Where we are with Elvis

>> Thursday, September 14, 2017

He is thirteen, which nobody considers old for a cat but is nowhere near young. A wild tom wouldn't live to such a Methuselah age and housecats didn't either until Science. Sort of a lot like humans, then; thirty-five used to be middle age and I should get to the point.

My cat is dying, not too quickly (we think) but more quickly than he would be if he didn't have cancer in his belly that has spread into his lungs. We are beyond surgery or chemo, but his vet thinks he's got eight to twelve good months if we can get him eating again and holding down what he eats. So we have medicine and hope for that and no way of knowing if he will be our boy for six months or sixteen, days or years, a moment or a while. 

But probably not the while.

There's a cliché when you mention cancer that is the reason this will be a no-comments post; lots of people like to say, "Fuck cancer," and I have no criticism of that, it's just not something I feel like reading or hearing right now. I'm not angry that my cat has cancer, and to be honest I really just feel like cancer is a thing that happens because sometimes cells just gotta be cells. I'm not angry, I'm sad and impotent and grieving and not ready for the end of the story that was in some sense inevitable when I brought Elvis home; a human being's maximum lifespan is about eighty years longer than a cat's. 

If you're reading this, odds are you're feeling love and sympathy. Thank you.

It seems shallow, maybe, that the illness or death of an animal can be more devastating to me than a human's. I can only say that human beings have agency and sentience far above what most beasts possess. If I were told I had a year to live, I could cash out my retirement and drag Kat on a whirlwind world tour. Or blow all the money on bourbon instead and try to beat my own deadline. Or join a cult. Or go nuts over so-called "alternative medicine;" perhaps try to cure death with an all-smoothie diet blended from exclusively purple fruits and vegetables. Or give away all my material things and spend every waking hour in Buddhist temples. But my cat: he may have no idea he's dying, and the quality of his remaining life of whatever length is left to me and whatever wisdom I supposedly have.

So, you know, I've cried a lot today. To the best of my knowledge, Elvis doesn't know why. If he's noticed, even.

While we're here, I'd like to say I have some wonderful people in my life. Yes, of course you guys. But also. Doctor Hartge has been wonderful through this. (She's at South Point Pet Hospital in Belmont with Doctor Dobies, who has known Elvis longer than I have. Everybody at South Point has been wonderful.  They always are.)  She didn't want to tell me what the X-ray showed over the phone, an X-ray which she just sort of decided to do because his not-eating bugged her and so she had me sign a consent for it when I dropped him off for what was supposed to just be a steroid to boost his appetite), until I insisted because I needed to know.

I got her call while I was in court.  The D.A., Mark Warshawsky, and Judge Collins continued the case I had in that courtroom just as a matter of course when I came back in the courtroom, obviously upset.

I went from there back to my office, where my boss, Kellum Morris, didn't even wait for my entire blubbered explanation before telling me to give my files for today to Elizabeth Lutz, who pretty much runs everything, for him to cover.  Elizabeth was wonderful, too.

And my wife, of course.  I drove back to Charlotte to pick her up--Belmont, where SPPH actually is, is one-third of the way from Gastonia, where I actually work, and Charlotte, where I live--and drove back out to Belmont, two-thirds of the way back to my office, because I couldn't have gotten through the details of sitting down with the vet and everything else without her, just couldn't have.

And of course there's Elvis, who doesn't know what the big deal is, who only knows he had a very bad day of car rides and poking, without the least clue of how bad it really was for him.

I don't know if any of the folks mentioned in this section other than my wife would ever read this, but thank you, all of you, thank you.


A Norm is just the guy sitting at the end of the bar

>> Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Commentary about Trump’s behavior has tended to assume that presidential norms, once broken, are hard if not impossible to restore. This can be true, but in Trump’s case isn’t. Presidents don’t embrace their predecessors’ norm entrepreneurship unless it brings political advantage, and Trump’s hasn’t. His successors are no more likely to replicate his self-destructive antics than they would be if he yelled at the first lady during a public dinner or gave a televised address from the White House Rose Garden in his bathrobe.

Another reason presidential norms will prove resilient is that Trump’s aberrant actions have been sweepingly condemned. He has been rebuked for his attacks on investigatory independence not just by his political opponents but by more-sympathetic voices in the Republican Party and on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and even, implicitly, by his own Justice Department appointees, who have continued the Russia investigation despite his pushback. Trump’s response to the violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August produced a uniform outcry that will reinforce norms for future presidents about denouncing racism and racial violence. The majority of the other presidential norms that Trump has defied will similarly be strengthened by the reactions to his behavior, and will snap back in the next presidency.

The Atlantic, October, 2017.

Goldsmith's piece is worth reading in its entirety, and I think I agree with most of what he says.  But that passage bothered me and is one of the places where I don't quite agree.

I think he's right insofar as I don't expect the next president to contradict his own cabinet nearly as often, or to spend as much time on Twitter, or to be even half as dishonest, or to attempt to get loyalty oaths from Justice Department personnel, or to misbehave as much as Trump has.  But the problem isn't that the next President will act just as Trump has; the problem is that by establishing such a low bar, Trump has given future Presidents much greater latitude for misbehavior than they previously had, and that's what's hard to come back from.

When George W. Bush came into office, he didn't have to be terribly scrupulous about tiny little technicalities like truth, he simply had to not allow an intern to perform fellatio upon him and then not lie about receiving oral sex from said intern while under oath.  I don't think we can separate the Bush administration's willingness--and ability--to lie about the casus belli for the Iraq War from the fact that the Bush administration could take cover behind Bill Clinton's lapses in integrity.  And, for better or worse, the Obama administration surely received less scrutiny over targeted killings and drone strikes than they would have received had their predecessor administration not been such a shitshow of martial incompetence that the ethics of an assassination program were subordinate to plastering over the excesses and errors the Bush administration made in Afghanistan and Iraq.  In both of the last two administrations, at least some criticism could be deflected by an implicit, "Well, hey, you don't really want to go back to the previous guys, d'ya?"  (This effect declined over time and was far less true for both administrations in their second terms than in their first, I think.)

The point is, there's a consequence to lowering expectations.  It is very possible, though by no means certain, that the next President receives some level of praise and congratulation merely for not pissing on his own shoes, in much the same way one we are still afflicted with stories and editorials about how Trump might finally be becoming "presidential" if he manages to get through a meeting with a foreign leader without burning an intelligence source or gets through a speech without going off on a mad tangent about how he really won 111% of the popular vote when you factor out all the dead illegal aliens who voted eight times each or whatever the latest version is.

I want to be clear that I don't think the damage is necessarily permanent, just that it might be more permanent and subtle than Goldsmith is allowing for, and this is one of the things that's upsetting about the Trump presidency.  (Because, y'know, we were suffering from such a shortage of things to be distressed about regarding the Trump presidency, right?)  Things tend to ratchet mostly in one direction, and when they get pulled back, they often don't get pulled back to the original baseline.  The way we pull them back, of course, is to demand a higher level of accountability and to stomp our little feet and wave our tiny fists and demand that things go back to the way they ought to have been; a problem, meanwhile, being that we may have little choice in what we settle for in retracting ourselves from this mess.  Mike Pence, for example, would be a vast improvement over the current sitting President, notwithstanding the fact that Mike Pence is a man who would face such difficulties being elected President in his own right, his easiest route to the office actually is to attach himself, shamelessly and lamprey-like, to an incompetent buffoon who freakishly beats the odds and is elected to the presidency only to get impeached eighteen months into the first term.


Fa, fa, fa...

>> Friday, September 01, 2017

source: Wikipedia
The hillsides ring with "Free the people"
Or can I hear the echo from the days of '39?
With trenches full of poets
The ragged army, fixin' bayonets to fight the other line
- "Spanish Bombs" (Strummer, Jones)

I don't like violence.  I'm not sure if I'm still the pacifist I was when I was young, but I'm still not a fan of the real stuff.

But.  You know, I've seen a lot of folks, including folks on the left who probably mean well but should know better, drawing all these dubious equivalencies between fascists and Antifa, the leftists and anarchists who have been turning up at so-called "Alt-Right" (i.e. white nationalist) rallies to engage in the once-popular and revered hobby of Nazi-punching.  And if I can't quite, quite, quite condone throwing rocks and fists as a general proposition, I have to tell you that I cannot, will not, absolutely won't condemn anybody fighting fascists even if their methods hurt my heart on the general principle that there is already too much grief in the world.

Because.  Oh, for all sorts of reasons, because.  Because there is a noble and romantic American tradition of fighting fascists going back to the 1930s and Americans crossing the Atlantic Ocean to take up arms in Spain against Franco and his Nazi string-pullers years before the United States and Germany declared war on one another on December 11th, 1941.  And then, of course, when America and Germany did go to war, the United States went toe-to-toe with German and Italian fascists and handed them their asses before we hanged the ones who didn't conveniently off themselves first (well, the ones who didn't know any good dope about rocketry, anyway; we aren't perfect).  Because Captain America punched Hitler.  Because our grandparents crossed the waters to liberate Europe or stayed home saving cans and planting Victory Gardens.  Because our grandparents reunited and said, "Never again," and held trials in Nuremburg, signed treaties and enacted laws proscribing genocide and protecting human rights, and established the United Nations.  Because it's a national shame that even the smallest few of their grandchildren are shaving their heads like morons and spouting off rhetoric that we tried to carpet-bomb into oblivion, that we toiled and suffered and sweated and bled so that no one would hear it outside of movies about archaeologists and basterds and indestructible Brooklynites punching Nazi faces, carving Nazi faces, melting Nazi faces, throwing Nazis off of trucks and trains and out of airplanes for posterity.

Because.  Because I agree with whomever it was on social media who pointed out ever-so-aptly that if you ignore a fascist, he'll be recruiting and kicking in your doors and killing you as soon as he's able, but if you ignore an Antifa, he'd rather be eating chips and playing Pokemon GO.  Because I think it's really fucking stupid to compare somebody who is actively trying to create a dystopia with someone who would frankly rather be at home but there are fascists infesting his streets and parks.  Because if you really don't like Antifa, you can't actually have Antifa without "fa," so why don't we get rid of "fa" and then Antifa can go back to posting Myers-Briggs memes to tumblr or whatever would be a better use of not just their time but anybody's?

Because.  Because I hear liberals saying that you shouldn't throw rocks and punches at people who are peacefully protesting even if you disagree with them, and when you put it like that it certainly sounds terrible; except I don't believe for one moment that the fascists are peacefully assembling for anything.  Because even if it appears that the stories about weapons caches being found in Charlottesville have been debunked, I nevertheless see guys walking around with riot shields and their ARs, and I don't care if they have fucking permits to openly carry their God-given Second Amendment firearms, it looks to me like they're out to intimidate, minimum, and maybe shoot someone, maximum.  Because it wasn't Antifa that was posting videos about driving through crowds and then, lo and behold, will wonders ever cease, here's somebody--not Antifa--driving through a crowd and murdering a young woman.

Because.  Because I also hear some of those same hand-wringing liberals saying that if, if there are bad people showing up in the white supremacist throng, we ought to let the police handle that, etc.; and I agree with this in principle but I'll be damned in practice if I can see any reason anyone ought to think that law enforcement is prepared--or even, terrible honesty, willing--to take on armed white nationalist thugs in our streets.  Because it seems to me from recent incidents in which African-Americans were shot by cops for being lawfully armed with handguns while white guys are romping and rallying while bedecked from tip to toe with paramilitary hardware and cops are just quietly milling, you might reasonably wonder whose side the police are on.  Because I'm not a fan of people taking the law into their own hands and yet I can't really fault anyone who might be thinking the law isn't protecting anyone, or worse yet isn't there to protect them from people who are infatuated with treason and a betrayal of the bedrock American values of liberty, justice, and equality.

Because.  Because I think some of those hand-wringing conservatives aren't actually upset in principle by people arming themselves and claiming violence as a prerogative that isn't reserved to the state in a form of public trust.  Because I think what these hand-wringing conservatives, some of them, anyways, are really upset about is the unpleasant (for them) discovery that the mental image they'd assembled of the left being a bunch of faggy intellectuals obsessed with self-abasement and apologizing for their own existence turns out to be not so much.  That it turns out, you know, that some liberals are in fact willing to arm themselves and/or throw a punch or a brick, and indeed always have been.  That what really upsets them is they had this idea that they could strut around with their guns and body armor sneering at the quivering libtards and snowflake SJWs, it never having occurred to them that the reason we are so loath to resort to violence has nothing to do with incapacity or impotence, and everything to do with a deep philosophical belief that the last resort actually comes last.  That some of them never imagined, I think, that we might not be opposed to guns because we're cowards, but because we're actually opposed to guns, and we didn't want it to come to this, but if you're wanting to see how far you can push it.  That there are not just a few, but a few million of us, who could be stealing that famous old line from The Incredible Hulk TV show: don't make us angry... you wouldn't like us when we're angry.

And thus and so: no, I'm not sure I can approve.  Leastaways, I didn't want to approve.

But I'm not, I'm surely not, I'm truly not going to condemn.


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