Pro Domestic Supply of Babies

“We will adopt your baby” signs have been setting me off.

The Handmaids Tale, scenario that people are throwing around as where we are headed is sadly already much more of a reality than a lot of people are aware of or willing to admit. But, don’t worry, not for well off white women.

“The domestic supply of infants” !!!

I was a bit surprised (but not that surprised) that this phrase was in the leaked SCOTUS ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, but I had real trouble believing it was still there in the final ruling. It was just so blatant! I thought they’d have the sense to take that out for sure. Nope!

Now, some people are going to think I am being dramatic. I am not.

Go read the story of Georgia Tann. Then really take a minute to wrestle with the question of how much of modern adoption agencies actually still have a business model based on the same principle. The primary “supply of infants” is poor, disadvantaged, under-educated parents who are encouraged or forced to surrender their children. This is not just domestic, of course, but international adoption has been a well that is drying up, or at least getting harder to tap into. So with adoption agencies, those children enter a system that extracts massive amounts of money from those eager to adopt. And how much of that money helps those kids or the biological parents, or supports the adoptive families. What’s your guess, really?

What about foster care, though? Well, as a former foster parent I have opinions, but suffice it to say that system is its own can of awful plenty of the time.

And why are we pretending even in the best of cases that adoption is some grand happily ever after. Statistically we know that is so far from the truth. Being separated from your bio parents is traumatic loss, inevitably, even if they were terrible, even if you were an infant! And on the other side, I don’t know which would be worse, having your kids taken from you, or having to decide to give up your child. Both have got to be absolutely gutting, even if on some practical levels it is a relief of a burden you can’t bear.

So to all the people saying it is time to step up and adopt, or foster. Well, maybe, but just go into this the with eyes open, and stop pretending this is some salve for this whole mess. It isn’t.

Finally, let me say this. It is rather well known some of the best ways to reduce unnecessary abortions, and to keep kids with their birth parents. It is not exactly easy stuff to execute, but it is pretty obvious stuff to work towards. Things like fighting poverty, improving social safety nets, including food, shelter, health and child care, improving education. Now, if instead of doing those things, you actively fight against those things especially in minority demographics AND you advocate for policies that are meant to help increase “the domestic supply of infants” – WTF I want to scream just typing that – then you are NOT pro-life. You are pro-livestock!


A Little Bit of Music Theory and Suddenly I Have Opinions

Premature opinions, maybe, but whatever, I claim no expertise! Worth listing to, probably not, but I felt like writing them anyway, so here we go.

I’ve been learning a bit of music theory lately, Nothing to deep really just the basics I never bothered with before. I am really enjoying it! Along the way I have gotten some good info and entertainment from this guy, Rick Beato. However, while he has hinted at this sentiment many times in his other material in this video I felt he went into bad territory. It’s not that he is completely wrong, and this isn’t me coming to the defense of most of the pop music on the radio either, but at the same time his critique of modern pop music has some very strong ‘OK, Boomer’ energy that I was having a hard time putting my finger on.

Yesterday my new instrument arrived. It a little mini analog synth, and had a great time playing around. I took some time to actually learn a some of what is happening when I twist the envelope and filter knobs on this little synthesizer, and, whadayakknow, it got me thinking more about sound stuff, and coming off of that I think I have part of a why the “modern pop is boring” is incomplete.

Stylophone X-1 run through old Crate practice guitar amp

Can it be as simple as previous generations explored and experimented with scales and keys more; Interesting variations of frequency was both novel within reach to them, but modern musicians are experimenting much more with the wave shape itself?

From my own playing around I notice that adding to much variation between notes can actually distract from the variation that and expression that is being done _within_ notes, meaning simplistic chord progressions and familiar melody patterns can be a feature not a bug.

If your perception is tuned to primarily hear sophistication and expression by the pattern of changing notes, a lot of modern music is going to sound uninspired to you.

On the other hand, if your perception is tuned to hear sophistication and expression within the waves of a more simplistic note pattern, then a ‘musically complex’ song might feel similarly uninspired.

So here is the thing. I recognize I am new to thinking on this level about music, I probably am not even using the right vocabulary, or maybe using the right vocabulary incorrectly. So many Grains of salt, alright?!

On the topic of sound engineering and music history stuff: if you got a fruity TV subscription for the sake of Ted Spasso anyway, go check out “Watch the Sound”. It is pretty good!

P.S. Had I seen this guys guys response I could have skipped this post probably. He seems to have a much better grasp of the concepts and terminology than I do — no surprise. YouTube rabbit holes aren’t always a bad thing.

Contextualizing Discordant Notes

I saw a post on social media. Something like:

“Yesterday mowing the lawn a bee stung me. The bee died. I finished mowing. A wasted effort on his part? I could’ve been his friend… Perhaps a life lesson is hidden in there somewhere.”

Not political, not controversial, not mean spirited or sarcastic, and yet my typical contrarian thinking kicked in.

Perspective of the bee maybe: A monster, unprovoked in any way, is indiscriminately and violently chopping down all the flowers; the clover I am trying to feed from today, and the oxalis I was hoping to enjoy tomorrow, and the creeping charlie I was looking forward to feasting on next week. This shall not stand!

Are there lessons about friendship and peace as the original post suggested? Of course, easy ones that were obviously implied, and yet do those lessons have an insidious side. To accept them is to simplistically gloss over a (very possible) broader context of the situation. Seems to me that the angle on it that inharmonious existence with, in this case nature, is bound to have some discordant notes is at least also valid, if not more valid!

Portraying such discordant notes as emanating from unjustified sources is a common practice – sometimes a tactic.

Equal treatment under the law

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” — Anatole France

This statement is clever in how it reveals a potent lie embedded within an plain indisputable truth. Are rich and poor treated the same under such a legal system, clearly not, but technically yes.

Now, with that in mind, there is a lot of ground covered in the tax leak articles being published by ProPublica over the last month. And a primary defense I have seen is that the tax code isn’t exactly being violated.

The flimsiness of the excuse – that they are paying all the taxes they legally owe – isn’t obvious to a lot of people: weak tax rules for the super-rich, isn’t merely because the IRS forgot to close loopholes or Congress didn’t pass a law. The uber-rich co-opt regulators and lawmakers to concoct legal schemes that operate to their distinct advantage. There are a plethora of laws that punish the poor, and a alarming lack of laws that constrain the rich. This is no accident! It’s corruption, of course, but except in some esoteric points probably not technically illegal. Tale as old as time?

Same Ol’ Both Sides Stuff

A bunch of “violence on both sides” rhetoric emerging trying to equivocate the BLM protests with the insurrection of last week.

Two big reasons this does not work.
1) Who acted as the primary instigators of the violence.
2) The motivation or purpose of the protest/riot

Some BLM protests got violent when a (probably intentionally) overwhelming and over equipped police presence escalated things. They were motivated by a desire for justice based around a percieved right to be treated humanely and to be assumed to be innocent until proven guilty and specifically to bring greater awareness to how these things are systematically not happening for black people in particular – hence their slogan. Their position is supported by many verifiable facts and stems from an underlying philosophy that every person should be treated with dignity – a good thing most decent people can probably agree on.

The Stop the Steal insurrection faced a (probably intentionally) understaffed and underequiped police force who made borderline ridiculous efforts to not escalate to violence, but were ultimately overwhelmed by a mob who were hunting members of Congress and the VP with an intent to kill or take hostages. They were motivated by their imagined right to rule which was they claim was stolen from them – hence their slogan. Their position is supported only by verifiable falsehoods and stems from an underlying philosophy that is some mix of landownership aristocracy and white supremacy – bad things most people can agree about.

Curious if whether you agree with my assessment boils down to your stance on facts vs “alternative facts”.

Fertile Soil for Trumpism

Was Trumpism fueled by racism? Yes! Clearly. In part.

But there was always more to it, and I understand the frustration with many Trump supporters being lumped together with the “racist” label. There were…

Also those who aim for some brand of theocracy
Also the “taxation is theft” anti-“socialists”
Also those disillusioned by broken bureaucracies
Also the gun nuts
Also the anti-abortionists
Also the misogynists hoping for a resurgence of patriarchal society
Also the homophobes
Also outright white supremacists, white nationalists, and neo-nazis
Also other stuff

And plenty of people who were only a little bit of the some of the above but went along with him because he was the nominee for the party they identified with for so long.

Trumpism got as far as it did because it could lasso all these disparate groups together. (Interesting that the word fascism is literally from Latin fasces, meaning “bundle”.) The political frustration of all these fringe ideologies could rally together under a common banner and express their previously repressed emotions and irrational fears, but it bears repeating, they were also all at least kind of okay with the racism.

Were personal biases amplified by social media or whatever? Sure! Exploited at least. But, I think blaming social media is to superficial. Political frustration is a key common thread here. It is the best way I’ve been able to make sense of such a diverse group who justified their vote for an aspiring fascist. Social media fanned the flames of that underlying frustration, but the fire would be burning well enough without it.

Is it irrational & dangerous to hitch your wagon to a blowhard narcissist? Obviously! And yet by tapping into that common frustration, and with a bit of leverage from all the free media coverage, as well as highly targeted social media campaigns to help motivate the politically frustrated, he was able to galvanize people to vote for him in spite of all the other stuff.

An important note, also, is that to some, cruelty is a good way to voice frustration

My big takeaway is this: an often overlooked breeding ground for political frustration in the USA is our first past the post winner take all electoral system.

It leaves way more than half the country (counting nonvoters) feeling like those in place to represent them do not fill that role. They are not wrong!

For example, conservative voters in the 12th District of California (San Francisco) only had one meaningful option for their representative this year. They could vote FOR Nancy Pelosi (who they also hate) to avoid an actual progressive taking her place, or they could (statistically speaking) throw their vote away. This illustrates how this system actually suppresses the voice of progressives in that district too. This is lose lose, not healthy compromise!

The president I voted against lost, yay, I guess, but Biden doesn’t represent me.

Worse yet, at every other level where the policies I actually care about are in play I have representatives actively opposed to my own views, and no real hope of that changing anytime soon. It’s fucking frustrating! It is quite literally oppressive. It makes me feel resentful and even tempts me towards hate and violence, towards resentment and cruelty. I do actively resist those feelings, and that sets me apart from at least some Trump voters, but nonetheless here is a piece of common ground.

The relief many on the left feel as Biden appears to have won is maybe similar in this important regard to the relief many on the right felt in 2016. And with resentment on the right painfully evident after the 2020 election results, the stage is already set for 2024 to easily swing back the other way again. To avoid such chaotic pendulum swings we need to address what breeds this political frustration in people, and the lack of awareness about the root causes is alarming in this regard.

Repeated and genuine calls for unity paired with a polite do nothing centrism might just keep the frustration festering under the surface. But if a type of “moderate” policy is the goal we need some bold, dare I say radical, changes to get there and avoid the next wave of far right extremism

Am I saying we need to be sensitive to BS from hateful idiots, or not hold a whole major party descending into fascism accountable? NO! But we do need to try to diagnose some of what motivates 70m people to vote in the direction of fascism.

I believe understanding how our democratic system is dysfunctional at such a fundamental level is key to understanding the particular dysfunction we have been living through. Failure to do so will only lead to dysfunction of a different brand.

There are lot of sources for electoral reform, but one of my recommended places to start is FairVote

Is reform really possible? For your consideration here are some thoughts on New Zealand from two people who have each written a book on the topic of electoral reform :

built from my Twitter thread on November 9, 2020.

Positive Imagination Vectors Wanted

“My friends, nothing important is lost when others gain, when homeostasis occurs among humanity and compassion and opportunity are celebrated for all.”

I have been thinking about this line of thought in different ways over the past few weeks. Clearly, and depressingly, many people are opposed to the cause of achieving greater justice or equality. What is also sad and perplexing is that many many more seem just indifferent. Why? The extreme vast majority would really only stand to gain from the reforms or systemic changes that are being discussed in this wave of protesting.

But it is a similar pattern when I look back at the environmental movement, or pushes to curtail wealth inequality or whatever. I dislike lumping people in simplistic ways but it seems to be especially prominent among “conservatives” – as if what they want to preserve/conserve is the status quo, and in standing on that hill to die, they fail to have the perspective that the status quo is also a boot on their own damned neck.

The status quo so often really only benefits those at the very top. Yet the people at the very bottom protesting their plight find indifference, if not opposition, from so many in the middle. It’s as though they are suffering from some sort of Stockholm syndrome.

Is it something like inertia? If the oppression you experience is fairly bearable day to day, or is far enough removed from ones immediate present experience that it is hard to really imagine, there could be fear that any change may be for the worse. Many lack imagination for the positive but have an overactive one for the negative. Have we spent so much more time in fictional dystopias than fictional utopias that we have atrophied in our ability to even recognize the potential of positive change?

On the one hand Pascal’s Wager was never a very convincing argument to put your faith in something, but on the other hand, it seems rather useful to consider, “what do you stand to lose, really?”

Does a bit of increased cost or reduced convenience as a downside really outweigh all the potential benefits “going green” at a societal level? When we talk about universal health care as a policy, and the absolutely huge potential is dramatically overshadowed by some potential pitfalls of the implementation details, what is really going on there? If we fix some racially oppressive systems, improve the social services available to our communities, and reduce their capacity to harm and do violence, do the theoretical downsides really tip the scales compared to what we stand to gain?

Cruelty is the means

I have studied a bit about the sociology of cruelty, or the various ways humans come to act very inhumanely. From a couple books by Jaques Ellul, to various famous psych experiments, to recently some podcasts and a book by Douglas Rushkof. All recommended, but if you want a quick intro into an aspect in action in the present this article is worth a read. It has important implications for some current political happenings, but also some good general insight about humanity without being to long.

“Taking joy in that suffering is more human than most would like to admit. Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in the lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life.”

Adam Serwer

It is somewhat dated at this point, a lot has happened in Trumps circus in 9 months, but there is some fresh cruel, and overtly bigoted, remarks by the #RacistInCheif on twitter today, and I was especially reminded of this as I read some of the responses to his posts from his supporters. Spoiler, they seem to very much confirm the hypothesis that the cruelty is the point. In a way that is.

One clarification I would like to offer. I don’t think this is arguing for a people-are-just-bad-deep-down perspective. Rather, I think it speaks to the deep seated need for unity and community, in that we want or need it so much we are willing, even glad, to be cruel if that happens to be the price. In other words cruelty isn’t the point, ultimately, for trumps followers. It is the point for him as it happens to be the tool he is good at using that also serves his purpose of unifying his base of support.

If you are reading this, and still support Trump or his ilk, especially if you bristle at the above quote, I would genuinely like to hear from you. I worry I might have a significant blind spot in understanding you as a person. Frankly, I am also scared that I don’t misunderstand, but that you may have been sucked in by the appeal of community regardless of the fact that is centered on cruelty. I’m willing to have the discussion with an open mind if you are.

Non-representative Democracy

Not that I am particularly proud of where I am from, because I feel like that is a mostly a silly thing to be proud of, but given recent news around the congressmen in the district where I live, Steve King, I am somewhat tempted to be ashamed to be from Iowa, but I am not. Yes, the congressmen in the district where I live is a notorious racist, and has been for a long time, and continues to be re-elected. And yes, Iowa’s electoral votes ALL went to a surprisingly similar political figure, Trump,  However, living here the vast majority of my life, I can say with some confidence that though racism is a problem here (as it is most places in the US), these racist representatives do NOT represent the majority of the population that I have ever encountered here.

The problem is the electoral systems we have in place – not the electorate.

Under our current voting system, it is very easy for a polarizing candidate who has strong support from a minority of the population (but little support outside that minority) to get a plurality [different than majority] of votes in a party primary, then a plurality of votes in the general and thus win the election. In short, this system is a great recipe for electing someone like Steve King … or Trump.

*Trump didn’t even get a plurality but a minority – the electoral collage system is also a broke one*

• In majority, one candidate gets more than half of the votes.
• In plurality, the winner is the candidate with the highest number of votes, though they still may have got less than half the number of votes.

People know this (at least to some degree) which gives rise to a highly toxic phenomenon: strategic voting. Instead of voting for the candidate they approve of, people often vote against the greater-of-two-evils. When voters are casting their ballots not based on who they like, but based on how they think everyone else will vote I find it ridiculous to believe that the eventual winner deserves to be called a representative.

The best fix I can see is not better educated voters, or more turnout. Neither of which would hurt, obviously, but nor can they overcome the inherent flaws of the election systems in place. Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) or other similar systems, however, by offering more choices and achieving a majority rather than a plurality will tend towards representatives who more accurately represent the population.

The whole point of RCV is to maximize the number of voters who get an official they voted FOR – not necessarily their first choice, but at least one of their choices. In offering more choices, but not throwing your vote in the trash if it turned out to be for a non-viable candidate it largely eliminates spoiler candidates and voting-against strategies, and thus the resulting winner should be much more deserving of the title of Representative.

But wait, King got re-elected multiple times! Even recently after many many racist comments. Are you sure it’s not the voters? I still think it is the system. It’s mostly a guess on my part, but I think a good proportion of votes cast for King were votes against the democrat who was chosen by the standard primary voting system, and even then it was close enough that if the third party votes had have fallen back to a second choice as in RCV then the democrat may very well have won. On the other hand, imagine if, because of RCV, other candidates would have been encouraged to run without the fear of being ‘spoilers’. It’s hard to say if it would have been a landslide loss for King, and maybe it is just hopeful thinking, but I suspect that would have been the case.

King was the incumbent though, and they have an advantage for many reasons. Term limits are an oft touted solution to the problem of the current election systems favoring incumbents, but it seems RCV would possibly address the incumbent advantage problem in a different way, without the downside of removing candidates who have valuable experience and actually represent the majority of their constituents.

Corrupt Systems

Pollution is a sort of easy to see example of a corruption problem. Costs are diffused benefits are concentrated.

“There’s an old-fashioned word for this: corruption. In corrupt systems, a few bad actors cost everyone else billions in order to bring in millions – the savings a factory can realize from dumping pollution in the water supply are much smaller than the costs we all bear from being poisoned by effluent. But the costs are widely diffused while the gains are tightly concentrated, so the beneficiaries of corruption can always outspend their victims to stay clear.” – Cory Doctorow

Social media or the internet business model is corrupt in this way too.

Plastic pollution fits well.

Examples could also be found in banking, and campaign finance, and industrial farming, and …

Do these corrupt systems need to be created or driven by evil people? I don’t think so, it’s just that a little bit of negligence can go a long way, and that is part of what makes them so scary. Ordinary nice people, who maybe don’t tend to see the big picture well (which might be most people?) can be cogs in this machine, and even passionate drivers of it. They do just fine with sleeping at night in spite of it all, and usually can find some reasonable justifications if bits of the corruption do start to become apparent to them. So there is no conspiracy, in the traditional sense, behind so much of the nefarious forces that influence our lives, just the cold inhumane machine of corrupt systems.

Now, if only there were a better mechanism to keep those forces in check rather than the vastly corruptible government systems…