new emission and mileage standards as well as other regulation) worked, saving hundreds of thousands of American jobs and leading to dramatic investment in better quality vehicles.

Meanwhile, in Europe, most countries decided on rigorous and painful spending cuts to service their debt, in a measure known as 'austerity.' 10 years on, neither the US nor the EU are as 'well off' as they were before the recession -- but the US's recovery is far better, with a 4.4% unemployment rate, new stock market highs, the beginning reversals of wage stagnation, and banks that are frankly pummeling European ones. Although this is the place where somebody wants to jump in and talk about the many ways in which the US people and their economy is still struggling, if not outright suffering, in comparison to Europe, America's recovery was bold, remarkable... and fast.

Hank Paulson was never meant to be a household name. Under 'normal' circumstances, nobody should have known, or cared, much about him. Ben Bernanke would still be a pet whipping boy by End-the-Fed libertarians but their whip wouldn't be so smart or large.

These detested men worked under extreme pressure and made very hard, and very risky, decisions using specialized knowledge very, very few people have to solve a legitimate crisis that could have pulled down the entire global economy.


They weren't good at television. They were number men, wonks, old grim-faced grumps. After solving the problem they had no story to tell, just a few interviews to answer questions as best they could. Hank Paulson eventually wrote a memoir on the experience and had a documentary made about him, but in the latter he talks like paint drying and the former, which I haven't read, is likely ghostwritten.

And because they weren't good at creating a narrative, even an easy one like "I just saved the world economy motherfuckers!," and because they were attached to an outgoing presidential administration that was nothing but war-tired, world-weary, and wanting no more responsibility or questions, in the end the prevailing American narrative is the one of popular resentment stoked up by feckless billionaires and the bureaucrats who enable them.

Following the Iraq War, which sheered Americans' faith in the credibility of their leadership, the Great Recession destroyed it. Hank Paulson was removed from administration and was probably glad to be rid of it.

On this day, ten years later, an illiterate President who cannot even speak in complete sentences fired FBI director James Comey. At the point in which Comey was fired, he couldn't be more unpopular from both the left and the right.

Let's be clear. Comey likes to quietly, privately do his work, and only some of that is because the FBI historically is meant to. He's also, like Hank Paulson, not good at television as he has harder and more pressing issues in mind. His brain is full of complex information very few individual people can understand. He was also mentored by a former FBI director who navigated the department cleanly through moments of partisan bickering by essentially keeping his mouth shut and staying away from the conflict.

During the 2016 election he got caught in the middle of the crossfire of vicious partisanship. Whilst investigating one major candidate, he couldn't afford to seem partial to either. By not saying anything about the investigation, he came across as hiding evidence from it. So once he determined that the investigation didn't find fault, he tried to clear the air publicly: by saying Clinton couldn't be prosecuted, he advantaged one side. So he tried to balance it by shaming her for being neglectful. Instead of calming the partisanship, it only excited it: liberals saw the Republican registered FBI chief as trying to ruin Clinton's reputation; his scathing remarks, rather than calming the conservatives, made them more certain he was hiding her offense.

Later, when further e-mails were found in an unrelated case, Comey had to re-open the investigation on Clinton. The problem was, if she got elected and he didn't say anything about the investigation being open, the FBI would take a major hit to its credibility and trustworthiness. So he decides to tell Congress five days before the election. Clinton's polls plummet. The man who would then fire Comey is now the President of the United States.

Comey is widely blamed for the fallout; meanwhile, he's still not popular with the right. He has that pesky need to keep showing up at Congress saying foreboding things about the new commander in chief. And furthermore, for some reason, he just insists on not prosecuting Hillary Clinton. Clearly an awful guy.

So let's touch briefly on the reasons for his firing. Technically, he was fired for misrepresenting the volume of emails exchanged between Clinton and Weiner as 'hundreds to thousands' (when it was more like a few dozen). Recall that Comey has a bad habit of overemphasis, lending to exaggeration. Also keep in mind that what Comey lied about was that Clinton's problems were worse than they actually are. If the big man in the Oval Office was truly concerned about someone in his administration lying, it wouldn't be someone who is misrepresenting the scale of culpability of a political opponent. You get my drift?

Now the usual Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and late night comedians-as-advocacy programmers are salivating at the coincidence between Comey's firing and the Department of Justice's subpoena of Trump administration officials and associates. Clearly, obviously, Trump has something goin' on with Russia.

I'm still not sure. I know it sounds weird, but I'm both next to 100% certain that Trump has something going on with Russia, and that it's not nearly as big of a deal as the liberal talking heads expect it to be. Liberals want outright Trump blood-money found in cavities of Putin's high castle. In the long run they'll probably find a few Russian billionaires have met a few American billionaires and they went about being billionaires together.

This is not to say that 45 has not committed a crime. He's a criminal. We already know he rapes. There are more lawsuits surrounding him with words like 'bankruptcy' and 'fraud' than can be even be accounted for. But regarding Russia? There's as much chance of him having committed a crime there or not, and if he did it was probably unknowingly, because where I'm going with is

the issue isn't that 45 is hiding something specific, it's that he's incompetent. And any close look into literally anything he's ever done, in the history of his life ever, on ever level ever, has shown incompetence. He can't give transparency into any part of his life because any close look shows he can't handle shit. And you don't even need a close look. He's pretty much despised by the industries he works in, and by the time he ran for office his business and his brand were essentially run by his daughter and son-in-law.

The reason he fired Comey ranges from either, "Shit, I'm going to get caught," to, "What if they find something?" Either way even the firing is still merely an example of flat out, unadulterated incompetence. Any competent kleptocrat would have purged Comey months ago and already finished stacking the administration; 110 days in, 45 hasn't even finished the top level nominations and has only now clicked that Comey isn't his guy. Even if the competent kleptocrat had realized too late that Comey had to go, it wouldn't be so immediate and obvious. A longer term con on Comey's character would go -- in fact probably a simple request for Comey to resign.

Firing Comey shows 45 is as stuttering and poorly considered in his own guilt as he is in speaking English.

Where I'm going with this is, ten years ago a highly competent man saved the world and induced the anger of literally generations of Americans who will constantly use his name as an example of the fraudulent and therefore illegitimate nature of American federal stewardship. His work was followed by a BLACK PRESIDENT who induced the existential terror of aging upper-middle class Baby Boomers who had come to maturity in the era of Jim Crow. They subsequently stacked the Congress with an assortment of previously marginal and fringe representatives, a coterie of individuals who had always failed to get elected anywhere significant before but saw an opportunity in popular racism anger. That same Congress, facing a one-party government with probably their best possible friend in the White House, a man so stupid he actually believed the dog whistles traditional Republicans used to dangle to get the racist vote and then subsequently ignore (minus minor bones thrown for show), suddenly realized that they don't know how to write legislation and are now beholden to the same partisan firebranding without the excuse of resisting the black man. They've already begun trying to flee the ship before it sinks.

The saddest thing about all of this is that partisanship has reached such shrill, entangled nightmarish proportions of anxiety and stress, that the American people not only don't trust their government, they've subsequently spent a decade purging that government of competence. Keep in mind: good or bad. Malevolent or well-intentioned. I'm talking mere competence.

The really shitty part about 45's complete inability to NOT act like a fucking crook is that the rest of the partisan system is so incompetent that it may not be able to actually do anything about his malfeasance. This means in addition to how he manages to destroy standards of dignity and accountability of the office just by fucking being in it, he also manages to destroy the ability of the American people to do anything about that office just by fucking up too quickly, loudly, and obviously before the incompetent people in Congress gain their feet and realize that they've propped a monster. Now they probably can't notice what they're propping up because they'll be too busy straining against the props to notice what's shaking it above. It's fractal incompetence: incompetence at every observable level.

This is why I joked last year when watching House of Cards that it was more like a nostalgia piece than a thriller: a throwback to the politics of yesteryear when the evil people in office at least knew what they were doing.

Hank Paulson, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and James Comey all have one major similar quality: they are fucking smart. Two of them are Republican, two are Democrat. Two of them I like, two of them I don't (I like Paulson and Obama. I don't like Clinton and Comey). All of them I have places where I agree with their decisions, and places where I don't.

But the one thing I can appreciate about having people like them around, is that they are, fundamentally, competent.

And THEY are the ones that are on the losing side of partisanship. Make no mistake: activated liberals have their own incompetent marginal dumbfucks to sweep into the 2018 election. Watch out, Schumer, Warren, and company. The Bernie bros are coming for you. You're too fucking smart to survive in this era.


Edit: Oh, and one hour later:

Reminder that when I saw Dick Cheney debate John Edwards, I realized how bad we truly had it with Dubya. It wasn't just that I disagreed with their policies. It's that Cheney was clearly a viciously smart and wicked sharp individual, and instead of him as head representative of our right side, we had a dude named Dubya.

Maybe someday I'll have an example to regret wishing that people I find evil were also intelligent. But the stupidity really gets to me more than the evil. Evil people still want to preserve enough of the country to lead and prosper in, even if only personally. Stupid people are as much a danger to their own self-interest as they are to everyone else's.

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