Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

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I’m about to get this book, World Without Mind, suggesting that Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook should be trust-busted. When you consider that Facebook and Google control what information we recieve, and that Amazon is positioning itself to be the sole provider of goods and services, and Apple is positioning itself to entrap all of it’s users… I think that suggesting is 100 percent worth consideration.
I am old enough to remember the dawn of the internet. We thought it would bring people together. We thought it would enable us to pool our knowledge and come up with better solutions. Instead it enabled us to form massive angry mobs, and for disinformation to flourish and encapsulate nearly half of the population. Instead of the dissemination of valuable information, the democratization of voices allowed those best at emotional manipulation to swallow our entire media in it’s attempt to compete with their draw on the masses.
I heard this analogy once, and I keep returning to it. There are things that are too powerful for us to wield. Nuclear weapons aren’t used, their existence is only serves to ensure that they will not be used. And what if unlimited voices with no trusted arbiter is too powerful for our democratic society to wield. And our systems, dependent on our coalescing around some core truths and values, in turn dependent on the arbiter, cannot hold.

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What Does The Fox Say?

I have been at the gym in the mornings watching CNN and Fox side by side. Boy. Is that illuminating. We don’t understand each other, because we are literally living on two different information planets. Skip to the bottom for a summary. 🙂
Here’s what CNN was talking about yesterday morning.
-The CBO’s findings on the Trumpcare and features of the bill.
This will will effect most Americans, and it is rightly taking up 20 min of the 7am hour.
-The intelligence community announcing they have no evidence of 45’s claims on being wire tapped.
A sitting president has accused our past president of illegal activity. Seems that is rightly taking up the 7am hour.
Here’s what FOX covered the same morning.
-A full fifteen minutes was spent interviewing a man whose wife died in a car accident with an illegal immigrant.
Without question, this is sad, but by having this at 730am for fifteen minutes it implies it is one of the most important things that has happened today for everyone in the US rather than a very very sad thing that happened to one man. It also implies that most motor vehicle related deaths are due to illegal immigrants. Spoiler, they are not.
-Allegations that HRC’s people had contact with Russians
I assume they covered this to avoid everything RE 45. Except, again, spending 10 minutes on this at 730am implies this one of the most important things happening today. But who has more power to impact every American, a sitting president or a citizen who is holding no office?
-Obamacare’s inventor complains about Trumpcare.
I think they covered this to avoid the CBO’s release. This man’s complaints were consistent of what I have heard from multiple sources, but by having these words come from *gasp* a filthy Obama cohort lots of Foxers can just dismiss everything he says as biased.
-The deficit. PBS was mentioned and it was said in a way that implies that if PBS is de-funded it would resolve the deficit.
Spoiler, not even close. They failed to mention anything about how 45 is gonna pay for his wall, the additional ICE agents, or his extra 60 billion to defense. I assume this too is to combat the negative feedback about Trumpcare. And in a number of online conversations conservatives are suddenly talking about the deficit, and that we need to cut Meals on Wheels because the deficit. Except Meals on Wheels is like a fraction of a percent of the deficit… As is PBS. If cutting the deficit is the goal then either medicare, medicaid or defense has to be cut or probably all. Or we raise taxes. But you would never know it watching Fox because their discussion didn’t show the discretionary or non-discretionary budgets. Not once. Seriously that pie chart is everywhere, but they don’t want their people seeing that.
TLDR Summary: If all you watch is Fox News you think illegal immigrants driving cars are your greatest bodily threat. HRC colluded with Russians too so it’s cool. Obamacare people say things about Trumpcare no conservative cares about. The deficit will destroy us but we can fix it by taking away PBS. If you watch CNN you know the numbers the CBO came out with and that 45 doesn’t have wire tapping evidence. NOTE: I think part of this is because Fox considers their AM programming commentary and not actual news. But how is that obvious to anyone? It all looks like talking heads.


One Last Thing

By last Thursday I had stopped crying at random times. When I opened the email from my CEO in my fluorescent flooded office, I was caught off-guard. After turning off notifications on Facebook and Twitter, I felt secure words wouldn’t launch their surprise attacks anymore. It wasn’t the expected and obvious continued show of discrimination, racism, sexism, and generalized aggression that drew my tears, but seeing my friends and peers comforting each other that brought my sobs.

When I opened the email I was expecting the typical corporate scrubbed, neutral content saying the company would intelligently adapt to whatever Trumplandia would throw its way. Or worse a celebration of the promised reduced corporate tax rate that would line the pockets of our shareholders. And it did start out that way. But those words gave way to acknowledging how unsafe and excluded many of us felt after November 9th. He reaffirmed that our diversity is what makes us strong, and it’s our collective broad array of experiences and willingness to share them that enable us to be successful. He said that in this moment, more than ever, we need to stand strong in our values. I wept.

A few hours later, I sat around a conference table with the upper management in our department, mostly women, one black, one a British immigrant, one a Chinese immigrant, and one a giant homo and all incredibly smart. It was the first time we were all together in person. There were several seconds of silence where our glances across the table spoke thousands of words. The walls behind our eyes crumbled for a few seconds and we shared our grief and fear, and our profound disappointment that being safe in America will continue to be a dream just out of reach for all of us. Tears welled and voices choked as we moved on to running the business. Because we are professionals and get shit done even when we are broken and battered.

It came to me then, this is my bubble. Because my religious family and friends from high school have been voting to support my oppression for decades all the while enjoying my jokes and following my travel and cooking exploits, I was painfully aware of straight white people and how little they regard the rights of anyone apart from themselves. But my office is a collection of outsiders, foreigners. My promotions have hinged on my merit. Although subtle sexism is unavoidable, I can’t say that it’s held me back in my career. This. This is my bubble. Sitting around that table, profound gratitude welled up inside my chest. And I am gutted to recall that this is not what most women experience. I am even more gutted to know that many of my fellow Americans can’t even be bothered to defend our physical safety and right to physical autonomy. They certainly don’t care about subtle sexism on the job.

The dreams started last night. In one we were in hiding. My friends and people I love. We were all in jeopardy of being taken. In the other, Jeannine and I were separated by men in uniform. My eyes memorized every small detail of the scene, hungry for what could be the last moment I see her. I knew I would cling to these last few sensations until all sensation stopped. Although the rending of my heart was potent and devastating, what I recall most is lack of remorse. My heart although decimated was unbowed. I knew that those shimmering moments we shared together, were worth it even though it lead us here. Because fleeting seconds of being truly alive are more valuable than years of dead eyed routine living the life others have prescribed.

Now, we wait. I will engage in activism of course, but I have a deep conviction that the dominoes are falling now. And there’s nothing that can be done to stop it. Only luck will turn it aside.

It’s not clear what Trump himself actually thinks seeing as the words that come out of his mouth carry no meaning or truth, but here’s what is clear to me. He is a slave to his ego, a practical opportunist in service of it. I believe he seeks two ends as president, one is to line his pockets and those of his friends and family. The second is to bask in the attention and love of his devotees. It’s possible the worst of his campaign promises will go unfulfilled if the American economy continues to be stable.

But should the economy become unstable, his devotees will demand that he make good on the worst of his words. And because he cannot countenance being booed, he will take action to restore his adoring crowd.  And those actions? They could be anything. I don’t get the sense that he has any internal ethics or morals that would stop him.

Our economy could flounder for various reasons some of them primarily due to Trump and his policies and others due to structural weaknesses left in place after the 2008 Financial Crisis. It’s possible the Trump people appointed to The Fed will enforce monetary policy that will deflate the dollar causing our exports to lose value and our imports to soar. Or the banks that should have been broken up after 2008 could extend themselves yet again especially if regulations are relaxed even further, knowing they can raid the US Treasury at any time. Or Trump’s promised trade wars will bring immediate instability. Our hold on prosperity is tenuous right now, and can evaporate over night.

Apart from financial and ethical crisis at home, Trump will need a war to get reelected. Even if the economy continues at this rate of growth, his policies will not satisfy the economic needs of his fan base. Four years of fleecing the treasury and spouting off to his adoring fans will not be enough, he will want eight.

It will be most obvious to gin up military engagement in Arabic countries. Among his fan base, it will play very well to shoot the towel heads. This even without financial crisis will enable him to enact his most odious promises against Muslims here in the United States. And the people will love him for it. They will stand in line to give away civil liberties for all of us in service of their own bigotry. The war will also open possibilities to grab more power than the executive branch already has. Perhaps the precedent that FDR set will be used to get Trump and unlimited term. After all, we cannot change leaders in a time of war.

I wanted to get all these thoughts out now before they happen. I sincerely hope I am wrong. In the meantime, I will be stuffing Canadian dollars under my mattress. I will be calling my congressmen. I will be organizing with like minded people. I will be stocking an account with Euros. I will be considering growing my hair so I can “pass” at a border check. Just in case. Just in case that nightmare… It wasn’t just a dream. Just in case it was a premonition.

Oh, and I will stop communicating with the people who have spent their whole lives voting to restrict my rights. I was wrong to accept them and their beliefs. It has been twenty years that my mom has been voting to ensure I cannot marry. My dad if he had lived to election day would have voted for Trump. I know now that they were happy to take my energy, my love, my support but equally happy to take my rights, women’s rights, black people’s rights, Muslims’ rights, Jews’ rights. This isn’t a mere difference of opinion. This is an act of hostility too profound to look past.

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This is Hard. Harder than I Thought.

I think the most unnerving thing about this election isn’t limited to gay marriage, although I am gay and this effects me most directly. It’s the things Trump has said about all minorities. Registering Muslims + re-establishing law and order (in isolation could be innocuous but not along side these other things, instead looks like code for suppressing dissent over police shootings of unarmed black men) + statements re gays + choice of Mike Pense as VP + statements re women + all the white nationalist re-tweets. Any one of theses things on their own, I could dismiss. But all together? It’s a pattern.
And then when I add his statements on the media re strengthening libel laws and barring access to journalists he doesn’t like, his admiration for dictators and their ability to act unilaterally, and his cavalier attitude toward use of nuclear weapons, and the ways in which the executive branch’s powers were expanded under W? I can only come to one conclusion. It’s that American voters, the same who claim their love of freedom and the constitution, would give away their guarantee of freedom and perhaps their democracy to exclude anyone different from themselves and a false promise of jobs that will never come back.
Now, I don’t know that Trump will make good on the things he said. But you see, I understand something I didn’t before. It’s that for many of my fellow Americans, the American dream is only for them. And that they would rather risk throwing it away than sharing it with me or anyone they deem as different. And this reality? It’s more painful than I can say. And now that I see it so clearly, I know that’s it’s been there all along. And I have been dreadfully naive. And regardless of what Trump does and does not do, I won’t be able to see my fellow Americans the same way again.


Politics: I Don’t Normally Write About It

There’s stuff that I just disagree with that Trump says. Let’s start trade wars to bring America’s jobs back, for instance. I don’t think this action will result in bringing jobs back, it will do many other unfortunate things through.
And then there’s stuff he says that makes me think he is unfit and dangerous. Threatening to use executive power to prosecute and jail his political opponent for instance. That’s language that banana republic dictators use. Discrimination based on religion is antithetical to our Bill of Rights, and blatantly so. Openly wondering why using nuclear weapons is off the table, when any cognizant adult knows what mutually assured destruction is and why it must be respected or we quite literally might scorch the entire face of the earth. His stated disregard for the Geneva Conventions, exposes us and our military personnel to charges of war crimes.
The former, things I just disagree on? That’s normal politics. The latter stuff though? That’s the stuff that makes me think differently about Trump voters. It makes me think they are time bombs just waiting to blow the rest of us up in their fear and fundamental lack of understanding about what a democracy is and isn’t.
I know in past elections, particularly ones where gay rights were at stake, I was disappointed by my friends and family who communicated their lack of respect for me and my rights via their political affiliations. I know they were deciding on many factors, so I willfully decided not to take it personally.
But this election is different. It’s different because our choices aren’t between two different interpretations on how our country runs best. It’s between one interpretation of how our country runs better and a different government all together, a totalitarian dictatorship.
Our media and election process is completely ill-equipped to deal with this new situation. The media is trapped in a box of their own making. They survive on clicks and shares driving the quality of their content down to the lowest common denominator of sound bites and sensationalism. They’ve interpreted unbiased to mean showing both sides of an issue as equal rather than exposing where the facts lie.
The proliferation of social media and “news” websites allow unsubstantiated content to stream into our minds. And our own self-selecting allows each of us to live in a bubble where only our own biases and opinions are reflected back to us, calcifying our worst tendencies to tribalism.
It’s all of these things together that make me gravely concerned. It’s all of these things together that tell me that even with a Trump loss in less than a month, we will spend decades dealing with the fall out. This is only the beginning.

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100 Books While 40: The Book Thief

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusac
Published:  2005

Relevant. Thanks Donald Trump, you shitty, shitty human being.

The young man wandered around for quite some time, thinking, planning, and figuring out exactly how to make the world his. Then one day, our of nowhere, it struck him-the perfect plan. He’d seen a mother walking with her child. At one point, she admonished the small boy, until finally, he began to cry. Within a few minutes, she spoke very softly to him, after which he was soothed and even smiled.

The young man rushed to the woman and embraced her. “Words!” He grinned.


But there was no reply, He was already gone.

Yes, the Fuhrer decided that he would rule the world with words. “I will  never fire a gun,” he devised. “I will not have to.” Still, he was not rash. Let’s allow him at least that much. He was not a stupid man at all. His first plan of attach was to plant the words in as many areas of his homeland as possible.

He planted them day and night, and cultivated them.

He watched them grow, until eventually, great forests of words had risen through Germany…. It was a nation of farmed thoughts.

While the words were growing, our young Fuhrer also planted seeds to create symbols, and these, too, were well on their way to full bloom. Now the time had come. The Fuhrer was ready.

He invited his people toward his own glorious heart, beckoning them with his finest, ugliest words, handpicked from his forests. And the people came.

They were all placed on a conveyor belt and run through a rampant machine that gave them a lifetime in ten minutes. Words were fed into them. Time disappeared and they now Knew everything they needed to know. They were hypnotized. – The Book Thief

I’m sure Hitler really enjoyed his freedom of speech. We have to believe one of two things, but they both cannot be true at once. Either words are power and freedom of speech needs to be carefully monitored and considered, or words are powerless and freedom of speech isn’t important. But I see people want to lay claim to both. They hide behind freedom of speech while throwing their hate words and simultaneously suggest words are not power when asked to to be accountable. Check out this for more on this topic.

The young man was a Nazi; his father was not. In the opinion of Hans Junior, his father was part of an old, decrepit Germany-one that allowed everyone else to take it for the proverbial ride while its own people suffered. – The Book Thief

Make America great again. What does that mean, exactly? Donald Trump actually answered this question and said it’s the boom years during WWII. Trump seems to identify this time period for economic reasons-which I think is past and will stay that way mostly due to robotics and other ways in which manufacturing will require less and less labor while maintaining or increasing productivity-back to my main point. But Americans interpret that based on their age. And this phrase allows people to coddle their irrational nostalgia for some time in the past that they perceive to be better in some way than now.

I think many Trump supporters do not interpret this first as an economic statement. I believe they interpret it first culturally. That’s the root where some of the racist and sexist portions of his following comes from, the basket of deplorables, so to speak. They are thinking of a time when blacks and women knew their place. They are thinking of a time when men with no education could hold unilateral power over women and minorities. Let me repeat that statement in a slightly different way, a time when white men with zero achievement or intelligence could wield power simply by being born.

That time is at its end. White men for the most part are going down swinging. And we have to watch it. And it’s painful.

I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that’s where they begin. Their great skill is their capacity to escalate. – The Book Thief

Reading this book about a child caught up in Nazi Germany was painfully relevant. I have had this theory for years, that we all have the capacity to be Germans in 1939. I just didn’t think I would live to see concrete evidence of it during my lifetime.

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100 Book While 40: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Title: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
Author: Michael Lewis
Published: 2003

We aren’t logical. Take a gander at this list. If there’s one thing this list should make plain, it’s that we often have gaps in judgement.

Baseball is a big money business. And it’s one that provides ample statistical data. And yet, this book narrates the challenges analysts had in getting baseball insiders to accept that the data tells a more accurate story than men who have spent a lifetime scouting for new players.

This idea, our failure to think logically, and our failure to acknowledge it, started swimming around my head after 9/11. While that was a terrible event, I grew puzzled that not only were citizens of the largest cities fearful of a terrorist attack but those from the most remote and sparsely populated areas were equally distressed. They weren’t just mildly concerned either. The entire population was so scared that they willingly sent even more Americans to die on bits of desert that figure in their lives in no tangible way what so ever. Not only were they behind putting our soldiers in harms way, but they also supported the extravagant 4-6 trillion dollar price tag to support this military action.

Just as a point of reference, the national debt is currently clocking in around 19 trillion. So, the wars account for about a quarter of that. With just the costs of the Iraq War alone we could have paid off half of every American’s mortgage. We could have given every American child access to preschool 40 times over. We could have installed a national light rail system 8 times over (for more shit would could have done check this page).

In retrospect, I can’t say what Americans envisioned as the outcome of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, but I am supposing living with ISIS wasn’t it. Yet even now I am hearing an alarming number of Americans advocating for more military action in the Middle East. Did we learn nothing? The apparent answer is yes.

One constant from September 11th 2001 until now is our fear. Today Americans are just as scared that they will be victims of terrorist attacks as they were then. And yet, the probability of dying in a terrorist attack is stunningly remote. We are talking on the level of lightening strike or becoming shark bait here. Yet here were are, a significant number of us want to bomb Syria.

This problem with our inability to be logical? The founders were aware, even while we continue to seem blissfully ignorant of it. The judicial branch is there to prevent the tyranny of the majority. AKA, you guys can be stupid, and not just a few of you, but MOST of you at once. Plus, there’s this from a fascinating article in The Atlantic.

The Framers worried about demagogic excess and populist caprice, so they created buffers and gatekeepers between voters and the government. Only one chamber, the House of Representatives, would be directly elected. A radical who wanted to get into the Senate would need to get past the state legislature, which selected senators; a usurper who wanted to seize the presidency would need to get past the Electoral College, a convocation of elders who chose the president; and so on.

In baseball, the data eventually won. But when I am watching Trump at the RNC tell America that we are all in danger, I am dubious of data’s power here. In the case of baseball, there are clear and expensive consequences to ignoring the data. In politics, although the consequences are even more expensive, the relationship of cause and effect is cloudy.