Roundup: Job Satisfaction, Universal Pre-K, Book Fair, and Twitter wants your data
I was on call this week. Unlike some of my previous turns as the oncall, there was some interesting new work to do that required some thought. Also, I discovered that one of the more tedious web applications we rely on for our day-to-day work has a capable REST API, so I was able to write the beginnings of some simple tools that will remove some desktop tedium from our normal allotment. It always feels good to write something that will improve quality of life. I like to think that that's what I do for a living, as it's always what has given me the greatest pride in any job I've had. I'm a big believer in the removal of tedium wherever possible, to allow people to use their brains to solve real problems, in lieu of being stifled and daunted by boredom.
Back in 2020, voters in Colorado chose to increase taxes on tobacco products to fund the state's first Universal Pre-Kindergarten program by an overwhelming margin, with only small counties opposed, and every congressional district voting in favor. Governor Polis signed the complementing legislation into law last in April, and the effect will be that starting in the fall, our cost for Wendy's ECE tuition will be cut in half, saving us hundreds every month. With groceries pushing our monthly bills to new heights, this will be transformational for us, and I couldn't be happier with our elected officials.
It's Saturday of a three-day weekend now, and we're going to head over to Fiction after Wendy's, "nap," and attend a book fair the brewery is hosting in partnership with the Library. Good beers, and we'll probably run into some friends.
You may have noticed that even before Twitter was acquired and privatized on a trollish lark by an egotistical billionaire, it was a really shitty place to be. Twitter measures success in what they call, "engagement," which is just their name for a combined score for a given post increased by tweet replies, likes, and retweets. Using this data, they could more effectively identify content that would attract specific people, which is extremely valuable information for people who make their living making, selling, buying, and otherwise interacting with the business of advertisement. As such, Twitter moved away some years ago from just showing users the tweets of the people they follow, in favor of curating a feed of algorithmically engaging content that is only distantly related to the feed people want to see. To combat this, millions of people-- myself included --use third party apps to use Twitter, and they will disable the rage machine and just show you the content you chose to follow. As of some time in the last 24 hours, Twitter appears to be blocking third party apps. Whether it's a conscious but unannounced decision to drive people to the algo-infected official Twitter app, or just incompetence imposed by the aforementioned egotistical billionaire firing all the smart people, time will tell.
But if the future of Twitter is an inescapable algorithm, then I'm gone. Find me here.
11:45 AM, Dec 22, 2022
2022 Was a Very Good Year
A common take in social networking circles is that this year(and every year) is the worst ever. There's a certain satisfaction, I think, in being dissatisfied publicly. And let's be clear: some truly terrible things happened in 2022. The year began with a new lockdown, because of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, during which the greatest number of new cases was reported by a wide margin. In our house, the vaccines held, and we avoided infection until September, when everyone except Oscar got it. Hospitalization and death became largely the domain of the unvaccinated and the elderly, but the death toll was still monstrous, and even now, hundreds of Americans are dying every day from this. But from here I will mention in relatively chronological order selected events from 2022, and their longterm effects.
When the year began, Vladimir Putin was massing forces along the Russian and Belarussian sides of the Ukrainian border, assuring the world that it was just a training exercise. The Winter Olympics were held in a dystopian fashion in Beijing, with utilitarian concrete eyesores forming the backdrop of most of the outdoor events. As prelude to this, Putin visited Chinese president Xi, and the two implied to the world that they were the future. Their message was that authoritarians are strong and that Democracy breeds weakness and indecision. Almost as soon as the games ended, Putin announced to the world that he was invading Ukraine, intending to finish the job he started in 2014 when he stole the Crimea. The world shed tears for Ukraine, certain that they would be conquered in days, and that Russian imperialism would be the new normal on the world stage, ending the "Pax Americana" we've enjoyed since before our parents were born.
But the Ukrainians had other plans. Since the 2014 invasion, and subsequent ongoing hostilities with Putin's proxies in the country's eastern regions, they had been receiving arms and most importantly training, from Western armies. The strongest push by the Russian forces was toward the capital, Kyiv, and it was stopped cold, as the Russians' primitive tactics, low morale, and lord-serf command structure was overwhelmingly outmaneuvered by the well-trained Ukrainian defenders. This became the theme across all fronts after a while, and by March, all Russian advances were halted. They retreated from their attack on Kyiv and refocused their efforts on making advances in the east, which were only made by brutally and criminally laying waste to cities with artillery, and at enormous human cost to the Russians. In June, Ukraine received HIMARS weapons from the US, and proceeded to demoralize the Russians on every front, so that the theme of the war now is that the Russians are pouring their poor into a well-organized, high-morale Ukrainian blender, and it's been clear for several months now that Putin cannot win the war.
I see this as good news, because the future that he and President Xi foretold will not come to pass. NATO and the world in general came to the aid of Ukraine, and Putin's allies are stepping away from him, and threatening withdrawal from his anti-NATO alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization. He is exceptionally weak. His propaganda media has to keep pivoting in the face of repeated and devastating losses in the war. And perhaps most devastating of all: Sweden and Finland are joining NATO, effectively neutralizing any Russian influence and power in the region-- let alone the world. Vladimir Putin is the single most destabilizing force in the modern world, and he's not likely make it through 2023 alive. One of his oligarchs, Yegveny Prigozhin, owns a private army called the Wagner Group, and has said outright that at the behest of his boss, he meddled in the 2016, 18, and 20 US elections, and would continue this meddling in 2022. The mask is off, and it's become clear that defeat in Ukraine will spell a regime change in Russia. I can't say with any degree of certainty that the Russia of the future will be reformed as a good, responsible, benevolent world citizen, but Putin and his oligarchs will be gone, and that alone is a very good thing.
In May, the Supreme Court leaked a document indicating their impending reversal of the protections provided by the Roe v. Wade, and in June, they followed through and overturned it. At first, this appeared to the world as what the conservatives on the Court and the adherents of the "pro-life" movement intended it to be: the end of an era of what they saw as government-sanctioned murder. It's obviously far more complicated than that, but that idea drives donations and elections, and that aspect alone, possibly did not occur to the conservatives on the Court who voted to overturn Roe v Wade. A massive source of donation income and voter mobilization for the GOP dried up overnight, and an unenthusiastic, largely disengaged Democratic base was blasted into action, with a concrete target and campaign issue for the upcoming 2022 election. Under the conditions in place before the Court overturned the precedent and allowed states to take away American rights, and set their sights on others, most agreed that the GOP was coasting toward a massive election victory. But what wound up happening was that the Democrats expanded their majority in the Senate by one seat, not losing a single Senator who ran for reelection, and the GOP took the House by the thinnest of margins, provided mostly by the gerrymandered Florida map. Because of Donald Trump's influence and compulsive need to pick candidates, the GOP nominated a slate of truly terrible candidates in 2022, and as a result, almost every election-denying candidate for state offices around the country was roundly defeated, assuring that any plans to fix the 2024 election were thwarted.
In the time since the election, pundits conservative and not, have agreed that to move forward the GOP has to expel Donald Trump, but his extremist allies are standing by him and the extremism, even though it lost the elections for them since 2018. The House is divided now between so-called moderates like McCarthy and Scalise, and extremists like Greene, Gaetz, Gosar, Biggs, and Boebert. If they manage to elect a Speaker, he or she will not have control over the GOP caucus, and the next two years will be characterized by something that's never afflicted the GOP in my lifetime: disunity. That's bad for the GOP's 2024 election chances, and that's very good news. Though that may not be the way things work out, as there is increased pressure among the people in Party leadership to stay the course, and keep moving to the right. If the extremists consolidate their control of the Party, Trump can come out of hiding and campaign on promises of getting revenge against Democrats and RINOs, and ride the wave all the way to another electoral rebuke in 2024, after which it's still not certain they'd get it through their thick skulls that America doesn't want extremism.
Also, the matters of abortion rights and female bodily autonomy remain unresolved on the federal level, and the Democrats have time to refine a compelling message for the 2024 campaign on these matters, which enjoy supermajority support from the American public. While this is happening, the GOP will be busy executing performative House investigations on Hunter Biden and "woke" school districts, and score-settling investigations against political enemies and rivals. They will pass bills that are doomed to fail in the Senate and White House, to ban trans athletes from competing, and punish physicians who perform abortions or gender affirming care. They will do this to perform for a base that is not large enough to win statewide and nationwide elections in 2024. And this is also very good news.
There's more to write about, but this post is already way too long, so I will end it here.
After a short hiatus of only seventeen years, Draught of the Week returns! I was enjoying a game night with my brother and sister recently, and I mentioned that I wanted to bring it back. They both said, "what's that?" I am, after all, very important.
I wanted to try not only a new beer, but a new place, and I found it. Years ago, I took the bus(as I am wont to do) to meet Ali at Cherry Creek North for something or other, and found that I had to change buses at 29th and York. When I got off the 28, I found that the next 24 wasn't to be expected for almost a half an hour, so I grabbed a bag of doritos and an orange soda at a corner market near where I would catch the next bus. The place where I bought the aforementioned health food was a corner market that, at the time of day that I visited, was a popular place for teenagers to try to purchase vaping products and accessories. It was thoroughly unimpressive. Fast forward to today, and all the houses in that area are expensive, and the corner market is now the Ephemeral Rotating Taproom, and it's absolutely wonderful, though more than a little bit expensive.
In the time since the last time I did one of these, four men inhabited the White House, my thirties came and went, I got married, moved to Denver, and had two kids. So this being the first time into the breach since 2005, it seemed appropriate to bring everyone involved in the passage of those years. Presidents Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden were not available, but Ali and the kids found time in their schedules.
The bar offers an impressive selection of draught beers, and as part of their modus operandi, they devote roughly half of their approximately forty handles to a single brewery-- preferably local --and showcase said brewery for some period of time. The day we went in(Dec 17, 2022), the featured brewery was unfortunately not local, but outstanding all the same. Ali helped herself to a Nocturnum while Wendy looked on.
I got an Ectogasm to start off. It was absolutely delightful.
I enlisted the aid of my friend Bobby, whose online presence you'll just have to imagine for yourself, and encouraged him to bring all members of his household, so his better half Kendra attended as well, and got herself a Delirium Christmas which I think used to be branded "Delirium Noel."
Bobby and I decided on the Tower ESB from Glendale's Bull and Bush Brewery. Neither of us had ever tried it before, and we agreed it's a delight. Nutty, smooth, and subtle with its surprising ABV north of six percent, Bobby and I enjoyed every drop, and Kendra even joined us when she got a taste from Bobby's glass.
The numeric ratings which characterized the first run of the DOTW were of course arbitrary, but also never really did justice to the beers in question. So I am going to let the description and the experience stand for themselves. If you want numbers, there are well-filled entries for this beer on Untappd, BA, and RateBeer.
The beer was delicious, the fellowship was welcome and much-needed, and the venue was superlative enough that everyone is eager to go back. Just to be clear, our party was four adults and two small children(who thankfully behaved well), and we never felt out of place. There were mostly adults there, but ours was not the only party with children. Everyone was very respectful and friendly. I would recommend every aspect of our trip to anyone.
I can't wait to do another of these! Problem is next weekend is Christmas, so we'll probably have to take a bye for a week, and maybe two. In general, with a life of parenting and work, it will be difficult to maintain the mostly weekly cadence I had when I did the first 34 of these, but I will make an effort to get back out there as much as I can.
What's to Become of the Orange Man and his Prisoners?
It looks like Trump's going to be indicted relatively soon, in more than one place and on multiple charges. The Jan 6th Select Committee's final action will be the release of its full report, along with criminal referrals to the DOJ, and the grand jury in Georgia is gathering up evidence through his compelled confederates. His real estate business was found guilty on all charges in the NY case, and every court in the land has authorized the use of his tax returns and the secret documents he stole from the White House as evidence against him.
With all this, you or I would get, as Dan Akyroyd said in the seminal film Sneakers: "a hundred years in the electric chair," but Trump will get away with far more than a normal person. I personally don't see a perp walk in his future, but I do think that the mounting legal entanglements, his approval of genocide, his fealty to Vladimir Putin, his sexual proclivities, and all the other scandals will amount to basically nothing in terms of support from his party and base.
But he does do one thing that the GOP can't abide: he loses elections, and he loses elections FOR his party's candidates. That alone is reason enough for the GOP's leaders to want to push him out of the Party. I think having to answer questions about how they can support a literal monster, with a galaxy of incontrovertible evidence to back up the statement, will just be icing on the cake-- a buzzing fly in the GOP's ear --but enough to make them finally, publicly, explicitly expel him from the Party.
Apoplectic, Trump will burn down the Republican Party in furious retaliation, because the worst thing anybody could ever do to him is ignore him. He demands the attention of the world, and if the GOP isn't willing to host him anymore, then they deserve to be destroyed.
What happens next? If the GOP leadership expels him, he will breathe fire out his anus and pull the temple down around him, pulling the wingnuts out of the Party with him. If they continue to duck into elevators and otherwise dodge questions about him, they will keep losing elections, and it will get worse.
The Future of the FIlibuster
In the 118th Congress, there will be 51 Democratic Senators. At least 49 of them want to abolish the filibuster. The holdouts are Manchin and Sinema. Joe Manchin is comfortable with his intransigence, as it makes him the most popular Democratic Senator in the US, especially in his deep-red home state. His re-election in 2024, whether it works or not, is proceeding exactly according to his plan.
But in Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema is in trouble. She has already been censured by the Arizona Democratic Party, and they've already committed to ensuring she does not get the Party nomination for her bid at re-election, also in 2024. I think her resolve to oppose her Party may wither when the 118th Congress is seated.
Whenever she's crossed her arms and closed her eyes in the face of her party, she's had the luxury of not being the only one to do so-- or at least for her sullen opposition to just be symbolic, presumably a performative overture to Republican and Independent voters in Arizona.
That will not be the case in the 118th Congress. Manchin's position is a foregone conclusion; he will opposed the elimination of the filibuster(though he has stated in the recent past that he would support a reform that restores the talking filibuster, rather than the "weekly email by an intern staffer" filibuster). But Sinema has never been out on that limb before, and I doubt she will make that stand.
With that said, I believe the 118th Congress will eliminate the Senate filibuster, beginning a new era of functionality, cooperation, and most importantly, accountability in the Senate. It is my personal opinion that it should be its own agenda item. The message needs to be that the issue is not Democratic policy, but Senate functionality. With a Republican House, Democratic policy has little chance of getting anywhere anyway. But that doesn't mean the filibuster should stay.
Senators owe it to their constituents to have an on-the-record position on every issue on the docket, so they can make a more informed decision on election day.
Walker or Warnock?
In or around 2010, the GOP went completely crazy-- embracing populist messages conveyed on cable news, allowing relatively newly minted members of Congress like Michele Bachmann to push around the party leadership for premium committee assignments, and a far greater voice than a member of the House would normally get after only two terms.
In 2010, the Democratic Party's worst enemy-- poor election turnout -- granted the GOP's crazy wing what it saw as a mandate, so it's easy to see how they lost sight of the way the wind was blowing. In 2010, the majority opinion in the US was that marriage was between a man and a woman. Even President Obama is on the record for having that stated position.
But that was over ten years ago. Now, the issue of marriage equality(and many other issues that were considered red lines for the GOP in 2010) enjoys majority support in both parties, yet the Tea-Party-turned-MAGA GOP are still performing for older 2010 voters. The world changed while they had their dated, populist blinders on, and it's cost them unacceptable losses(or unacceptably poor gains) in three elections.
So entrenched and committed is the GOP in its current political course that almost none have condemned or broken with Donald Trump on his choice of dinner guests, or for his belief that the Constitution should be dismantled to assure him is purportedly rightful place in the White House, or for stealing classified documents and storing them next to the paper towels in his resort, or any of a litany of baldfaced crimes and assaults on the fabric of freedom, democracy, and decency.
We have been waiting and waiting for gravity to reassert itself under Trump and the out-of-touch GOP, and it just hasn't happened. He wields enormous political power, and arguably has the power to reduce the US to a vassal to his will.
Despite the abject failure of his influence that happened in the Midterms, the result of today's runoff in Georgia will absolutely validate him with the GOP if Walker wins. If Warnock wins, maybe, just maybe, GOP leadership will find their courage and self-respect, and publicly denounce Trump, and announce that he and the GOP have parted ways.
Maybe, but it feels like Trump has weathered worse storms.
A Note, and Some Mundanity
I'm working on the pics section, as I want to introduce some new features to the site, and kinda sorta resume the practice of chronicling the mundane details of my life, especially since I now have something other than myself to capture. That being a family. The section requires a pretty major overhaul, and I need to go into a number of the captions and remove some homophobic and misogynistic language that I wrote when I was in my twenties and early thirties. All I can say about it is that I've done a lot of growing up since then, and it makes me cringe today to read some of that stuff. It's really embarrassing.
Pursuant to the mundane detail stuff, I'll now say what we did this weekend. I came off of a week oncall on Friday, and nobody was sick, so we didn't do anything. That's not true. Ali went to a really excellent rock show and got home late. On Saturday morning we went to a joint birthday party for two of Oscar's classmates at a nearby park. We really lucked out with the unseasonably warm, sunny weather. The parents gathered in small conversation semi-circles, while the kids made enthusiastic use of the park's amenities, including a large sandbox(or "sandpit" as the limeys say, and really describes it better in this case than sandbox) with a big climbable sculpture in it.
After Wendy's nap we went to a nearby brewery that was hosting Mr. and Mrs. Claus, though Wendy was herself too frightened to approach the VIPs. We picked up a pizza on the way home, got home, ate the pizza, cleaned up and put the kids to bed. Ali and I caught up on our stories, she went to bed, and I tried out my new horde base design before hitting the hay myself.
This morning, as with all(or most) Sunday mornings, I took the kids and let Ali have the morning to herself for a well-deserved rest. She took Oscar with her to deliver some stuff to her Dad's place during Wendy's nap. After that we loaded up the car and went to Cherry Creek to do some Christmas/Chanukah shopping, followed by beers and burgers. I'm still digesting, but I think it was an unusually productive and eventful Sunday evening. Would do again. Will do again.
Watching a Ship Sink in Real Time
Elon Musk has a big ego. He appears to think he can manage a company that offers a low-latency, highly-available service to a billion daily active users, with no greater qualification than his own hubris. To whit, he's ransacked the company's staff, laying off valuable employees by the thousands, and chasing off the rest with threats about everyone having to be a hero to work there. As such, all the best people have taken their years of expertise, and promptly gotten jobs elsewhere. The platform is a colossal mess now, with content moderation thrown out the window, and lifetime bans lifted for dangerous sociopaths. In short, it will soon become clear that Musk is unable to keep the lights on at Twitter, favoring his ego over the stability of the platform. He's fired entire departments, alienating revenue-generating ad buyers, many of whom are telling their story about how the company is too volatile to do business with anymore.
By firing or driving off everyone who handles high-value advertising accounts, Musk has choked off the platform's ability to make money. By firing or driving off everyone who handles the extremely sophisticated technology that keeps the platform up and running, Musk has ensured that it's only a matter of time before technical issues will be an everyday occurrence-- from slowdowns to full outages. By eliminating content moderation and inviting dangerous people back onto the platform, Musk has ensured that the content that is created will be hostile to most non-extremist users.
Given the importance of the platform to worldwide news, marketing, politics, philanthropy, community engagement, charity, academia, culture, art, music, and basically anything else that involves people communicating with people, it's a real accomplishment to destroy it as quickly as it appears Musk is doing.
Unclogging the Senate
If Raphael Warnock gets reelected, what happens to the Senate filibuster? One of the promises of John Fetterman's campaign was to "be the 51st vote" against the filibuster. Joe Manchin has made it abundantly clear that he will not side with his party on this matter, and this position is enormously popular among voters in his home state, so he really has no reason to deviate from that.
There is another potential barrier to the elimination of the filibuster, in Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. It has been thought for a long while that she fears upsetting Republican voters in what has long been thought to be a red state. But when she woke up this morning, MAGA extremism had a big black eye in Arizona, fresh off a sharp working-over by the electorate. She may now find that Arizona is a safe place to be a Democrat. Also, having been condemned by her party for her opposition even to filibuster carve-outs for various things she supports, she has to be looking to 2024, an election in which she will have to survive a Democratic primary set against her past intransigence. Will she get on board to end the filibuster? What about Lisa Murkowski? Mitt Romney? Susan Collins? What about J.D. Vance, who in his victory speech never mentioned Trump once among the dozens of people to whom he was grateful for his success? A strong message to herald a new era of bipartisan compromise and cooperation would be a willingness to reach across the aisle.
Dream with me for a bit, about a Senate without the filibuster.
The filibuster has for years protected Republican Senators from the political consequences of their positions. For example, there are currently enough votes in the Senate to codify abortion rights and bodily autonomy, but without 60 Senators in support, it cannot come to a vote. Those who might vote against it are protected by the filibuster, so they never have to show their constituents what their position is. In this way, they can stump for both sides, getting greater electoral and financial support for remaining in office, without having any legislative evidence of basically anything other than renaming post offices and funding the military.
If the filibuster is removed though, that game of playing to both sides is no longer possible. Just like in real life, Senators would be politically liable for the things they say. For the first time since our grandparents' grandparents walked the earth with Giant Sloths and Woolly Mammoths, Senators would be answerable to their constituents for their on-the-record positions. Voters who disagree with them would have concrete data about their Senators to better inform their ballot-punching. In short, the end of the filibuster would usher in a new era of accountability, cooperation, and bipartisan coalition-building.
If Raphael Warnock is reelected, the barrier to removing the filibuster drops to a single Senator. The GOP needs to find its feet, and in so doing, could produce some "mavericks," who might work toward the future I described. We can only hope and watch.
The Future of the GOP
The only way I can think of for the GOP to remain under Trump's control, is for the Republicans who just won elections by distancing themselves from him to go back on their campaign promises, and for most/all of them to do it. I don't see that as a realistic possibility. It's possible, but he doesn't provide a lot of value to the Party. He delivers a block of active, engaged, reliable extremist voters, but that block is 1) shrinking, and 2) contaminates the discourse with its toxicity, and so chases moderates from the Party and ensures they don't return.
This is the GOP's biggest problem right now. They are beholden to a man who is marching them into the sea. Kevin McCarthy wants to be the House Speaker if his party takes control of the House, but as the margin the GOP would enjoy is far smaller than the number of Trump-loyal Freedom Caucus members, he will have a very difficult time leading the GOP in the House.
For the sake of having it both ways(ie: having the support of both moderates and Trumpists) McCarthy would probably like to avoid the topic and just quietly take over, without having to address the orange elephant in the room, and say no to anyone. But outgoing conservatives Kinzinger and Cheney are going to force the question before the new Congress is seated on Jan 3.
After Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol, we all thought that would be the end of Trump too-- but it wasn't --and his brand of grievance and score-settling politics reigned supreme, until voters confirmed for a third time in a row that they don't want a government influenced by Donald Trump.
In 2021, the GOP had just lost the Senate and the White House, but they had picked up a couple House seats. In 2022 they failed to take the Senate, but stand a very good chance of taking the House. I think the margin in the House that will produce enormous difficulty for any GOP Speaker will set this time apart from the post-insurrection period, as distinctly difficult for the GOP, and specifically because of Trump's influence.