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August 19, 2022

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No ROI on grift from the Smash & Grab party? Where my fainting couch be at?

I don't know why the NRSC spends any money at all. The whole game is gerrymandering, voter suppression, and most importantly, tribalism. I'm not on top of all of the races and there are certainly some provincial issues at lower tiers where position makes a difference.

But in the big races? I can't think of any position the Republican Party actually promotes. Negative advertising only goes so far. At some point you actually have to build something. It can't all be tear-down. And they've douchebagged their way into a corner:

Support the troops - vote against the PACT Act.
Support the police - defund the FBI.
My body, my choice (masks/vax) - anti-choice legislation.
Mitch McConnell - 'nuff said.

etc, etc.

They can't run on record or accomplishment or consistency or ethics. Or consistency of ethics, which is kind of a big part of the whole ethics thing*. They're betting that the team jersey is more important than the quarterback. And it's working to an unsettling degree.


*Ok, yeah, situational ethics and all that jazz, but that's not my point here.

I don't know why the NRSC spends any money at all.

If you're taking money in, you have to at least appear to be spending something for the supposed purpose. Just to keep the marks going.** Matters a bit more with the whales (big donors are the only kind the NRSC gets), but it's worth investing a bit in order to keep the taps open. So you can pocket the rest.

Which is why stories like this are toxic. If they decide you aren't giving them their money's worth, they may shut down the donations. And then where are you? Trying to eke out a living on a US Senator's salary, a lousy $175K (plus expenses)? Who can survive on that???

** We can't all have Trump's aptitude for giving nothing back but hot air.

Well, yeah, you do have to keep up appearances. Biden - from corporate unfriendly Delaware - just signed that thing that gets corporate tax up to 15% (where's that damn fainting couch?). Remind me again what the tax rates were under those Maoists, Eisenhower & Reagan? So maybe that keeps the whale oil pipeline flush.

But the Republicans are running out of single-issue runway. And the whales need that energy to hide the bullshit they're sneaking in the back door. Dobbs happened. Where are those voters going to pivot to now? Or will they even show up since the crusade is won? The party of "No" is gonna reap the whirlwind.*

*Yeah, no they're not. We're f*cked.

The party of "No" is gonna reap the whirlwind.*

*Yeah, no they're not. We're f*cked.

Could have happened that way. Except. The radical libertarian/ultra-reactionary (Back. To the 1920s and beyond!) wing of the party has gotten greedy. Or maybe flushed with success.

So they have folks Sen Johnson (R-Wis) and Sen Scott (R-Fla) talking loudly about drastic changes to Social Security. Remember all those folks at Trump rallies with signs saying "Hands off my Social Security!"? They're too old to worry personally about Dobbs. But attach SSI, and try to block making their prescriptions cheaper? Even if they'll never abandon their cult leader himself, other Republicans don't get a pass. No matter how much money is spent on ads.

So, yeah. A whirlwind is a distinct possibility.

So, yeah. A whirlwind is a distinct possibility.

Looking forward to proof of concept. So far it's been vaporware.

Prediction is hard. Especially about the future.

Fundraising of all sorts is a huge topic in itself, whether political or otherwise. It seems to have a life and momentum of its own in a tail-wagging the dog sort of way. I realize that part of the reason for that is that *someone* is making money from direct mail, but I'm not convinced it's always the organizations on behalf of which it's being sent. Meanwhile, paper and/or time are wasted processing all of it, kinda like with health care. Don't we humans have anything better to do? (Perhaps not...)

FCC just ordered block on scammers behind 8 billion auto warranty robocalls.

I'm so skeptical that I don't believe either the headline or the subhead. First, I find it hard to believe that this outfit is responsible for all the auto warranty calls that plague us in the first place. By my anecdatal evidence, if there have only been 8 billion overall, I've gotten way more than my share.

As for the subhead -- "Auto warranty robocolls will soon be a thing of the past" -- I think that is "an incorrect prediction about the future" (h/t to wj), because I don't see what's to prevent the many-headed hydra of criminal nterprise to pop up in some other guise to use modern technology to abuse the rest of us.

What about the calls where they say I need to pay some taxes on the spot or I will be arrested? (That one scared my very aged mom when she first got it years ago.) Etc. Etc....

PS -- just as I finished writing that 9:37 comment, the mail came. One from Joe Biden, one from Stacy Abrams. No amount of "please remove from mailing list" stops the flow of this stuff. (Unsubscribing does usually work online, I have to admit, though it doesn't stop the flow from all the outfits/candidates that got the email address from the first one before I could unsubscribe.)

Also, one for an imaginary person with my first name and my ex's last name, this time from Doctors without Borders, although every charity in America has this phantom's name.

"Second request." Umpteenth request, actually. But that's part of what bemuses me. Does ANYONE think such idiotic breathless messages make a difference? DO such idiotic breathless messages make a difference in the $ response, or are they just wanking on the part of some drudge in the direct mail company?

YOU have been chosen to complete this important survey! YOU are one of our most important members in [name of town]. Please return (with $) by August 31.

Etc.

Once upon a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I took an advertising class and, IIRC, a 2% return on direct mail was expected. 4% was fantastic and 5% was an out-of-the-park home run. Fast-forward to force-multiplier computing and do the math.

I still have a (718) number from my Brooklyn years and much like (212 - Manhattan) it's something of a badge of honor, like low numbers on license plates in some countries (you Mainers with your "from away" gatekeeping know what I mean ;-)) . The thing is, nobody I know from Brooklyn still has that area code. So when I see an incoming call from 718, I know it's spoofed number BS.

Anyway, adding to my election wish list, along with binning Citizens United, is something like the Australian model: Mandatory, and basically a 2-month election season. Cram all the ads and debates into that time frame, and that's it. No more 24/7/365 fundraising/campaigning. Which, naïvely, might get the elected more time for actual governance.

1. I must defend my honor -- it's not *my* "from away" bullshit, I'm "from away" myself. I hate that formulation, with its blended arrogance, dissing of outsiders, and whiny inferiority complex-ish-ness.

2. I'd love a 2-month election season, but I don't see how it could ever be squared with the first amendment. Sadly enough.

1. Nice try, Ohioan. ;-)

2. Agreed. I doubt that even an explicit amendment could get around that. I can dream, tho.

adding to my election wish list, along with binning Citizens United, is something like the Australian model: Mandatory, and basically a 2-month election season. Cram all the ads and debates into that time frame, and that's it. No more 24/7/365 fundraising/campaigning. Which, naïvely, might get the elected more time for actual governance.

Possibly more important, it might lead to more candidates who are actually interested in governance. Rather than flat out conmen and lovers of performance "art." Some of the latter will remain, of course. But the conmen will mostly migrate to other scams.

FCC just ordered block on scammers behind 8 billion auto warranty robocalls

Like Janie, I doubt this will get rid of all of them. But even a 50% reduction would be a plus.

What I find particularly irritating are the spam text messages. Not just from Trump scams, which claim to think I'm a long-time and fervent supporter. (In what universe???) It's the one pushing some link including A2SO7D in the name -- the rest of the domain name varies, but that's constant. I haven't managed to find out what it's a scam for (no way I'm clicking on that link!). But I get several a week, sometimes more.

When dealing with scams/spam/robocalls, I find the best course of action is actually none at all. As tempting as it is to hang up or block numbers, doing that is still telemetry for the scammers. Interaction tells them there's something with a pulse on the other side and that's what matters to them. A call that ends up in voicemail, especially a generic one, gives them nothing.

1. Nice try, Ohioan. ;-)

Heh. Busted.

As much as I feel like I don't belong in Ohio, and consider Maine my beloeved home, to my knowledge the state doesn't have a semi-pejorative nickname for people who weren't born there.

Aiy....."the state" without a nickname is Ohio.

Thanks to whoever it was that recommended The Fall of Ile-Rien. I'm partway through the second book and enjoying it. My only criticisms are (a) the author lets some of the story lines drop for long stretches, and (b) the bad guys with the zeppelin-style airships are simultaneously rolling up whole countries without problem, but have (so far) lost five of those to the small band of intrepid freedom fighters, at least as much due to happenstance as intent. I like my bad guys to be consistently competent or comically not, but not both.

Years ago in more innocent days, I tried to unsubscribe from all the spam emails I was getting. Afterward, I realized that I was telling the spammers two things: They had a valid email address and someone was paying attention to it.

Some of them may have honored the unsubscribe requests. But they had an email address they could use in other scams or sell to their fellow scammers. As a result, I started getting over 300 scam emails a day. Currently, I'm down to about 3 a day.

the state doesn't have a semi-pejorative nickname for people who weren't born there.

Pretty sure it's "Canadians". Well, it is in OOB.

;-)

Pretty sure it's "Canadians". Well, it is in OOB.

My haste is creating confusion. The nickname I meant was "from away." "Canadians" is a whole other thing, but I don't hear it around here, and confess to never having been to OOB. I like the wilderness better. ;-)

Once upon a time I made the mistake of donating to a Democratic candidate using a method that included my email address. Clearly, the candidates pass their mailing lists around -- I get requests for money from Democrats running for office in faraway states. Every one of them has honored the unsubscribe link in their message, but damn, folks. I do not need to hear from every Democratic House candidate running in the South.

You’ve never been to the Coney Island of the North???! Oh, it’s a scene, man. 😁

And it seems that Typepad honors emojis. Apologies for opening that can of worms.

Speaking of Coney Island, which nobody is but me but open thread so whatever, I made it a point to ride the Cyclone every year. My streak ended at 20, but I still do it every time I go back.

3 rules for the Cyclone:

1. Get rid of everything not nailed down. Hat, glasses, phone, wallet, pocket change... everything. You will lose it.

2. It's tiny, compared to the modern-day adventure park coasters, but get ready, immediately. The big drop is a thing, but the first flat whiplash hairpin will tweak your neck for a week and is <20 meters from the start. You don't even see it coming.

3. Pray to your gods that yours isn't the run that leads the front page of the NY Post headline "Ancient Wooden Fossil Finally Collapses!"

Much like Times Square (thanks a lot, Rudy), Coney has undergone something of a makeover. It's still not polished, exactly, but part of the fun was remembering to not fall through the hole in the floor on the way to the bathroom at Ruby's ("safety codes" and so forth finally put an end to that). The Mermaid Parade is still going every year and I highly recommend it if you're in the neighborhood on the closest Saturday to the Summer Solstice. The burlesque show is still there. Two blocks north of the Boardwalk it starts to get a little sketchy, but they renovated the subway station about 10 years ago and it's about as nice a station as you'll find in NY transit.

I miss the Met and MoNH, etc and the posh things that Manhattan has to offer. But there's something about the low-brow, counter-culture Coney that I miss perhaps more. The B-52s played a free concert there years ago, in a park ringed by retirement apartments. I think I spent more time watching the older folks come out to see this weird band with blue beehive hairdos playing their kitchy rock than the actual band. It rained. No one cared. It was a blast!

Dropping this in because it’s in line with my running commentary here about the 2A not-so-fringe:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/aug/20/us-political-violence-civil-war

Wintemute wanted answers and they stunned him. A survey for his California Firearm Violence Research Center released last month showed that half of Americans expect a civil war in the United States in the next few years. One in five thought political violence was justified in some circumstances. In addition, while almost everyone said it was important for the US to remain a democracy, about 40% said that having a strong leader was more important.

“Coupled with prior research, these findings suggest a continuing alienation from and mistrust of American democratic society and its institutions. Substantial minorities of the population endorse violence, including lethal violence, to obtain political objectives,” the report concluded.

Suddenly Wintemute didn’t think talk of a violent civil conflict was so crazy any more.

Aside: I do a double take every time Wintemute’s name gets used. Too many times reading Neuromancer.

Thanks to whoever it was that recommended The Fall of Ile-Rien.

I think it was Donald originally, but I (being a bit of a completist) made sure to read the two prequels first, and was glad I did so.

This is somewhat flippant, cuz I don’t have the patience to read through the actual survey atm. At first blush it looks pretty legit, but I gotta read the actual phrasing of the questions asked.

But to the broader point, and I think most people here feel similarly, violence is the last all but unthinkable option.

That said, if it comes down to something like imprisoning a 16 yo for having an abortion (or the healthcare providers involved), should there be necessarily armed resistance? I kinda think “yes”. And I’m not tryna go all Thullen here. I am terrified by what that looks like. But I think that could be what it looks like.

OTOH, I’ve seen the Cliven Bundy types and I think they only understand righteousness through greater firepower. An acceptance rate of justifiable violence against duly elected officials and 40% who think a “strong leader” is paramount… wt actual f?

I tend to get little flickers of hope when i see things like how the guy who went after FBI agents in Ohio had put out a call for the war to start, and no one showed up but him. And another one in DC (?) where no one showed up because word went around that it was a "trap." (I just see these headlines, I rarely read the details. So obviously: get the saltshaker.)

But no doubt the real threat is not the social media hot air warriors, but the actual militias who have trained and take themselves very very seriously. THe fact that people are speaking openly of shooting duly elected officials is ... terrifying.

Here in Maine I have felt relatively aside from all of it, but we're heading into election season with LePage ("I was trump before there was trump") running for governor again. He is already blathering about doubtful voting security in our "big" cities (where of course most of the immigrants and not-white people in Maine live). (But you know, he's not a racist, he says so himself.)

I am not looking forward to the next 2.5 months of vileness right here on the home front.

Waitaminute! What???! LePage???! I thought he fucked off to Florida. Does he have a chance?

At first blush it looks pretty legit, but I gotta read the actual phrasing of the questions asked.

In particular, I'd like to know if they just asked: "Civil war, yes or no?" Or did they give a range of possibilities?

Personally, I'd give a fairly high probability to some fringe (although less fringe that they used to be) militia group trying to start one. And getting blown away. Maybe even a couple of iterations via multiple groups; maybe significant casualties among non-combatants. But anything that I'd qualify as a civil war? No. Still, given a straight Yes/No question, how much nuance would be read into it by the typical survey respondent?

And note that I'm absolutely NOT advocating such a thing. Just evaluating what I'm seeing. So I think the "half of Americans expect a civil war in the United States in the next few years" finding needs to be evaluated on that basis, not as half of the population, or anywhere near it, hoping for it.

I’ve seen the Cliven Bundy types and I think they only understand righteousness through greater firepower.

I'd modify that to "greater firepower and a willingness to use it." Every time they get in an armed confrontation and don't get shot, their view on the unwillingness/inability of the government to act (perhaps because of imaginary large numbers of supporters in law enforcement**) just grows. Not just among those involved, but across the whole militia movement.

** I accept that they do have supporters there. Probably even a greater percentage than among the general population. But still a far smaller number than they imagine.

Waitaminute! What???! LePage???! I thought he fucked off to Florida. Does he have a chance?

He did fuck off to Florida, smugly informing all of us that he didn't have to pay as much in taxes there. What an asshole.

I think he actually did change his residency, but I suppose he has now changed it back, and I'm too lazy to look up either that or the residency requirements.

I'm sure he has a chance -- people are just weird. Remember who our senators are....

After all, he won twice before, though the first one was with about 39% of the votes. I think that race was one of the big motivators for the push to use ranked choice voting, so it's ironic that we now have RCV for federal elections but still not for state offices, because the state constitution says people can be elected by a "plurality." (Again, I haven't followed all the details but I think there was a push to get this changed, and it hasn't been changed...yet.)

Why I think he has a chance: though I have heard of very little actual violence in Maine during the pandemic, there was in fact a LOT of vehement resistance, from churches, restaurants, and random sociopaths. The restaurant across the street from my house had a marquee sign out for a while during the first winter: "Covid isn't killing us, Gov. Mills is killing us."

Not that I ever went there very often anyhow, because the food is mediocre (and not Asian, which I generally prefer). But I will never ever go there again after that.

There are lots of Clickbait signs, MAGA signs, thin blue line flags, etc., around the rural places where I drive regularly.... But I haven't seen any polling yet and really don't have a sense of what chance LePage has.

Ugh. I thought Governor was RCV. If he gets in again on a plurality…

As for your Senators, King is one of the best, imho. I’ve always found him to be thoughtful & measured - qualities I think serve you well. Susie, on the other hand…

Yes, King is good. Interestingly, though, he's an independent. And we've had Olympia Snowe, Bill Cohen, Susie forever -- Maine is just hard to categorize or predict.

Also, the Thai place down the block from Rollie’s in Belfast is very good & not too hard on the wallet. But I know that’s a bit of a drive.

I always thought of Maine as not dissimilar from NY. There’s coastal Maine and… the rest of it. NY is big and a lot of it red. The cities win out on population, but we’ve had our share of Republican govs.

Personally, I'd give a fairly high probability to some fringe (although less fringe that they used to be) militia group trying to start one.

Wider-spread civil unrest, maybe, for a while. War? War implies trying to take or hold territory. After the first week, I want to talk to whoever's in charge so I can ask, "How are your logistics holding up? Soldiers in the field well fed? Stocked with ammo? Injured getting medical care? How many deserters who have figured out their little business is going to fail if they're not there?"

Cafe de Bangkok in Hallowell used to be my fave, but for sushi, not Thai. I think it's run by different people now and isn't as good, though I've completely stopped eating out since Covid came anyhow. There's another Thai place up by the airport in Augusta that I've heard is good ... someday I'll try it. And I'll keep the Belfast place in mind -- I do trek on over to the coast now and then.

To answer the questions about the phrasing in the survey:

More than two-thirds of respondents (67.2%, 95% CI 66.1%-68.4%) perceived “a serious threat to our democracy,” and 88.8% believed it is very or extremely important “for the United States to remain a democracy” (Table 2). But at the same time, 42.4% agreed with the statement that “having a strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy”; 19.0% agreed strongly or very strongly.

Significant minorities of respondents agreed strongly or very strongly with each of 3 statements about potential conditions in the US might justify violence (Table 2): to “protect American democracy” if “elected leaders will not” (18.7%); to save “our American way of life,” which is “disappearing” (16.1%); and to “save our country” because “things have gotten so far off track” (8.1%). Half the respondents (50.1%) agreed at least somewhat that “in the next few years, there will be civil war in the United States.”

Further down:

More than two-thirds of respondents (67.2%, 95% CI 66.1%-68.4%) perceived “a serious threat to our democracy,” and 88.8% believed it is very or extremely important “for the United States to remain a democracy” (Table 2). But at the same time, 42.4% agreed with the statement that “having a strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy”; 19.0% agreed strongly or very strongly.

Significant minorities of respondents agreed strongly or very strongly with each of 3 statements about potential conditions in the US might justify violence (Table 2): to “protect American democracy” if “elected leaders will not” (18.7%); to save “our American way of life,” which is “disappearing” (16.1%); and to “save our country” because “things have gotten so far off track” (8.1%). Half the respondents (50.1%) agreed at least somewhat that “in the next few years, there will be civil war in the United States.”

The wording on these questions seems to be carefully and clearly constructed in ways that don't create ambiguity or lead the respondent to a particular conclusion.

Michael Cain Wider-spread civil unrest, maybe, for a while. War? War implies trying to take or hold territory.

That's a definition used for war between two nation states. Definitions of domestic armed conflict commonly lumped under the umbrella category of "civil war" has a much more nebulous quality. The article makes the comparison to The Troubles in Northern Ireland, and I think that is apt.

The article makes the comparison to The Troubles in Northern Ireland, and I think that is apt.

I suppose it's apt in some ways, especially in the sense that I find it hard to believe that a true, overt civil war will break out (like the one in the 1860s), but rather it will be a thousand Bundy-like confrontations, with a lot of military and law enforcement switching sides. Or…attritional violence everywhere and unpredictably, like what we already have but on a much wider scale.

Then again, as to the NI comparison, the US has 175 times the population and (continental US only) 571 times the land area. NI was a neighborhood squabble compared to what could happen here.

I'm not saying it wasn't awful and damaging to live in that atmosphere, and deadly for too many people, but I remember folks in the Republic of Ireland, where I spent a lot of time in the early nineties, rolling their eyes at the outsized notion Americans had of what was going on in NI. They would get on the train to go for a day's outing in Belfast without a second thought.

Wikipedia defines a period of about thirty years (late sixties to 1998) with these statistics:

Civilians killed: 1,840
(1,935 including ex-combatants)
Total dead: 3,532
Total injured: 47,500+
All casualties: ~50,000

That's fewer deaths in a year than the US has gun deaths every day without an overt civil war going on.

Plus, the US is so very different from state to state and region to region….

It’s depressing no matter how you look at it.

Thank you, nous. I just skimmed the paper and saw some of the quoted bits. I still feel like I wanna know exactly how the questions were put. Are they listed in the tables?

I missed this one first time around: 1 in 5 think a strong leader is more important than democracy. 1 in 5???!

----

and a willingness to use it.

I don't know where I land on this one. The FBI has trouble with the fringe for whom Ruby Ridge and Waco are rallying cries. Agent provocateur seems the role to rally the base to the voting booth.

There's obviously been a civil cold war (cold civil war?) and the aggrieved silent majority side (for incorrect values of "majority" and "silent", for that matter) who have found their voice via Trumpism are certainly animated. I can't see a "war" in the conventional sense. But I can easily imagine something like The Troubles. I take no joy in saying it, but I think there's gonna be another McVeigh thing coming. And I hate to rain on Janie's parade, but I suspect the isolated incidents thus far are simply because the formulation isn't there yet. The raison de guerre is. We've seen that Jan 6 wasn't a spontaneous thing. The next big thing won't be, either.

Pete -- that's my hopeful side you're raining on. Otherwise I think (and fear) that you're probably right. it would be nice -- on the hopeful side -- to imagine the militias as unable to cooperate with each other, but that's probably wishful thinking.

it would be nice -- on the hopeful side -- to imagine the militias as unable to cooperate with each other, but that's probably wishful thinking.

Once upon a time, it would have been true about the lack of coordination. Too hard to even find each other (while hiding from the Feds). But now, you can just put up a website and communicate easily. Make it a .br or .in or even .bg domain name, and a cryptic one, because your cohorts are going to find you via a search anyway.

Now how much actual cooperation happens, rather than mere communication, is another story. Paranoia and egos can get in the way. Although Jan 6 suggests that at least some cooperation is possible.

Some rallying around the martyrs, sure. But also a bunch of attrition when the other guys start shooting back. It's fun running around in the brush playing soldier (but without all that tedious PT). Fun shooting at stuff in ostensible target practice. But getting shot at? Not so fun.

My bet is that we continue to muddle along for at least a few more decades. By then all this will have mostly dissipated and/or something else will be occupying everyone's minds.

I should clarify re: The Troubles. The fight for Irish independence and the somewhat muted push for unification is a whole different animal than what we’re dealing with here in the States.

I meant it in terms of domestic terrorism & what that looks like.

Pete - yes, the questions asked are listed in the tables along with the response tallies.

As far as shooting and shooting back is concerned, we already know what the political violence in the US is going to look like, and I suspect that while McVeigh is one model, Breivik is another very likely one, either alone or in a small group, organized through cells.

The FBI will foil a few (perhaps most if we are lucky). The usual suspects will cry entrapment and use it as a sign of federal persecution. Rinse and repeat.

Take the NI numbers, adjust for population and for the sheer prevalence of firearms. It's enough to disrupt a lot.

As a companion piece to the civil war survey, this is interesting

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/aug/16/asian-americans-gun-ownership

What was most interesting to me was that the same data was taken in two different ways. The first
Some gun rights activists, though, see the current surge as the dismantling of historical barriers, since Asians on the west coast were not always allowed to practice their second amendment rights. In 1923, California passed a law denying non-citizens the right to possess concealable firearms. That ruled out Chinese immigrants, a majority of whom were barred from naturalizing by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

and the second (emphasis mine)
Nathan Tiep, 42, and his wife are in the process of buying their first gun after seeing news coverage of home invasions near their neighborhood of Boyle Heights. Tiep, the son of Cambodian refugees, grew up in Long Beach in the 1990s, where deadly clashes between Asian and Latino gangs made him numb to gun violence. “We knew what guns can do but weren’t afraid of it,” he said.

More so than the surge in attacks against Asians, Tiep said his decision to buy a gun was shaped by the Black Lives Matter protests during the pandemic, which have shattered his trust in law enforcement.

“The past few years have brought to light how the police are with people,” he said. “You’ve seen people get shot and killed by police. Do you really trust that they will serve and protect us?”

lj - yes. The liberal gun boards are full of people who are scared that if one of the GOP noise machines wins in 2024 that racism, misogyny, and homophobia will lead to increased violence against minorities and women, and that the police will be on the side of the oppressors. Most of them, though, are talking less about militias and insurrection, and more about mutual aid and self-protection. The rhetoric is very different. There are no fantasies of overthrowing an authoritarian leader, it's much more furtive than that and there is no sense of it being redemptive violence, just of it being a tragic necessity.

nous, thanks for that take. There is an interesting feedback loop here, we see increased purchases of guns driven by a number of factors, which is then posited as representing the increased possibilities of militia and insurrection, which then feeds into people wanting to stave off such possibilities and buying guns, which then gets processed again and again. Sucks to be us.

There is an interesting feedback loop here,
. . .
Sucks to be us.

But if you're a gun manufacturer, it's wonderful.

Rinse and repeat.

I really wish I didn't completely agree with that.

I should probably add that I'm not claiming that liberals don't have any problematic views regarding firearms and the Second Amendment. There are quite a few democratic types over at the Liberal Gun Club who are fanboys of the AR and of carry, etc. The main difference between them and the NRA types is that they worry about an actual police state and worry that the laws will be used to prevent minorities from having access to firearms through selective enforcement á la drug charges and black youth. Same with red flag laws and mental health screening. But a lot of them recycle the usual 2a talking points as common sense.

I am giving away 175 dollars a month mostly to Democratic get out the vote organizations but also to a few campaigns. I have written over one thousand GOTV post cards and I have to buy the stamps myself. We can win but it will take a lot of effort.

Wondering what the UKers here think about Charlie Stross' blog entry today? Charlie has become more and more depressed about things in general over the last few years. His parents' deaths seem to have accelerated that.

I couldn't read it in great detail because I am already depressed enough about the situation, not helped by the fact that I have builders in for a couple of weeks, which always makes me crazy at the best of times, and these are far from the best of times.

(On another subject, re your note on Ile Rien, there is a reason for the plot problem you identify, you just haven't got there yet.)

The Charlie Stross piece actually feels familiar to me because I just finished The Ministry for the Future last week and those paragraphs that Stross has feel like chapter starters for Robinson's book.

I do recommend The Ministry for the Future. Like a lot of Kim Stanley Robinson's novels it sometimes feels more like a scrapbook than a narrative structure, and the dramatic arc wanders around to accommodate ideas and exposition, but it held my interest until the end.

It could feel a bit bleak getting started, but it is ultimately a hopeful book - an anti-dystopia rather than a utopia.

It's hard to disagree with anything Stross says.

The most depressing part is that the next Prime Minister will be chosen by Tory party members, who apparently prefer the candidate who was more loyal to Boris, and more fair-skinned. (They would prefer to keep Boris if they could.)

Democracy, let's try it.

It's startling (and depressing) how much you make the Tories sound like the Republicans here. Although I have to say that, given a choice between (God forbid!) Trump and Boris, I would take Boris in a heartbeat.

Although I have to say that, given a choice between (God forbid!) Trump and Boris, I would take Boris in a heartbeat.

Whatever Johnson's failings, he came into the Prime Ministership having held multiple elective offices before and having previous experience as top administrator in a fairly large political entity (there are countries smaller than London). Trump made the jump straight from television personality to President of the United States, and it was clear from day one that he had no idea how things worked.

Yes, but in a way that makes BoJo's dereliction worse: he knew perfectly well there was a proper way to do things (even if he didn't know what it was), and plenty of people to help him and advise, and he ignored it all and stumbled along relying on his charm (it pains me to say it, but he actually does have charm) and popularity to pull him through, which it did for an amazingly long time. He is a clever man, despite appearances, so his egocentricism and amorality are more reprehensible. What a fucking fiasco it is...

Wow. I read part of Stross's blog and gave up--too depressing. I loved the Laundry Files series up until the second to last book, which I gave up as too depressing.

I was thinking about going to London but realize now that I only want to go to the London of my imagination.

wonkie -- i have been to London twice, for all too short a time on both trips. The last time was for a week in the spring of 2019, with my daughter and her fiance. It was utterly wonderful!

I have wished since my first visit (2009) that I could go live there for six months or a year -- but it would never work unless I could afford a driver, which I can't, LOL. And that's to say nothing of rent and the cost of living in general. Oh well, maybe in my next lifetime. (That list is long!)

As for the London of your imagination -- it's funny you should put it that way, because I've thought about that a lot.

The London of my imagination was formed by my reading, including going to grad school in English. My head is filled with, among other versions, the London of Dickens, the London of Conan Doyle, and the London of George Bernard Shaw. Far from being disappointed that those versions don't exist anymore, when I actually visited I just superimposed the current London in another layer in my imagination, and enjoyed it immensely.

Our resident Brits can perhaps say whether it has completely deteriorated since 2019 as a place to visit for a week or two. But if it hasn't, and you've wanted to go, then I'd say do it.

I don't think it's deteriorated noticeably since 2019, apart from the fact that we have (and maybe had even then) lots of roadworks. But Janie, I'm curious, why would you need a driver?

But Janie, I'm curious, why would you need a driver?

I'm guessing because you Brits drive the wrong way on both sides of the road.

The driver thing is partly a joke and partly serious. I'm very out of practice at driving in cities, and the pandemic has made it worse, because I don't go anywhere. I've already refused to drive into Boston twice when family members had surgery down there.

I'm old, I'm hot-tempered, my reactions aren't as quick as they used to be, and in Boston in particular, the other drivers are malevolent and relentless. (Ask anyone.)

If I were only going to stay in the city, I wouldn't need a driver; I'm happy enough taking the Tube and walking (and glad that I'm still fit enough to do it). But one of the points of an extended stay would be to make short trips to other parts of England -- maybe make sure I'm there in the spring and see some of the great gardens. Also ... just in general, to see places that I know the names of from stories.

Take Shaw's Corner -- one of my places of pilgrimage, which I should have tried to get to in 2009, because I did rent a car on that trip. (But that trip was curtailed by an airline strike, among other things.)

Look at the directions! You basically can't get there from here! In 2019 I thought of getting myself as far as I could on the Tube and just springing for whatever a cab would cost, but I sobered up. My budget doesn't run to extravagances like that. (My son and I did that in China to see a less touristy access point to the Great Wall. But London prices aren't China prices.)

And speaking of places of pilgrimage.... but I'll save that for a separate comment.

I realize, on reflection, that the driver comment is also related to how complicated everything seems to be these days. Either it's more so than it used to be, or I dislike it more as I age, or both. Finding out how to get to places, lugging luggage, changing trains, coping with delays and mistakes -- it all wears me out more than it did when I was young. "Driver" is my mythical-brained answer to that.

I drive an hour and a quarter one way, once a week, to hang out with my granddaughter. Mostly quiet roads, 10 or so miles on interstate highway. Completely innocuous trip. I don't mind it. But last week my daughter drove me, and it was amazing how much difference that made. We chatted, I daydreamed, I didn't worry about that guy going 90 to the left of me....

Spoiled, that's what I am. And I know it's first-world problems. But it *is* an explanation of the driver notion.

Places of pilgrimage: in 2008 (I mistyped the year earlier), the absolute top of the list place I wanted to see, which should have been easy as pie, was the Reading Room of the British Museum, where Shaw hung out as a young man, reading and writing.

Among other people, like "Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G.Wells, George Orwell, Arthur Rimbaud, George Bernard Shaw, Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Mahatma Gandhi and, yes, Lenin and Karl Marx" -- to borrow the list from Google's 1st search result.

Well, the Reading Room was "closed for repairs" in 2008, and I didn't get to see it.

So when I went back in 2019 it was once again at the top of the list. And what could be easier to get to than the British Museum, right?

Well, the Reading Room was still closed. The people behind the info desk sympathized and/but had no idea if it would ever be open to the public again, rather than just occasionally for special events.

Maybe tourists were ruining it, or maybe people actually wanting to use it were fighting over it, or.... who knows.

And that's to say nothing of rent and the cost of living in general.

Reading about the impending energy price increases, if I haven't slipped a decimal point -- well, decimal comma -- by January an average household in England will be spending nearly five times what my wife and I pay.

HSH: "I'm guessing because you Brits drive the wrong way on both sides of the road."

So, like New Jersey?

(I'm here all week, try the veal!)

in Boston in particular, the other drivers are malevolent and relentless. (Ask anyone.)

Truth.

And who knows what disasters would ensue if they were allowed to pump their own gas?

So, like New Jersey?

We only do it some of the time.

And who knows what disasters would ensue if they were allowed to pump their own gas?

I worked at a gas station pumping gas as a youngster. At the time, I pumped my own gas. It was more satisfying than pumping other people's gas, but less satisfying than having someone else pump my gas.

I'm guessing because you Brits drive the wrong way on both sides of the road.

In London, or other large city, is where it isn't a problem. You've got all those other cars to remind you constantly. But get out in the countryside, and things can get a bit more challenging.

by January an average household in England will be spending nearly five times what my wife and I pay.

But you aren't importing a big chunk of your energy from Russia.** Merely from Texas -- arguably also rather hostile territory, but with less freedom to choke off supply.

** More accurately, from places which do, and are competing with the UK for replacement sources.

In London, or other large city, is where it isn't a problem. You've got all those other cars to remind you constantly.

Based on my one experience of driving in Dublin for a few days, even in the city it's daunting until you've formed new unconscious habits. You may have other drivers all around you, but you also have to make snap decisions constantly and consciously, whereas at home they're largely unconscious.

This is especially dicey at, let's say, an intersection where there doesn't happen to be anyone on the cross street to imitate at the moment when you're turning.

There's also the rearranging of the habit of where you look first before you pull out to turn. My kids happened to be with me in Ireland on that trip, and we had a chant: "Drive to the left, look to the right."

Goes for crossing the street, too. I really appreciated the crossings in London that had big reminders painted on the sidewalk!

In Dublin I had a phase where I had to make every decision consciously (unlike at home, where it's all basically unconscious and instant), to do it the opposite of home.

Then I went through a blessedly brief phase where I was double correcting -- correcting once consciously, as I had been for a couple of days, and then correcting the correction because "correcting" had become a half-unconscious habit already.

Then came the phase where I was a Dublin driver. ;-)

This is especially dicey at, let's say, an intersection where there doesn't happen to be anyone on the cross street to imitate at the moment when you're turning.

And most especially, in my experience, when turning from a one way street onto a two way street with no cross traffic to use for reference.

In London, or other large city, is where it isn't a problem.

Perhaps it's less of a problem in some ways. In the countryside, there are fewer cars to collide with, and sheep don't care which side of the road you're on when you're going in a particular direction.

I found myself looking the wrong way when starting to cross the street as a pedestrian in London even when there were arrows painted at the curb to remind the tourists. A few pints in me didn't help matters.

A few pints in me didn't help matters.

Sounds to me like you'd actually gone native.

The restaurants were inconsistent and there were fewer of them, but the pubs were everywhere and very reliable if you just wanted some good beer. I used beer to stave off hunger while finding a good place to eat.

I used beer to stave off hunger while finding a good place to eat.

That made me laugh, as did the earlier comment about driving the wrong way on *both* sides of the road. ;-)

It was drilled into me from pre-school days to always look into both directions before crossing a road and constantly changing the direction of view all the way across. Oh, and never trust that people will not drive in both directions in one way streets.

In Austria, before Hitler came home to set things in order, each region made its own decisions on which side of the road one was supposed to drive and occasionally changed the rule. I wonder, if that is the reason why many Austrian cars before the 1930ies had the driver not sit on one side but in the middle.

My biggest regret about being in London is that I hadn't yet discovered my love of Indian food. I probably wouldn't have drunk as much beer otherwise.

It was drilled into me from pre-school days to always look into both directions before crossing a road

Yes, but there's still a habitual first side. I mean, you can't look both ways at once, you have to pick one to look in first, and it's more efficient to look first in the direction from which the cars are on the side nearest to where you're standing. That unconscious habit is why walking in London can be so dangerous for American pedestrians with or without a few pints in their bellies.

Plus, in a place like Harvard Square, where I spent a lot of time (constant heavy traffic, not moving fast), you often start across when there's a break in the near lane(s) and you expect to hit one in the far lane(s) by the time you get there.

It's often a bit of a game of chicken, to be honest, and I had my own mental rules about how much I would challenge cars to make them honor crosswalks (Boston-area drivers, remember) depending on how deep into the Square I was. The further in, the more I thought pedestrians should own it. Farther away, I gave way to cars more readily.

And don't get me started on bicyclists, the most sanctimious group, on average, I have ever run across (at least Boston area riders). They tend to get furious if a car doesn't follow all the rules, but don't follow the rules themselves and tend to be as discourteous to pedestrians as cars are to bikes. Bah. One of my most fun small-minded satisfactions was to see a bicyclist stopped by a Cambridge cop for running a red light. Lol.

Merely from Texas -- arguably also rather hostile territory, but with less freedom to choke off supply.

Nope. The comparison is for residential electricity and natural gas, essentially all of which is home-grown here in Colorado. My own electricity situation is unusual -- four municipal utilities own the non-profit power authority that generates and/or otherwise acquires electricity. The target to be carbon-free is 2030. I don't think they'll make it, but they're checking off all the boxes I would if I were in charge, so maybe they'll surprise me.

The first time I was in Boston, I was told that when the crossing light said "Don't Walk" what that meant was "Run!" Years later on a business trip there, I asked about the car I had seen careening through one of those ghastly five-way intersections with the driver reaching high outside the window waving a fistful of pink and yellow paper. "Rental car forms," I was told. "He was signaling 'I paid for the insurance and don't care if you hit me.'"

The restaurants were inconsistent and there were fewer of them, but the pubs were everywhere and very reliable if you just wanted some good beer.

It's not just beer. "Pub grub" is d*mn good, too.

Michael--i never heard the rental car thing, that's funny.

I was surprised on my 2 or 3 brief trips to NYC (wish I'd had more time there, too)--the traffic was much more orderly and predictable than in Boston, both cars and foot traffic, not to mention the interaction of the two. Tourists get in the way on the sidewalk in the same way in both places. ;-)

Another pet peeve in Boston, which I see in Maine, too (at least in towns big enough to have walk lights with buttons) -- pedestrians who push the button for the walk light but never break stride as they march across the street they just pushed the walk light for. Then 8 or 16 or however many lanes of car traffic have to stop for nothing. I'm all for walk lights for those of us who need them. But if you have no intention of waiting for it, then don't push the damned button.

It's pet peeve day I guess!

Bombs are not falling on my neighborhood, so I'll stop complaining.

"Pub grub" is d*mn good, too.

Crikey, if damn has to be asterisked, I'm now much too profane for this blog!!!

wj, a lot depends on when you're talking about. If pre-90s, I do not hesitate to say (with affection) you must be nuts! If in the last 20/25 years, there is good food to be had in gastropubs and even traditional pubs which care about provenance etc. I wouldn't want anyone to be misled!

Some of us mix damn and d*mn without rhyme or reason. ;-)

My experience with pub grub is actually from the 1970s. But perhaps I was just lucky in the places I happened upon.

Crikey, if damn has to be asterisked, I'm now much too profane for this blog!!!

Might just be finger memory. I do some of the support work at another blog. The editors there have a list of substrings that will get a comment dumped straight into moderation. All of those were added for good reason at particular times, but nobody does maintenance on the list. My fingers have learned to type f*ck, b*tch, N*zi and others with one of the vowels replaced. Not that I swear much. As I say, when granddaughter #1 tells granddaughter #2 "Leave the f*cking snake alone!" someday, she won't have the excuse of "But that's what Grandpa says."

An American driving in London

Where I am the walk light buttons are a psychological device to give you the sense that you have more control over your life than you actually do.

I lived close to Shaw's Corner as a child. If you'd like a native guide, get in touch.

Pro Bono -- That would be wonderful! I will take you up on it if I ever get over there again.

I thought of trying to arrange a meet-up in 2019, but it really wasn't my trip, I was invited along on my daughter's adventure, so I didn't want to introduce that complication. Plus it was so very short, and I ended up being sick for a day and a half anyhow....

Maybe there will be a next time. Fingers crossed!

Well, Janie, in planning your next trip, I see that the Reading Room is still closed! I have been in to see some of the special exhibitions, and it is wonderful. But (although it lacks the historical associations you long for) I am told that the new British Library on the Euston Road is wonderful too. I haven't been there, but I have often admired the huge Paolozzi sculpture of Newton (after Blake) as I drive by:

https://www.bl.uk/about-us/our-story/explore-the-building/isaac-newton-sculpture

I was surprised on my 2 or 3 brief trips to NYC (wish I'd had more time there, too)--the traffic was much more orderly and predictable than in Boston

NYC drivers drive fast and extremely close to each other, but they generally keep it between the lines.

Boston drivers are chaos monkeys.

We went to the British Library on Euston Road. Saw a copy of the Magna Carta, among other fascinating things. In fact, I think that was our first stop on my first full day there. We made a long day of it.....

DSCN1366xx

Ha! I should have known.

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