Lessons from Uncle Joe

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sistah Stacey, Brother JR, and me went to see Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday, December 2nd at the Paramount Theater here in Denver.

As most people know, VP Biden lost his son Beau to brain cancer in 2015. This is the second time tragedy had struck his family, as he lost his wife and one of his children in an automobile accident when they were a young family. So this is a man who knows what it's like to bury your child. Twice. This is also a man whose biggest scandal is that he doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut. Like, ever. And this is a man who's spent his entire adult life in service to our nation.

And his comments gave some things to think about.

1. Make sure you remember and stick to your "home base." He explained that this baseball analogy was something Beau used to say to him. In this case, "home base" is where you live, what you value, who you are. No matter what happens in your life, no matter where you find yourself, remember your home base, and you'll stay true.

Sometimes it's very easy - especially for people in power - to forget their moral center and the reasons they chose the path they did. Staying close to Home Base is good advice at any time.

2. Civil behavior and personal relationships go a long way in reaching compromise. He was speaking specifically about political compromise in this case, but the tenant could easily apply to all aspects of life. He spoke about how it's very difficult in today's political climate for legislators to come up with laws that have a chance of getting bi-partisan support because members of the House and Senate don't actually know each other anymore. They don't socialize, they don't share ideas, they know nothing about each other that wasn't fed to them via opposition research. And it's also tough to get others to see your concerns and point of view if you don't take the time to be civil.

I've been thinking a lot about this one in the last couple years, and I'm still struggling. The fact of the matter is whether I agree with Republicans or not, these people are still Americans. They still have an equal say in how our country should prioritize our spending, manage our foreign affairs, and which laws are appropriate and Constitutional. It's a logical fallacy to assume that ALL Republicans EVERYWHERE are nefarious Simon Legrees, determined to stick it to the poor, the LGBTQ community, and people of color for their own benefit.

And yet...much of the Republican platform is immoral, unconscionable, unfair, racist, sexist, homophobic. How do I reconcile the platform with the individual? I know and am quite fond of a number of conservatives/Republicans, and I know them to be kind and generous people. And yet they support politicians who execute what I consider to be an incredibly disgusting platform. Do they bear any culpability for the end result of their political activities? Or do I simply chalk it up to political differences?

I've been struggling with this since the campaign started for the 2016 election, and I still don't have a productive, defensible answer I can live with. What I do know is that making sweeping judgements and generalizations about a group of people and then labeling those assumptions with personal insults, pejoratives, and stereotyping does not help. I myself have been guilty of this (although I've never gone so far as to call Republicans/conservatives "Nazis," because there are real Nazis out there and someone with whom I disagree doesn't deserve to be lumped in with those miscreants), and I bear culpability from a liberal perspective. Since I'm extremely unlikely to give you or your argument/opinion any credence if you refer to me and mine as "Libtards," then I need to clean up my own act, as well.

3. Don't assign motives. This is the one that's been most on my mind since Uncle Joe's talk. His contention is that when you assign motives to another without knowing what's really going on, you miss an opportunity to find common ground and there's a pretty good chance you're going to be wrong in any case.

The example he gave was an incident where he heard Jessie Helms arguing with another Senator about the ADA. Mr. Helms, who already held a number of views on race that Senator Biden found deplorable, was contending that business owners and the state should not have to bear the burden of installing ramps, ensuring their spaces accommodated the disabled, and retrofitting other infrastructure. Joe thought that such a position was still more evidence that Helms didn't give a good goddamn about the least among us, had no redeeming social value, etc. He later came to find out that Helms and his wife had adopted a severely disabled young man from the local orphanage. This is typically not the act of someone who doesn't give a crap about the disabled.

It's easy, I think, to assume that those who disagree with us are motivated by ill-intent, especially in such a polarized climate. Taking an example from my own writing, I don't actually know why Senator Cory Gardner chose to vote for the GOP tax bill. I know that his net worth is not very high and so he needs donations to his campaign in order to get reelected. I know that his voting history places him squarely in the "rank and file" GOP establishment. I know he's using a disproved economic model to justify his "yes" vote. I know he's failed to address bipartisan findings on the long-term financial impact of the bill for lower income Coloradans and the national debt.

Does that give me enough data to speculate about his motivations? Yes. Yes, it does. Do I actually know why he voted yes? No. I don't. And if I assume that my speculation is fact, then the door is closed for him to convince me, as a constituent, that some of his other ideas might have value. If I assume he's the GOP's butt-monkey, then any effort he makes to preserve Colorado's natural resources (for example) will fall on deaf ears.

So it behooves me to try and keep an open mind. I may still end up voting against him in 2020 and donating money to his opponent in an effort to get him out of office, but at least I won't be engaging in sloppy thinking when deciding how to vote in the primaries, the general election, and how I want to donate my money.
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Any reading or listening that I do that increases my ability to think critically and with nuance is of value as far as I'm concerned. Vice President Biden's talk did that, and it was money and time well-spent.

Also? He confirmed all those Biden/Obama memes are TRUE, which made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

Link Me Up, Scotty - Good Things Edition

Monday, December 11, 2017

The NASA Advent Calendar is up, and as usual, I am hard pressed to pick my favorite so far.
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One of the Popehat authors, Marc Randazza, has been retained to represent a neo-nazi being sued by a Jewish woman for a variety reasons having to do with his tendency to harass, spew hate and racism, etc.

How is this a good thing? Well, even though I often find Randazza to be trollish, he's standing up for the principles inherent in our Constitution. Everyone - and I mean everyone - is entitled to the protections offered by the Constitution, including free speech and the right to be represented by an attorney. Even scumbag, racist, Nazi miscreants whose world view makes me want to hurl and then punch them in the eye. And the fact that Randazza is willing to do this work as a matter of principle despite his personal feelings on the matter is a good thing.
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Time magazine has named their person of the year, and the winners are "The Silence Breakers," those people who have come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Bravo, Time. Rewarding this kind of courage and commitment to the truth deserves recognition is always the right thing to do.
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Hopeful images from 2017 from the Atlantic. My personal favorites are #4, #28, and #35.
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One Hot Mess provides a new method of birth control for those silly suckers who think having kids is all love-love-love-they're-the-joy-of-my-life-smooch-smooch.
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Video of the Week: Australian duo for King & Country with their rendition of The Little Drummer Boy, live from Phoenix:


A Strategy, Of Sorts

Friday, December 8, 2017

In 2016, Colorado passed Proposition 108*, which allows unaffiliated voters to vote in primary elections in our state.

I voted for this initiative, because in my opinion, the more crucial election in Federal races is the primary. With all the gerrymandering accomplished by the GOP over the years, having a say in who the major party candidates will be is the real choice in many districts.

My own district (Colorado District 4) is no different. We've had a Republican representative since 1971, with the exception of one term Democrat Betsy Markey in 2008. We're considered a "safe" district because of this history, so there's always a very good chance that the Republican candidate will win regardless of who the Democrats nominate.

So what's a token liberal to do? Well, nothing, until 2018, other than to vote my conscious and resign myself to being represented by a Libertarian leaning GOP purist.

But in 2018, I can participate in the Republican Primary without having to be a registered Republican, a state of affairs that would simply be intolerable. From where I sit, that means I can affect who the Republican candidate will be, albeit in a very minor way.

You know how the extremists on both the left and the right have pretty much taken over the Democratic and Republican parties with their outsize influence on who will run? Yeah. That shit is over here in Colorado, because the majority party here in Colorado is "unaffiliated." So now that unaffiliated voters have a say in who the opposing candidates will be, this marginalizes the extremists by including (presumably) moderates in the mix. And that influence is only likely to increase, as people choose to be unaffiliated rather than registering with a party only in order to caucus in the primaries (as I did).

So I, as an unaffiliated, liberal voter in District 4, may vote in the Republican primary and choose the least extreme candidate. If enough people do this (on both sides of the aisle), then eventually hyper-partisanship will slowly recede in our state. If the only way to get through the primaries is to move to the middle and not be such an extremist doucheweasel, then more politicians will embrace more moderate positions, something every corner of our nation could use.

Of course, I will continue to vote my conscious in the general election, and the most likely scenario is that I'll continue to be represented by a Republican. But by passing this measure, it's more likely that the Republican in question won't be so conservative, won't vote in such a fiscally irresponsible way, won't be so uninterested in the welfare of their constituents as opposed to donors and super rich people. At least, that's my hope.

It's a strategy of sorts. And I'll take all the hope I can get at this point.
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*As I recall, the main argument against Prop 108 was something about how unaffiliated voters shouldn't get a say in the primaries because they weren't a member of the political "team" and it would cost more money to have primaries in this fashion. My response to that is fuck you. While it will cost more money to administer the primaries, in a two party system, any legislation that increases voter choice is for the good. No political party should get to choose who the binary candidates are in something so important as representative government. I hope ALL states pass this type of legislation, and SOON.

A Few Thoughts on Family

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

1. The social dynamics of "family" are a strange, strange thing.

2. We can't choose our family. For some people this is a blessing, for others a curse. I, like most of us, sit somewhere in the middle.

3. But I can choose my family of the heart. I adore my two Sistahs from another Mister, and they adore me (and each other). Sharing deep friendship with these two women is one of the great joys and blessings of my life.

4. Character and kindness matter, especially if you're family. These are relationships that can last our entire lives, but if you choose to be a manipulative, cruel, petty douche, they're not likely to do so.

5. Each of us has the right to determine where duty ends when it comes to family. Sometimes people are worthy of both our love and our duty. Sometimes people aren't worthy of our love, but we choose duty for our own reasons. Sometimes people aren't worthy of our love or our duty. Deciding where people belong in that spectrum is a very personal and difficult choice, and we all have the right to make it based on our own circumstances. But I don't believe that you can claim to have love but not duty. For me, duty is one of the expressions of love, and an automatic ride-along when you actually love someone.

6. Some of the very best aspects of my life are because of family. And some of the very worst aspects of my life are also because of family. Managing this dichotomy is hard for me.

7. When Moe died, I quickly confirmed acts, not words, are what define my family. Never in my life have I needed a support system more than the year after Moe died, and there were folks, blood family and family of my heart, who stepped up. I owe these people my sanity and any life I might make for myself following Moe's death, and I won't forget it.

8. I don't have to tolerate intolerable behavior just because someone's "family."

9. I very rarely discuss politics with family. No good ever came of it.

10. Sometimes members of the family are going to choose to partner with someone who is wildly inappropriate for a variety of reasons. There's not a lot to be done about this - people have agency whether I agree with their decisions, or not. But I keep thought #8 in mind, just the same.

What are your thoughts about family?

Link Me Up, Scotty - We're Baa-aack Edition

Monday, December 4, 2017

My favorite Christian Pastor, John Pavlovitz, takes on the tendency of centrists and liberals to give Trump supporters a "pass" when it comes to supporting someone who engages in such egregiously bad behavior. I've been saying it from the beginning - those who voted for this man-baby own this mess. I don't care why they did it. At this point it makes no difference - their poor choice foisted this miserable fuck onto the rest of us and now we all have to pay the price for their inability to think critically.
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Facebook has decided to use AI technology to detect patterns of suicidal thoughts in its user base (where it's legal). I'm all for engaging in activism to prevent suicide, but Facebook does not have a good record of protecting its users' privacy. I'd like to think that no corporation, no matter how profit driven, would victimize people considering suicide for profit, but I'm not convinced that's true, especially when it comes to Facebook.
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Dictionary.com has selected "complicit" as its word of the year, "citing the term's renewed relevance in U.S. culture and politics — and noting that a refusal to be complicit has also been 'a grounding force of 2017.'" Man. How fucked up do you have to be before the dictionary pwns you?
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U.S. troops will now be carrying freeze-dried blood plasma for first aid in the field. I love living in the future.
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In case you live under a rock, it appears Mike Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. I can only hope this cretin has made a deal where he trades "no jail time" for ratting out 45's insane clown posse.
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A thoughtful essay by Brother Eric, attorney, fellow UCFer, and all around good egg on the topic of how the last year has shown us that our current political system is fundamentally flawed.
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So the GOP is on track to pass "major" legislation. Is it just me, or are members of the GOP just lazy-ass sons-of-bitches these days? These bastards didn't even pretend to care about their constituents, they just kow-towed to their donors as fast as they could to ensure "the donations didn't dry up." My own Republican Senator, the Coward Cory Gardner, did his usual side-step, pretending to consider the ramifications of this POS bill before taking his orders from his masters - his donors and the GOP, as is his usual practice. Since he's their butt-monkey this is entirely predictable behavior. Fun fact: Cory's net worth is less than mine, so I can only assume he voted "yes" for ambition's sake, since he has no moral center and didn't do it for his or his children's sake, either.

My Representative, Ken "I have no redeeming social value" Buck, always votes the party line with no consideration of his constituents, so it was no surprise that he also voted to betray his constituents in favor of big business. I hate both these fucking politicians (as well as 45), and for the first time in my life, I've actually started a savings account so that I can donate money to their opposition when they're up for reelection.
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McKinsey & Co. has released a report stating that approximately 1/3 of U.S. jobs will be eliminated due to automaton in the next 12 years. It's going to be a rough economic ride, kids.
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Video of the Week: Charles Durning demonstrates the correct political communication style in today's America. Here's Sidestep, from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.



Fun Fact: Charles Durning was a WWII hero, earning the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. He was also a professional ballroom dancer.

Post-Hiatus News

Friday, December 1, 2017

Since I've been on hiatus for the last four weeks, here are the exciting events you missed in my wild and woolly life. Try to contain your excitement.

1. I finally planted my Fall bulbs. It was too warm to do so earlier, and even now I'm hoping they don't come up during our unusually warm not-caused-by-imaginary-climate-change winter.

2. You know all of those sexual misconduct allegations that have been in the news for over a month? Yeah. I believe the victims. Not just the ones who have accused people I detest, but all of them. Victim blaming gives me hypertension, and I will not make excuses for Al Franken, Louis C.K., et al just because they share aspects of my world-view. Bad behavior is bad behavior, and whataboutism is a poor and ethically indefensible argument.

3. Why are decent bras so damned expensive? Asking for a friend.

4. More than a dozen people have reached out to me about the American Heart Association's Little Hats, Big Hearts campaign to raise awareness of heart disease in February. I'm on it, y'all. I'll be mailing my contribution to the Denver AHA office at the end of December.

5. I'm working on some really interesting projects at work lately involving artificial intelligence. I won't give the details because I don't discuss my employer's bidness here, but NEATO TORPEDO, BATMAN.

6. We had a really nice Thanksgiving. 24 people around the table at my cousin's place, and I made the usual huge batch of stuffing, and the Smart Man made Auntie Kris' sweet potato casserole. Kris passed the torch to the Smart Man last year, knowing she wouldn't live to see another Thanksgiving. The Smart Man takes his sweet potato responsibilities pretty seriously, which I find both incredibly sad and incredibly hopeful.

7. If Robert Mueller wasn't 20 years older than me and married since 1966, I would totally stalk him like some sort of creepy, crazy, platonic fan-girl.

8. We finally finished Punisher and Stranger Things 2. I was a little skeptical when Netflix first announced they would be producing original content, but now I'm a believer. Jon Burnthal is an incredible Frank Castle, and I love those Stranger Things kids.

9. Video of the Day: For an Atheist, I'm really fond of Christmas music, so here's Pentatonix with Jennifer Hudson singing How Great Thou Art. 


10th Anniversary

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Today is the 10th Anniversary of Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men. Ten long years. This is the 2,955th blog post since I started, although I think about 80% of them are crap, 15% are readable, and about 5% can be described as good.

Ten years is a long time for a single individual endeavor that isn't motivated by fame, fortune, or sex, and I've noticed that I've been half-assing it for the last year or so. Lots of political bitching and links to other people's content, not much original writing. That's why I needed a hiatus, I think. To calm my mind, re-evaluate what I wanted from this space, determine the type of culture I want to foster here. In many ways, this space has been a snapshot of my psyche over the last decade, from my political opinions to my personal values, from the joys of my life to my greatest sorrows. I've met some outstanding friends through this (and other) on-line venues, including Sistah Stacey and Brother J.R.

All of that has been to the good, but I needed to take a step back, to determine what kind of space I need and want at this point in my life.

It's unlikely I'll stop blogging about the asshattery of politics, especially in our current political climate, but I want this space to be more than bitching about 45 and his insane clown posse. I want it to be about the human condition, and my place in the world. I want it to be about the good in our species, and how we demonstrate that good. I want it to be about the things that make our lives meaningful, and the value of those things.

In other words, less snarky and sarcastic, and more thoughtful and grateful.

But not without humor and whimsy. Because humor is one of the things that makes this life worth living, and being whimsical relieves the tedium of life maintenance.

So I'm back, like the mold that grows in your drywall and never goes away. Here's to another ten years of life and love, joy and sorrow, self-examination and sarcasm. The nature of HCDSM has changed, with reader commentary and interaction moving to other social media streams, but this is where my on-line journey started, and this will always be my on-line home.*

Let the conversation resume.  
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*Suck it, Mark Zuckerberg.