Sunday, November 11, 2018

Plutocratic Denial

First sea level came for the islanders, and I continued to deny—
   Because “those people” are poor, and this is their lot in life.

Then hurricanes took out some coastal cities, and I continued to deny—
   Because I had business elsewhere, so got in my jet and steered clear.

Then fires came for rich homes in California, and I continued to deny—
   Because I was conservative, and California was full of liberals.

Then the heat took farms and spiked food prices, but I continued to deny—
   Because this was why one hoards cash, to weather rough times.

Then, finally, no one came to my dinner parties.
   Too busy “just surviving” they said,
      those with the good manners to return an RSVP.
      What was the world coming to?
   In this moment I had an epiphany—
      This might actually involve me!
      How inconvenient, this sudden wave of truth.

By the time it all came tumbling in on me, supply chains had folded
      and there was no one left even to bribe.
   Was I the last? Would anyone read this? No way to know.
   But, I smiled, neither anyone left to deny
      that this had been just a bad run of weather.
   Nothing more.


Inspired in form and spirit, of course, by Martin Niemöller's post-WWII poem “First they came...”

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Vote Today. Vote Democratic.

Rights are more fragile than we wish. Operationally, they are little more than laws that require a supermajority to change ... or a majority of SCOTUS to ignore.

Our nation is more fragile than we wish. We imagine there will be other elections, other chances to win. But that is not the GOP plan. Their plan is to occupy the treehouse and to pull up the ladder behind them, to undermine those elements of democracy that would permit others to challenge their complete authority.

Our planet is more fragile than we wish. We imagine the climate debate is something we might ultimately win, but physics doesn't work that way. It will quickly become uninhabitable due to Climate Change, and the race is not against each other but against an unyielding clock. It matters to act now, and every bit of delay is a nail in humanity's collective coffin.

If you are not voting today, if you are not voting for all Democrats today, you are by implication agreeing that the GOP should continue dismantling rights, dismantling democracy, and dismantling the habitability of the planet.

Vote Today. Vote Democratic. The GOP have shown themselves poor stewards of our rights, of our nation, of our ecosystem. It is important to stop them before they rob the US and all humanity of a future in their ugly, selfish, reckless quest for power at the expense of all else.

Kent Pitman, November 6, 2018

Monday, October 9, 2017

Twitter140 vs Twitter280

I've been thinking about this Twitter 280 thing. I'm worried Twitter doesn't understand why people like it. I'm worried that in the search to find itself, Twitter wants to become Facebook.

Twitter is not a tool for publishers. It is a tool for readers. Its value is that it fights the overall trend of the Internet, to make publishing too easy. It forces people to edit relentlessly, to make things fit. That value is destroyed by giving people a comfortable amount of room to publish without thinking.

Every other forum on the network wants to allow enough space for people to say what they want, to publish what they want. This is fun for people who think they have something to say, but it's not fun for people listening to them. I fear that the people who love Twitter, who find it a fabulous tool, are not going to be happy in a world that removes this impulse.

It's not that I don't sometimes wish I could say more, but I have respected that there was a reason not to. But now there is a pressure to change. And I've been pondering how to strike a balance between just digging in with the #Twitter140 crowd and blindly accepting #Twitter280 as the answer.

A proposal of sorts

It occurs to me that the central feature of Twitter is the main feed. This is a stream of elevator pitches, bids to readers to care about a topic. This is what I think must be preserved. I don't know that I would have picked 140 characters. I understand its arbitrariness. And yet it has worked well. I just don't think 280 characters is needed there. I'd like not to disturb that. I want people to think hard about how to present an idea, so that as a reader I will see a stream of crisply edited ideas.

But when I see an idea that someone has thought carefully about, I want to respond sometimes in detail. I may not have a lot of time to spend on my reply, not as much as they should have in opening the conversation. But then again, anyone reading that particular topic must be caring about the topic, or they wouldn't have clicked in. So it seems reasonable for replies to be slightly longer, perhaps 280 since that is the proposed amount. I think I'd be OK with 280 character replies.

But what if someone wants to retweet those? If they've been sparing in their reply, keeping under 140, they should simply be retweetable. But we could have different operations for retweeting longer replies. We could have "Retweet Elided", which would put in an ellipsis (…) as the 140th character. Or we could have "Retweet with Summary", where it was the job of someone retweeting to summarize the response in a way that points through to the underlying post. I'm sure they could come up with a way to visually relate these in a way that respected the main feed and allowed one to see the summary and expansion if the reader wants to click through.

I think this kind of hybrid approach, which retained the 140 character feed and allowed for more expansion in the meat of a conversation, would continue to offer Twitter value. But I think they're on the brink not of finding an answer, but of losing their essential character. That would be very sad.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Collusion illusion allusion elusion

In response to a tweet by @Limericking, I wrote this limerick in a tweet:

By treasonous channels he learned
His opponent was soon to be burned.
Though sad he’d not led it,
He lusted for credit.
And with that collusion, votes turned.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Limited-Time Offer

Climate is cancer.
Delay is hope we've squandered.
We can't buy it back.


Originally published to Twitter in response to a tweet by David Brin.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Tenuous Tenacity

Life is a calm room,
 hurricane raging outside,
 paper walls between.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Maybe You Have Two Cows

There are some descriptions of various political systems running around the net that are expressed in terms of you having two cows and how each political system affects you.

Here’s one about Democratic Socialism that a friend quoted on Facebook:

Democratic Socialism
You have 2 cows.
You pay your taxes.
You now have free healthcare and free college
 and a government that isn’t owned by billionaires.

I don’t find this to be as useful as it could be. Its tone hints that Democratic Socialism isn’t carefully thought through. Or, at least, that’s how the opposition spins it, unquestioned by media.

I would prefer something more plain and to-the-point. Then again, I don’t know if this describes Democratic Socialism. It just describes what I want. Yet somehow I doubt that Bernie would disagree with a lot of this:

Common Sense Politics
 (as interpreted by Kent Pitman)
Maybe you have 2 cows, maybe not.
Many have far less. Can we stop pretending everyone has it good? People are getting left behind.
People making enough to have a surplus
 pay tax on surplus.
Why are we taxing people who have less than they need to get by? So we can give it back to them later and call ourselves heroes? Leave them alone and get the money we need from the people who can afford it.
Forget this “skin in the game” crap
 about why everyone should pay tax.
Being poor IS having skin in the game. No additional reminder is necessary. The poor are not parasites, they are people society has failed.
And anyway, if you want fewer people, fund birth control.
Rich people pay their fair share
 and stop calling it pain.
Less luxury is not pain. Of course the money for a society is going to come from those who have a surplus. To do otherwise is irresponsible or inhumane.
Corporations pay tax on surplus, too.
Profitable corporations don’t need or ask for subsidies.
And it should go without saying, but...
Corporations are not People.
Corporations pay a living wage.
So employees don’t have to ask for government subsidy. Duh.
The military doesn’t get to waste money either.
No more buying stuff we don’t need just to supply pork to someone’s district.
A healthy and educated society benefits us all.
We pay for these collectively out of society’s surpluses, not by making people choose between these things and basic needs. And we stop calling the money that society pays for these things “expenses.” They are “investments.” It’s not “should we spend on healthcare or education?” but “should we invest in healthcare or education?”
To decide our future, we count citizens, not dollars.
Everyone should participate. Yet another reason education matters: We need well-informed voters. But it’s citizens, not dollars, that need a voice. Money always speaks loudly. Government is supposed to counterbalance that. Any suggestion that money needs a voice in politics misses the point of the Constitution, which assigns no special privilege to wealth, but rather takes it as given that we are all equal.
End Citizens United.
End gerrymandering.
Make voter registration easy and fair.
Fix Climate.
Or none of the rest of this will matter.

But, either way... Go Bernie!

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