A new experience

November 25, 2016

Some years ago, I read the wonderful autobiography Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!  Richard Feynman was a Nobel Laureate in Physics who led an interesting life.  If you are looking for an easy to read enjoyable book, I fully endorse it.

One episode that Feynman discussed was a time where he tried out a sensory-deprivation tank as some attempt to reach an altered state.  Feynman was, naturally, skeptical, but did try it out, and did not have any out of body experiences.  Nonetheless, his description stuck with me a bit.  It sounded pretty relaxing and as a nice way to disconnect from the rest of the world.

About two months ago, I saw a pamphlet at a local restaurant advertising a new business moving in to the area;  a business which allowed people to float!  I was intrigued, and this week,the “Open” sign went up.  I decided to give it a try.

When I was younger I spent a lot of time in water, and I am very comfortable in the water, but this turned out to be a new experience.  The chamber has about 10 inches of hypersaline water which is passively filtered while someone is in there (between uses, it is actively  filtered and treated with UV and a small amount of hydrogen peroxide.  The air temperature is held at about 95° F, while water temperature is a slightly cooler 93° F.  I thought this would be uncomfortably hot, but it was enormously comfortable.  Once you step down into the chamber and close the glass door, the lights outside the chamber remain on for about a minute before shutting off.  A switch above the water line allow you to turn on some underwater lights.  Even with my weight, floating was absolutely no problem, and some provided earplugs not only saved my ears from water entering them, but also minimized any sound except for my heartbeat and breathing.  Once the lights turned off and I turned the underwater lights off, the room was the darkest dark… closing my eyes or opening them made zero difference.  After a few minutes, I could not even the water against my body because of the lack of temperature gradient.

There were no phones or computers, just laying back and floating  in the water.  When my hour was up, it didn’t seem like an hour had passed (it seemed more 30-45 minutes), and while I know I hadn’t fallen asleep, I felt well rested.  I look forward to going back again.


Film Review: Arrival

November 23, 2016

Obviously spoiler alerts … and this one has a lot of them because the trailers have not even hinted in the slightest where this film was headed.

One of the oldest traditions in literature is that of the hero and fate.  There is the idea that fate has preordained something awful to happen, and the hero is the one that flips the bid to fate, and gets off his or her butt, and goes and changes fate.  The idea of simply “accepting” fate is not something that sits well in a great deal of Western literature.  As you will see, there is a good reason I am leading off my review with this obvious recapitulation.

The film opens with Dr. Louis Banks (Amy Adams) addressing the audience about the nature of storytelling, and not being sure about the difference between beginning and endings.  We then see a montage somewhat reminiscent of the great film Up with Dr. Banks and her daughter as she and her young daughter have great times growing up, eventually reaching her teen years, being diagnosed with cancer, and dying.  This is not in any way an uplifting beginning, though this introduction ends with Dr. Banks noting that her daughter’s story begins on the day “They” arrived.

Dr. Banks is a professor of linguistics, and sure enough, the aliens have arrived on Earth … 12 ships (called “shells”) have mysteriously arrived at fairly random places … Siberia, the Black Sea Coast, Australia, Sierra Leone, Greenland, Japan, Pakistan , Venezuela, Sudan, the UK, off the coast of Shanghai, and rural Montana.  The world has gone into full blown panic as the stock market collapses, riots breakout, cults commit mass suicide.  Banks is approached by US Army Colonel Weber (Forrest Whitaker).  She had done some translation for the Army, and retained her “Top Secret” clearance, and is invited to join the team in Montana to help communicate with the aliens.  She arrives in Montana joined by a physicist, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) who is pretty convinced that language is a waste of time because science will be the common language.  We learn that every 18 hours, a portal opens on the alien ship allowing visitors to enter, and Ian and Louise join an Army team aboard.  They enter an antechamber with a transparent wall at one end, and through the mist on the other side of the wall, they see their visitors:  giant, squidlike heptapods.  Louise is at first unsuccessful, but is able to finally get them to communicate.  One of their tentacles is able to spray an ink-like substance which creates ring like “characters”.  Louise quickly determines that each ring-like character is in fact an entire sentence, and by measuring small variances in the shape, she can determine parts of their language.  The army camp is hooked up to teams in other nations attempting communication, but Louise is the first.  Soon the other teams also establish communication.

Louse takes a methodical approach of building vocabulary in order to work up to the big questions that the military wants answered: “Why are you here?” and “Where did you come from?”  As Louise furthers her communication and translation efforts, she begins to have more and more dreams, sometimes waking dreams, of her daughter,and it seems that her daughter is communicating something to her at a subconscious level about the aliens.

Meanwhile, in China, the head of the Army, General Shang (Tzi Ma) has been suspicious of these aliens all along, and one day suddenly yanks all communication with the other sites around the world.  The Russians, Sudanese, and Pakistanis follow suit (The Russians go as far as to kill some of their experts who attempt to break through to other sites).  Louise is pressured to jump to the big question, and is concerned when the response is “Offer weapon”.  The CIA liaison on site flips his lid, and to make matters worse, the Chinese are calling for an emergency UN meeting when they reveal that their aliens responded “use weapon”, convincing the Chinese that the aliens are here to get humanity to kill each other for nefarious reasons.  Louise, however tries to convince people that in rushing through translations, the word “weapon” may have been misunderstood, and when she learns through video stolen by the Americans from China that the Chinese were using Mahjongg as a tool to communicate, that the aliens may have been phrasing things in terms of an adversarial game.  When China decides to give the aliens 24 hours to leave or risk attack, the Americans decide to pull out, figuring that a Chinese attack will have consequences in Montana.Louse and Ian manage to get on board to make one final attempt at communication, but their session is cut short … some of her soldier assistants who have been listening to conservative talk radio have been convinced to place a bomb aboard the ship.  The aliens manage to save Louise and Ian before the bomb goes off, but all of the alien ships now lift off from the surface and hover a half-mile above the planet, unreachable by anyone.  Despite evacuation orders, Louise sneaks away, and a pod is sent to pick her up, and she finally has a private audience with the heptapods.  She has visions of her opening a new book on translating heptapod, and giving massive lectures on teir language.  The heptapods are able to clearly explain that they are here to help humanity because in the future, the heptapods will need humanity’s help. Louise then comes to the realization that these are less astronaut aliens and more time-traveling aliens … that their language has given them the ability to see the future, and their technology has developed accordingly.  The weapon is the heptapod language, and the enemy is the disunity of the world. Only by tying together pieces of communication from all 12 sites will she be able to convince the world that this visitation is benevolent, and will help the world.

As Louise returns, she realizes that if the Chinese attack, all may be lost, but she has a vision of meeting General Shang at a reception, and the General being in awe of the only person who ever changed his mind, and recalls to her how she called his private phone number and spoke his wife’s dying words, which convinced him to call off the attack.  Louise (and now the audience) realize that as Louise has been learning heptapod, her own brain has undergone a “rewiring” that allows her to see the future, and that her knowledge of heptapod is less about learning it on the fly, and more about cheating off of her future-self.  She calls the general, he stands down, and the heptapods depart in peace.  The “weapon” the heptapods were referring to was their own language, and that this would unite the world, making it stronger, and able to be an important ally to the heptapods centuries hence.

We also come to realize that the visions Louise has been having of her daughter were not memories, but were glimpses into the future.  Ian will be her husband, and only after their daughter is born will she reveal to him that she has known all along that their marriage will end in divorce, because he will get upset after learning, after the fact, that Louise will die a terrible death.  But, Louise comes to accept that.  Roll credits.

 

Technically, the film is well done.  In fact, kudos for being among the minority of films to give us non-humanoid aliens that were convincing.  There certainly is a sense of reality in the film harkening to the Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Contact, and that is to be applauded.  Acting is not a problem, and I need to especially call out the writers for not making Colonel Weber and even General Shang stock-villain status.  Both characters show dimension to their thinking and motivation, and in many ways are even better developed from a writing standpoint than the two lead characters, Louise and Ian.

The main point of the film is that the success of our species is absolutely going to be based on putting aside differences and learning to cooperate instead of compete.  That’s an even more hopeful vision than presented in Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Contact.  Language is used as the medium that divides humanity.  However a common language (and more importantly a shared vision of the future) can bridge those differences.

However, there are a lot of problems here in the plot that raise huge questions that can’t be dismissed easily.  First, I can’t even call this film science fiction, because it is not science fiction.  Instead, I would classify this as much closer to magic realism along the lines of Midnight’s Children or Chocolat.  When learning words gives you powers to see the future, we have a word for that, and it isn’t science … that’s called a “spell”.  They try and lay the groundwork for this by saying that on earth, that different languages rewire your brain differently to see the world differently … but it is beyond science to say that any language will rewire your brain to see the future.  That’s magic folks, not science.

This film then glosses over some incredibly dangerous implications.  The film shows a future where Louise has written a book on translating heptapod, and is giving lectures on how to read the language … meaning that pretty soon there will be a sub-class of humans, clearly not everyone, who can accurately predict the future.  Wanna bet the front row was stock brokers?  Perhaps the second row were people who run the sports book at Las Vegas casinos?  Basically, a small number of linguists will become the new wizards, able to mentor a new permanent overclass of humanity, and I am guessing that governments and corporations will be in on the ground floor.

Ignoring global consequences, there are massive personal consequences.  Louise, whom the movie has built up as a sympathetic character, ends the film as kind of evil.  She falls in love with a man, whom she knows with 100% certainty she will divorce, but not before (again, with 100% certainty) creating a child who is doomed to an early painful death.  Its no wonder that Ian ends up leaving her … she was for all intents and purposes manipulating him at a personal level by not revealing any of this to him.  Certainly having a relationship and children carry risks that relationships can end, and children can die young, and couples and parents weigh those risks when moving ahead in their lives, but when one part of that couple has guaranteed foreknowledge … that borders on criminal behavior to not warn others.

One might argue that if it is fore-ordained, then what can you do?  However, the film implies that this knowledge of the future does not erase free will, and that it is possible to change events.  This ends up making our hero, Louise, a far, far less sympathetic character in the end.  This also makes you wonder what some early dating conversations with Ian were like. Louise’s ability to see the future is no secret.  Ian must … MUST have asked her at one point “so how does this relationship end up”, and Louise must have lied … at least long enough to get pregnant.  It is the opposite of a Cassandra-syndrome.  In Greek mythology Cassandra was cursed with knowing the future with the promise no one would believe her.  Louise has that power, and everyone believes her … but she clearly needs to occasionally tell some lies to get what she wants … which as she explains was what little time she could get with her daughter.  Simply accepting fate feels like a bit of a cop out.  Certainly, there are times you do have to accept parts of reality beyond changing … but that doesn’t mean you accept everything.

My other nit with the writing comes in the personal story of Louise and her future family taking a front seat to the greater story of humanity, which to me was the stronger story and more important story.

The music is a mix of warm, hopeful, albeit melancholy music and dissonant music, reminiscent of whale song, that serves as the music when the heptapods are present.  The heptapod theme music is especially well done as it gives a true sense of their alien nature while also imparting a sense of both mystery and intelligence.

Doing some research, the film is based on Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life, which (of course) uses tense in writing to address the time dissociation Louise goes through, and actually wraps up one point by saying that freedom to choose means choosing to not alter time, though this leaves me a bit unsatisfied.

I will give the film credit for triggering a lot of thinking, and that is good, but I from where I am sitting, there were a great many loose ends left in the end that were not properly addressed (or which were brought in when they shouldn’t have)..

 


Finally … Illinois is broken for all the best reasons

November 16, 2016

I have made it clear I am not a fan of the national standards that have been widely adopted (and almost as quickly abandoned) across the country, whether they be common core or NGSS, which is the science equivalent or common core.  I’m no right wing anti government nut.  They may be well intentioned, but they are a horrible mess from a student development standpoint.

Illinois required that our students be tested in science, and we have been at least mildly curious about the results.  We found out why we haven’t heard about them today.

Today we received an invitation to be hired to grade the tests.  Keep in mind, these tests were administered in early April, and have hypothetically been sitting in a warehouse down in Carbondale or Springfield, but at no time did anyone plan for the tests to be graded.  At this point, assuming they get enough people hired to do this, the scores for the 2016 test will be available a few months after we give the 2017 test.

Another reason to bypass standardized test scores.  In addition to just not giving much valuable information about student growth because the tests are based on a faulty set of standards, it has now become a major headache to get these results back to schools to “use” them to improve instruction … that, or maybe the people at the top realize that the results really aren’t that important, and its no big deal that the tests haven’t been graded.


This is what I was looking for!

November 15, 2016

Something to inspire me again … the words of a great genius!  Extremists need to hear this.


Where did it all go wrong?

November 12, 2016

8 years ago, the United States showed great progress as a people.  After centuries of systematic racism and oppression, we elected not simply a Black man, but a man of mixed race as president.  I can remember watching the television as the polls close in California, and California was called, and the commentator announced that Barrack Obama of Illinois had clinched the needed electoral votes to be president.

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Then, 8 years later, this happened.

 

I think for a great many people, it is difficult to comprehend why people bought so many of the accusations (mostly with scant evidence, and others being typical political shenanigans) against Hillary Clinton, but seemingly thought it far better to vote for a man getting the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan, and who wasn’t getting the support of his own party (the only living presidents from this party voted against them), especially in a situation where the economy has steadily been improving.

What motivates people like that?  I think fear and hopes for economic improvement …. but mostly fear.

Try and place yourself in the mind of some Trump supporters.  Forget for a moment the uneducated white male demographic.  That’s easy … they already couldn’t stand 8 years being led by a Black guy …. possibly 8 under a woman was too much to bear.

Let’s also for a moment throw out some of the less educated women who turned this into an election for high school homecoming queen.  This had a big effect to be sure, but again, that’s becoming more clear to understand.

I’m talking about educated people who were perfectly clear about what they were doing, and decided that it was better to tear things down rather than continue a slow building process.

  1.  Fear and rhetoric.  While conservative rhetoric of the misogynistic and racist kind has gotten a lot of air play, there were other kinds of rhetoric that got picked up on radar that even prickled my ears a bit, and I suspect rankled more moderates than anyone suspected.  I will admit that I was pretty disgusted with what I saw happening on college campuses.  I fully, 100% support students who need support getting that.  We know that African-American students who get in to college have a higher chance of dropping out, not because they can’t hack it, but because they lack the support system that other students have.  Women can certainly have that problem in some schools and majors (I suspect there is a reason why “Women in Engineering” is a real, necessary thing, while I don’t seem to recall seeing “Women in English” or “Women in Education” as major organizations … I could be wrong, but I think my point is made).  However, while I fully 100% support places and organization for these students to meet and get help and support, and that universities should 100% support these groups, what has been happening is way, way, WAY beyond that.  Now students are reaching out into classes and demanding the removal of books, words, thoughts that could be offensive.  That is exactly in line with the censors who tried to hold back necessary change in American university education in the 1950s and 60s, and I think this scared the hell out of a lot of people who really did see campuses turning into places of indoctrination vs education.  Further, there seemed to be a more militant “us vs. them” approach that was not traditionally inclusive.  I think a group like Black Lives Matter started with exceptional goals, and was completely necessary.  However, as time was going on, I think more and more people started to see them as bullies, not always carefully choosing who they defended.  I think we can agree that the police shooting unarmed people who aren’t a danger is a problem, but that does not mean that every single person of color shot by the police was unjustified.  I think too many times they showed up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it started getting at their credibility.  When BLM crashed a gay rights parade in Toronto and shut it down until gay rights leaders signed an apology for systematic exclusion of African-Americans and when then refuse Toronto police participation in future parades, you have to wonder what was going on with this movement?  Is this about saving lives and rooting out racist, dangerous cops, or is it about bullying people into getting power?  I think a lot of people started wondering and worrying what was going on, and why this group was straying from their intent.  In short, I think instead of educating people and making them think, it simply scared them.  While your classic racists had been hearing hate and division from minorities forever, for the first time in decades, I think even some moderates started hearing that message as well, and it scared them to varying extents.  I guess lost in this was that BLM was no friend of Hillary or Bernie Sanders.  While a lot of people equivocated BLM to the Democrats, that wasn’t the case, but perception is your personal reality.
  2. Business rights and sexuality.  Clearly, most people in the United States have come around to equal rights for gays, and we all had a little fun at the expense of a court clerk in Kentucky who mistook the Clerks Office for her church, and was finally brought to her knees and forced to issue gay marriage licenses.  Victory was had!  However, that, and similar victories also created some quiet worry.  Most people petrified over the granting of personhood status to business thanks to Citizens United understand the difference between “person” and business.  Certainly, as we have seen, some FRWEASPs have a problem with that seeing their businesses as extensions of their existence, and that may have scared some otherwise moderate folks who take faith seriously into backing away a bit (What else could I be forced to do?).  While not covered much in the media (not as much as Hobby Lobby) was another few cases that hit more square at mainstream America:  can Catholic hospitals be forced to insure for things like abortion or birth control when the Church doesn’t support those things.  It is one thing to say “Pam may be a follower of Jerry Falwell, but Pam’s House of Cakes clearly is not”, but I think he situation gets grayer when you have a hospital that has treated all patients equally and competently without so much of a taint of prejudice, even though it is run by a an actual religious organization, but now has a gun to its head to violate its religious beliefs.  I’ll be the first to admit that this is a grey area, but careful observers will note that President Obama didn’t see it that way, and pressed for those groups to forcibly insure over their objections.  Given that the Catholic vote swung quite a bit more conservative this time around, I wonder if this had something to do with it?
  3.   The whole bathroom thing.  We admit that the whole bathroom thing is ridiculous, and showing great courage, it looks like North  Carolina’s governor may be about to be  voted out the challenger has a narrow lead, though four days later, the race has not been called.  That was likely people voting their pocket book, but it is nice to know that a state that couldn’t carry for Hillary at least will come close to booting this guy.  That all said, what if we aren’t talking about bathrooms with neat stalls, and we are instead talking about locker rooms.  In northwest suburban Chicago, this became a thing.  District 211 had a student who was transgendered and identified as female.  Using a bathroom was not an issue, but using the women’s locker room where there is an unwritten “no penises” code became an issue.  The school volunteered to build a new private locker facility for all students like this.  The student and his family agreed.  Who didn’t agree was the ACLU who jumped in and filed suit.  The ACLU suit won.  Parents started refusing to allow their daughters to use the locker room, and a counter suit was filed.  Perhaps this is not a big deal for most of us, but I can at least understand why some parents might object to this.  I think what hurt the most in the end was not that a transgendered teen got to use the women’s locker room, but that all parties had reached an acceptable solution and were happy until the cavalry showed up firing their six guns.  In short, it was the “having it forced down your throats” approach that really might have steered people the wrong way.  I could see some moderates throwing their hands up at that.  The Latino vote was supposed to be a big difference for Clinton in this election.  While it did show some gains in Texas, and small gains in Florida, it never materialized in any meaningful way.  Some of this may be because while Latinos as a block have no love for Trump, as a largely conservative Catholic group, they may not have had a lot of love for pro-Gay and pro-transgendered stances (among other things).  I doubt many voted for Trump, but clearly their numbers for Clinton weren’t there.
  4. The war on Christianity.  Let’s get this straight, I have no doubt that there are some people out there who if given the chance would shutter every house of worship in the country, starting with churches in the Deep South, but in reality, we all know there is no war on Christmas, Christianity, etc.  There is no war on Christianity.  However, what has to be acknowledged is:  there are absolutely several million people in this country that believe with their heart, mind, and soul that there is.  Those people are likely never to be convinced otherwise.  However, given some of what I have said above, I think rather than reversing, there may be some moderate folks who are starting to accept that there are forces in the country who are trying to end freedom of religion by chipping away at it.  Forcing nuns who run a hospital to cover contraception is but one instance that may have changed a few minds along the way.  This may also explain at least part of the decision for the African-American community to vote (or more often, note vote) the way it did.  One critical place for Clinton was Philadelphia, and specifically those born and raised in West Philadelphia.  Clinton support in that mostly African-American area dropped a bit compared to Obama, but Trump saw double digit gains.  It wasn’t enough for Trump to win the area, but when those small losses for Clinton, relative to Obama added up to the onslaught from central Pennsylvania, she couldn’t win a state nearly everyone had her winning with ease.  The lack of Black ministers imploring their congregations to get out and vote under these perceived circumstances may have had an effect.
  5. The Media.  I’m not going to go on a classic rant about media conspiracies.  I think there are some factors here that need to be acknowledged.  Among them are that mainstream media has become less and less about investigating wrongdoing (this is boring, and risks government reprisals), and more about light coverage, sensationalism,  and entertainment (because this gets ratings).  The internet media, might be better in some cases, but it is getting more and more difficult to tell the bullshit media from the real media, and while some of us might be able to tell this apart more regularly, I think we can agree that a lot of us can’t, and what might be worse is that quite a few people will only consult a media source that fits their personal world view.  Thus the job of the media has become less and less about educating and informing the public, and more and more about reinforcing what the viewership already believes.  This is why so much coverage in some areas focused on Benghazi and e-mails (generally these were non-stories), and others focused on trying to explain why Donald Trump hadn’t been savagely attacked by 6-foot Amazon warriors yet.  As these non-mainstream sources made more noise, the mainstream media was compelled to follow.  I suspect that this helped Barrack Obama who had not very much in terms of negative past or actions, but allowed the media to focus on the missteps of his opponents.  With Hillary, there was too innuendo and too many accusations in the closet to pass up.

 

 

In conclusion, if you are looking for a single, smoking gun that caused the onslaught of white people to vote for whatever it is that Trump is (I refuse to call anyone who acts like that a man), and for others to stay away, I think it won’t be found.  I think that this was a death by a thousand cuts.  After getting used to the idea of a fairly competent Black man being president, the onslaught of change became too much for some to handle, and downright frightened the living shit out of others.

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and then the living shit hit the fan …

We shouldn’t be afraid of change, but even those of us who embrace change can be scared of it … I think a lot of us learn to overcome that fear.  A lot of people don’t.  If anything the progressive movement needs to be more careful with rhetoric, and needs to make change slower and more cautiously, because I think the rush to make change is more or less what drove people into Trump’s camp.  Ironically, I think Barrack Obama actually understood this, and in the end really only attempted one big change in his administration, and that was health care.  He figured, correctly, that people couldn’t handle too much.  I suspect that many of his followers grew frustrated at the lack of utopia emerging, and took off on their own … and are now shocked that 8 years later, things might be a little better, but there is a serious threat that things may be getting much worse soon.

How the message is packaged is also critical.  I noted above that BLM has a serious messenger issue.  If they are looking for how that message should be packaged, they can look to Maxine Aguilar who got it RIGHT!  Maxine is a high school junior, and member of Black Lives Matter Youth who was protesting a recent shooting in a predominantly white neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side, and the subsequent racist filth that has come out of that neighborhood, particularly a few students at one of the local Catholic high schools.  Here’s her quote:

So they understand that when we say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ we’re not saying that their life doesn’t matter … That they understand the point of our organization, as part of Black Lives Matter, is to protect black people similar to how their job as police officers is to protect all people, and that we should have a level of understanding with each other

If there was more message delivery like this in the media, then I think you would see fear start to dissolve with some.  Those who are weak of mind will always be fearful, and they won’t be changed.  But that part of the middle that can be changed will be changed.

Take this as a lesson that sometimes it is not so much the message, but the messenger.  As devout Hindu Gandhi once said “I love your Christ, but I dislike your Christianity”.  Gandhi, in a nutshell was saying that a wonderful philosophy of love, hope and compassion towards others carried by arrogant, rich, prejudiced messengers who oppress will get rejected.  The Civil Rights movement in the 60s worked not because white people suddenly liked Black people, but because, eventually, all but the most hardened racists had to admit respect for Martin Luther King, Jr.  The hippies didn’t get us out of Vietnam … it was Walter Cronkite and respected journalists broadcasting the war into middle American living rooms that finally convinced moderate Americans that this was wrong.  If the left wants to shorten this last desperate stand by the far right, it may not be the message that needs to be tailored, but the messengers.

 

 


Jake Arrieta and his helping hand

November 10, 2016

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/columnists/ct-arrieta-epstein-sullivan-gm-meetings-spt-1110-20161109-column.html

Thinking of moving?  Jake Arrieta is here to help you!


Real signs of desperation …

November 9, 2016

A few weeks ago, I noted that the conservative fraction of the United States was desperate.

Was I off …. I sorely underestimated how desperate they were.  They came out in apocalyptic numbers to stave off progress.  And it worked.  Unfortunately, this is going to hurt for a real long time.  It is going to hurt our country, and likely some other countries.

Who won, and who lost?

WHO WON?

White Supremacists/Misogynists/Homophobes/Xenophobes

They were hanging on be their fingernails, yet, despite a highly publicized endorsement of Trump by their poster child David Duke, and in the last week of the campaign by the Ku Klux Klan itself, endorsements that should have not simply killed a campaign, but buried it in Krakatoa-sized lava flows, Trump’s campaign turned out white American voters like never before to vote, and they lined up shoulder to shoulder with the Klan.  As David Duke said, it was a new morning for our (read:  “His”) people.  In fact, casual racists might be the biggest winners of them all … how bad can their actions and words be now … its presidential material.  We still wait the Trump campaign in any way to distance themselves from these people.  With Trump, all of these fears have become legitimate and politicized, and by politicized I mean a major platform in the ruling party.

The Klan is having a victory parade and rally in North Carolina.  I’m sure Trump won’t be there, but there has still been no public refutation of these terrorists.

 

Union of Church and State

After decades of moving toward a government that was more and more starting to reflect a less monolithic stance on religion that while extremist religion was becoming more and more fringe, those extremists have been re-energized, there will likely be some new Supreme Court justices that will walk that back a bit, and make sure it stays walked back for the next few decades.  Yes, a majority of people back same-sex marriage, but don’t be shocked if that decision gets returned to the states to decide.  Abortion is not likely to go away, but “common sense” restrictions may very well become the norm.  There will be less support for sex education, and that means after decades of taking the teen pregnancy rate down, we can expect it to go up again (especially in many of those same states that just elected Trump, if history is any indication).  And if businesses already have achieved a degree of personhood for political donations, there is a good chance we can see business owners having the right to refuse service on religious grounds.  It’s like playing a game of “Sorry”.  We were close to finally achieving a degree of equal footing for all …. now we go back to the beginning.

 

The NRA

While more and more people support reasonable restrictions on guns, you can be sure that it won’t be long before we have a Supreme Court willing to gut any state’s attempts at limiting firearms.  The NRA hit the jackpot here, though ironically, without Obama and Clinton around, there will likely be fewer sales of guns because now the gun fetishists will know they can safely buy a flamethrower or grenade launcher whenever they want … that is, unless, fears of race wars and such can be stoked a little for sales purposes.

 

Any Single Party state or dictatorship

I’ll single out China a bit.  China, perhaps moreso than other truly communist governments, has had public attempts to move toward democracy (just last week, two pro-democracy politicians won low, regional office, and then were promptly removed when they refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the Beijing government).  Part of the reason that China doesn’t have a mass upwelling of pro-democracy folks, despite the recent inflow of cash and western ideas, is because they are educated from a young age that in China’s system, the best and brightest are groomed and trained from a young age to lead and lead wisely, while in a democracy, any doofus could get elected and lead the country to disaster.

So Donald Trump is not just likely to set our nation back, but has become the living poster child for oppressed states everywhere to say “This is what you get with democracy, and it isn’t good!” … and it is difficult to wholly refute that lesson.

 

Unethical Businesses

Trump has made it a priority to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the name of reducing oversight on businesses.  This means that (among other things), consumers will need to be more cautious than ever before taking out loans (especially student loans, taken out by young, inexperienced kids).  Did we mention that predatory lending practices tend to disproportionately affect minorities and young people who tend to vote for Democrats?  That’s true, but it also tends to hit (wait for it) uneducated whites in the rural South and Midwest, too.  It would have been better if they had shot their own foot with one of their guns (at least while they are still insured).

 

Corporate Educators

The man who brought us Trump U (and who has a court date over that soon) will support an increased corporate presence in schools, likely trying to increase the profitability of online schools, for profit schools, while trying to shut down or malign traditional schools.  Charter operators and will likely see major boosts under Trump;  the most direct way he will harm a lot of kids.

At this point, it might be a plus (at least for my state), if Trump dismantles the Department of Education, and lets the states do as they please, as my state should be able to stave off most of the corporate changes in education.  However, if he gets a taste for power, and follows through on his promise to pour $20 billion into school choice, then large sections of the country will likely be saying good bye to their public schools as corporate schools move in and take over.

At least Common Core and NGSS are likely to finally go away.  I’m reaching for the good at this point.

 

First Amendment Rights on College Campuses

I think one thing that scared a lot of those white uneducated men into voting was seeing college campuses adopting these “safe spaces” and restrictions on language that were only comforting to certain people, and forbidding any “uncomfortable” language that might “hurt” others.  I won’t be surprised to see legislation related to collegiate funding and grants moving through Congress that carry caveats on not restricting free speech.  In the long run, this may not be all that bad because I have seen the idea of a reasonable safe space to support people in need of support transform into a multi-headed beast which really does threaten legitimate academic freedom, though I suspect that Congress will, as always, go overboard.

 

WHO LOST?

Barrack Obama

Even if a lot more people appreciate the president today than two years ago, the overwhelming turnout to sink Hillary and prevent a senate take over that could protect Obamacare was a fair repudiation of his administration.  Had Obamacare worked better, it may have survived and been fixed by the new Congress.  As it is, I suspect that it will be gone completely, and replaced by some token program that will amount to little.  Obama’s other signature accomplishments: education (already dying, with the sharks coming in for the final blow) and foreign policy will be largely erased with the new administration.  In the end, I suspect Obama’s legacy will be “He wasn’t W. Bush or Trump”, which is good, but nowhere near what it could have been.  In the end, having a Black Man in the White House, making changes that had a suspected odor of socialism, was too much for a lot of older, uneducated, easily fearful, white people to have.  Obama claims that his crusade after office will be to end gerrymandering.  With the current Congress and soon to arise Supreme Court, he could spend his time more usefully trying to turn base metals to gold.

 

Julian Assange and Wikileaks

I think it was easy for a lot of people to jump on board a website which helps to uncover state crimes and injustices throughout the world.  However, I think at least some people (and this number may grow as Trump screws more and more things up) are seeing that Julian Assange used Wikileaks to either carry out a vendetta against Hillary Clinton, or to demonstrate his ability to influence an election like an anarchist might.  Assange’s claims of “I didn’t mean to hurt Clinton’s election chances” carry as much weight as Trump claiming he really does respect women.  It is ringing hollow, and as it is, Wikileaks needs to consider becoming more like Edward Snowden, and a lot less like the Joker … perhaps with its own regime change.

 

African-Americans

They came out for Obama, but did not support Hillary anywhere near enough.  The message is that:  we’ll support our own, but no one else.  That may not be so big a deal, but with the African-American community already eclipsed in size by Latinos, and soon the be eclipsed by Asians, it may not have been a good time to remind people that their votes are starting to carry less and less value.  I suspect in the future, there will be less and less reliance on African-American voters, and that likely means, less need to help that community.  Just on the cusp of being politically powerful, the community gave up on itself.  That is a damn shame!

 

Basic Decency

Political campaigns can get dirty.  This is not new.  What is new is the level of performance that politicians will go to.  This was 100% Trump.  Think for a moment: had this been Clinton v Jeb Bush or even Clinton v. Cruz, would we have seen the level of depravity that we have seen in this campaign?  Heck no!!

The worst part – it 100% worked!  That means Donald Trump isn’t a scumbag, he’s a pioneer!  What we just saw was not the end of a horrible campaign that raised everyone’s blood pressure, we just saw the start of how campaigning is going to be, because if you want to win, you are going to have to fight like Trump did – repeated obvious lies followed by repeated denial while discrediting your opponent while dominating the news cycle while the press sits there with “We are not fact checkers” hats on.

 

The Environment

Trump has already backtracked on his promise to get rid of the EPA … but since noted climate skeptic Myron Ebell seems to be in line to head the EPA, it might as well be shut down.  I think the irony is that this move is going to greatly hurt many of the states that voted for Trump.  States can still have their own environmental laws that can cushion the lack of federal intelligence in environmental science,but in places that think the environment is just another pussy to grab, they will fuck things up royally with the help of the new federal government.

 

Black Lives Matter

BLM is done.  They protested against the GOP, and protested Bernie Sanders, and protested Hillary Clinton, and now they have less than nothing to show for it.  Their latest protest was in the Mt. Greenwood neighborhood of Chicago where they protested the shooting of a young African-American who was holding a gun on a firefighter who was complaining that his car was blocking a firehouse driveway. The residents of mostly white (and very pro-police Mt. Greenwood) turned the tables and protested the protest with a lot of Trump signs.  BLM backed down, and that is where they are headed.  This latest protest was an example of what their movement has become, and that is not good, because what it started out as was good, and is necessary, but I suspect now their protests are falling on ever more deaf ears, and I don’t think that anyone in Washington will be returning their calls for support.  They chose to go it alone, and rather than see the reality of what was happening in the world, they are alone, without support, and dying.

 

Left Wing Progressivism

As one commentator pointed out, a critical difference between the two parties this year was that the GOP ran a completely LSD induced fucked up campaign from start to finish, but it was completely transparent.  The Democrats ran a more orderly campaign from start to finish, but  as we have learned, the Democrats decided to support Hillary early, and only pretended that Bernie Sanders actually had a chance to win.  Bernie still wouldn’t have won, but some of the younger people who hitched their wagon to Bernie, the young progressives, have walked away, and are likely to be a bit like myself … willing to sit on the sidelines and watch this mess, but will be damned if they are going to get involved again.  That might change as time goes by, but for the moment, the Democrats have already learned that their next candidate needs to likely be young likeable, and more progressive in the sense that they offer change … in other words they need a candidate exactly like the ones they have driven away from getting involved.

The number show that the Bernie Sanders folks stayed away in large numbers … there was no huge showing for the Libertarians or Greens, and each showed only small gains.

 

The Legitimate Press

What line from the press will be remembered from 2016?  My favorite was Donald Trump demanding that the debate moderators not fact check him, and they mostly complied.  In the end, even if Hillary had the questions in advance, this was all the advantage Trump needed.  When no one calls you on a lie, is it really a lie?  The press was thrilled that Trump was selling papers and advertising, and let him run wild.  If we cannot trust the press to investigate, what exactly is their purpose?

I do hope that this lack of investigation won’t continue into the Trump presidency?  He would want nothing less.

 

The FRWEASPs (in the long run)

The far right wing Christian evangelical Anglo-Saxon Protestants, for now, are looking down the barrel of a couple of decades of a supportive Supreme Court.  But one day in the future, this will come back to haunt them.  This was the election when the FRWEASPs finally sold out their faith in return for power.  Despite the fear mongering, there really was no worry of the government forcing churches to perform gay weddings or whatever other nonsense they were afraid of.  However, when early on there was a sign that the FRWEASPs might actually hold to their Christian faith and stand against the thrice married casino owner (married to a woman who has done a porn shoot and who worked illegally in the US) who represented just about everything that the FRWEASPs rally against.  Instead, they caved as the unChrist-like group that they are, and tied their boat to his dock.  These folks can never claim the moral high ground again. Had they stayed on the side lines, I could have respected them as I disagree with them for doing the Christian thing (at least in the consistency of how they practice their faith).  They can claim to be Christian (I guess), but moral?  No, they turned their backs on their own moral standards, and in so doing they will not be able to hold that high ground again.  Their numbers are already dropping, but will drop more when people realize who hollow their claims of morality are.  I’m not sure I could even use the term “Christian” to describe a self-proclaimed Christian who voted for Trump given all of his baggage.

 

Third Parties (in the short run)

Libertarians and Greens were served up everything they wanted  – two hard to like candidates and lots of air time covering third party candidates … at least until people listened to them.

“What is Aleppo?” will go down right next to “Who am I? Why am I here?” (that was Ross Perot’s vice president, Admiral Stockdale, assuring that his boss had no chance of winning in 1992).  Promising to end public schools and remove all of the restrictions on businesses gave Gary Johnson many of Trump’s foibles with a nicer personality.  He was essentially Mike Pence with a better civil rights record and a cowboy hat.  But the ignorance to lead anything bigger than the Albuquerque 4th of July Parade was clear, and by the end, Johnson’s own vice president was trying to nicely get people to vote for Hillary.

Dr. Jill Stein was like Ben Carson, but respectable … at least right up until she refused to throw the anti-vax movement under the bus to hold on to their support.  And like that, any attempt she had of influencing the outcome evaporated like mercury over 357° Celsius.  The Libertarians will get a better candidate and will survive nicely, however, the Green Party’s first big foray into national American politics ended quite poorly.

If Johnson and Stein can take any solace, with the exception of Cher, no one is throwing them under the bus with the body of Ralph Nader for throwing the election to Trump.  However in the end, that was only because their respective candidates were ineffective in resonating with many people, even if their respective parties’ platform still might.  Down the road, they may have won some converts over, and if the election had been more out of hand either way, may have seen solid gains in voting.

 

The LGBTQ Community

Today we had to send two kids home because their anxiety had grown to the point where they could not function today.  I have a good colleague who is trying to hold together while contemplating that her marriage may one day be declared null and void, or might be made only legal in some places.  The recent conversations on the rights of transgendered kids will almost certainly be set back with an unsympathetic Supreme Court.  This group may be the one that has gained so much in the past decade and has the most to lose in less than that amount of time.

 

Women

As the election was collapsing, I remembered a clip from the outstanding comedy Veep.  In the clip, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss’ character, Selina Meyer, (now President of the US after a resignation) is running for election, and has brought in a new adviser who is pushing out her (mostly competent) top advisor, Amy, (played by an all grown up Anna Chlumsky).  In this scene, Chlumsky finally blows her stack, and rage quits, but her last  words to her incompetent boss have a sting in 2016:

 

 

In the end, I think women lose the worst.  I’ve noted a few things above, but in the end, there was a candidate who was not simply misogynistic, but who reveled in being a man’s man from the 1950s who put women down and treated them like objects, unapologetically, and carried a majority of the white female vote.  Short of Hillary Clinton being an actual convicted felon or strongly suspected of treachery or murder or molestation, this makes the least sense of anything that happened.  Yes, you too can publicly and proudly claim that you can grab women by the pussy, have a dozen women claim you have assaulted them, and joke about sneaking backstage of a teen beauty pageant, and both men and women will prefer you to a woman who has been, at worst, not very organized and overly ambitious.  Going back to that video clip, I don’t think for a moment that Hillary Clinton is the worst thing to happen to this country … not even close.  However, because she was unable to win the easiest presidential layup since Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford in the wake of Watergate, specifically against a man who made being a sexist pig one of his central themes, I would think that any woman in politics would have to think twice about ever running again, especially given the complete inability to connect with women.  It isn’t Clinton who fucked this up.  It was the women who refused to vote for her because of her looks?  her smile not quite being right?  choosing to stand with her philandering husband?  her strength?  her pantsuits?  her inability to be perfect?  Those are the people who will make sure that it will be a long time before we have a woman willing to submit herself to this level of humiliation all while her #1 demographic is judging her like this was a beauty pageant.  Hillary’s crime was in wanting this a lot.  That might not be an easily embraceable trait, but by comparison, her weakness was better than any of Trump’s strengths as a leader.

It makes one wonder what Trump would have had to have done in order to cost him the election?  The answer in the end might be that Trump, short of a capital crime, was bound to win, because too many women simply didn’t like an ambitious woman who happened to make it.  It makes you wonder if we are living in a very bad episode of Mad Men, where all of the worst stereotypes about women being catty with each other are 100% correct and 100% accepted.  More than a few good parents are going to have to think carefully about how they are going to explain this to their daughters.  Can this nation tell its daughters that being president is realistic?  Beats the hell out of me how that conversation would go.  I actually had one of those moments where I quietly thanked myself for never having children.