On #8cantwait, defunding the police, and reform

I went on a little bit of a tear this morning about incrementalism, police reform, and the “defund the police” … movement? Hashtag? thing, and it occurs to me that part of the problem is that I don’t know what to call it. One thing that has been true about me for a while is that I am nearly always in favor of taking small steps that get me closer to an overall goal. That doesn’t mean I don’t want the goal, or that if the chance arrives to achieve the goal I won’t jump at it– but if we have a chance to move closer I’m always going to take it even if it doesn’t solve all existing problems anyway. The notion that we can make progress toward solutions is one that I believe in pretty strongly.

To wit, health care: I think health care should be free or close to it at the point of delivery and that everyone should have health insurance, and I believe health insurance should be covered by taxes. I don’t necessarily care about how that is enacted– if you can put a plan in front of me that has a chance to pass and keeps for-profit health insurance companies in business while enacting that goal, or at least part of that goal, chances are I’ll support it. I think ultimately we need to move away from the notion of for-profit health insurance– that, in fact, it is a moral abomination– but it’s not going away tomorrow, and in the meantime anything we can do to keep people alive and fight off living in a world where medical bankruptcy is a thing is good. I am a realist, though, and I live in America, and I don’t think that private insurance companies are getting abolished tomorrow, so I’m not going to stomp my feet about Medicare for All and hold my breath.

Similarly, police reform. This is complicated to talk about, because when we talk about “defunding police,” the meaning of that term slides around kind of hideously depending on who you’re talking about. I am always entertained when I hear elected officials or, really, anyone talking about guns and saying things like no one is coming to take away your guns, because I am absolutely coming to take away your guns. Similarly, there appear to be a contingent of people who, when they say “defund the police,” they mean exactly that, and then there’s another contingent of people– who may or may not be trying to appropriate the phrase from the first contingent– who actually mean “cut their budgets, but keep them around.”

Those are not the same thing, and that’s kind of a problem.

And then there are organizations like #8cantwait, which has its own problems, namely surprisingly dodgy statistics and studies for something Sam Sinyangwe has put his name to, as he’s always seemed like a pretty straightforward guy. I would take that 72% number with a grain of salt. But I do think that enacting these types of policies would, in fact, reduce police violence, and even if the goal is (laudably!) to eliminate police violence, maybe we do things that aren’t going to get us all the way there in one stroke anyway because they’ll help? Some of those 8 items would even increase police budgets, or at least would without commensurate cuts elsewhere– training costs money, for example– and that’s an automatic nonstarter for (some of) the Defund folks, especially the Defund/Abolish wing. I’m willing to spend some extra taxpayer money if it keeps people alive.

And, of course, there is the fact that Eric Garner (and, I’m sure, others) was killed with a chokehold that has been banned in New York since 1993, so clearly the policy didn’t keep him alive. But laws don’t actually stop crime! We know this! It’s not controversial! What laws do is allow us to punish people when they commit those crimes, and you can’t go after a cop for using a banned chokehold if the chokehold isn’t banned.

It is utterly ludicrous, to me, to claim that you want police violence stopped and to simultaneously be against enacting a policy that police can’t use chokeholds. And I would like to see better data on how well these policies work— if police departments having such a policy doesn’t change anything, then by all means don’t bother– but I don’t see much of a down side in banning something like a choke hold while we try to collect better data. I mean, that should lead to fewer people being choked, right? It surely won’t lead to more choking.

I am sympathetic to the lower-case D defund people, and I’m absolutely willing to listen to the defund-and-abolish crew; I just downloaded Alex Vitale’s The End of Policing (because a paper copy cannot be found, which strikes me as a good thing) and I intend to read it soon, and me being me I’m sure I’ll find other books about it to read as well. But my initial feeling is that such a thing isn’t going to fly in America. I’d love to be wrong, but I live in a country where 40% of the populace still approves of the syphilitic Adderall addict in the White House. We are not abolishing the police anytime soon even if it’s a good idea.

So what sorts of things do I think we should do? Here, have a list in no particular order:

  • I really don’t see any reason not to encourage wholesale adoption of the #8cantwait agenda. It’s not going to solve all of our problems, but even if it doesn’t help as much as I hope I certainly don’t see it making things worse.
  • Police unions should be abolished. Police are not workers. This is a big part of the problem, because Republicans don’t want to criticize police and Democrats don’t want to criticize unions. They’re not the same as workers and they shouldn’t have the same protections. Police unions have to go.
  • Police should not even carry guns most of the time. I’m okay with keeping one in the car or something but the vast majority of police work does not require the cop to be armed.
  • It should be widely recognized that killing someone on the job is literally the worst thing a cop can do. No police officer who has killed someone, justified or otherwise, should still be on the streets. I don’t mind them having desk jobs, but once you kill somebody you should be done patrolling.
  • Police should be required to be licensed and degreed (four years!) to at least the same extent as teachers are. Police licensure should be temporary and revocable in the case of misconduct, and there should be at least state-by-state databases keeping track of them.
  • Police officers dismissed for cause or who have their license revoked in one state cannot move to another state and apply for a new one. Similarly, this information should be public– you can look up my teachers’ license; I should be able to see theirs as well.
  • Review boards with actual teeth, staffed by civilians.
  • “Kettling” and blocking access to public transit during protests should be banned. Protesters should always have the option to leave, particularly when “failure to disperse” is something cops arrest protesters for.
  • I want a nationwide, comprehensive, detailed, publicly accessible database on the use of force by police departments.
  • Deescalation training should be mandatory, frequent, and used. Again, I want the police held to at least the same standards that teachers are.
  • Use of tear gas, LRAD devices, rubber bullets and any sort of other military hardware by police officers is banned, and the sale of surplus military hardware to police departments is ended immediately. Tear gas is a fucking war crime if you use it on opposing armies; there is no reason for its use to be so routine against American citizens.
  • Any officer found to have turned off his or her bodycam or covered his or her badge number and/or name while on duty is fired immediately, end of discussion, no exceptions.
  • Tangentially related, perhaps, but private prisons should be abolished. We can talk about prison abolition in general sometime if y’all like but private prisons are an obscenity.
  • End qualified immunity.
  • It should be illegal for police to have sex with people in custody, because are you fucking kidding how are there not already policies against this???
  • Police should have to carry malpractice insurance the same way doctors do. Settlements are paid out of that insurance fund or out of pensions, not out of taxpayer pockets.
  • Police are not automatically dispatched when a call to EMS or fire departments is made.
  • Police are provided with free and ready access to counseling and mental health services.

That’s a start, I think; I’ll add into the list as the day goes on if I come up with more. None of these policies are going to stop police violence, of course, but again: you have to decrease police violence before you can stop it.

Yell at me in comments if you like, but be aware I am a bit short-tempered today.


4:06 PM, Monday, June 8: 1,954,236 confirmed cases and 110,845 Americans dead. The site I pull this data from had spiked to over 116k dead earlier today; it’s rolled back now, so I assume there was some sort of data entry error.

Some local election musings; also, math

I did vote by mail– several weeks ago, in fact– but I did not get a sticker. They shoulda included one in the envelope with the ballot, dammit.

Also, the bike has just arrived, so there will probably be another post tonight as I break it trying to put it together. And then I will ride it for the first time– and hell no, that’s not being recorded, I don’t love you enough– fall off, and break a leg, and then we can all agree never to talk about this foolish decision again.

Anyway, Indiana had a primary yesterday. I haven’t talked about it a lot on the blog, because most of my audience isn’t in the Michiana area, much less South Bend specifically, so it wouldn’t be terribly relevant, but there were two local referendum questions on the ballot specifically to raise money for the school district I work for. I have been pretty well convinced for the entirety of this process that we were going to lose; amazingly, it looks like we have won on both counts.

(This is the part where I do math. Skip what’s in between the dividers if you don’t want to see it, but I’d appreciate someone checking my thought process.)


The vote has been stuck at 83% reporting since maybe 9:00 last night; I suspect because absentee ballots account for the remainder of what needs to be counted and that’s going to take a bit longer. However:

So, for question 1, there have been 18,413 ballots cast and Yes currently has a lead of 3,237 votes. I’m going to make the assumption that precincts are roughly the same size, which may not be especially reasonable, which suggests that there are (18413/83 = 221.84, x 100 = 22,184 -18413 = 3,771) 3,371 ballots still left to be counted. I find it highly unlikely that only 134 people who voted absentee voted Yes on question 1, so I think it’s fair to say this passed.

Question 2 is a bit hairier, but using the same process: 18,325 ballots cast, suggesting 22,078 total votes, meaning 3,753 votes are left to be counted against a margin of 2,117. So the vote-by-mail folks would have to break 56-44 against the referendum when all in-person voting was 56-44 for the referendum. That’s possible, but I think it’s unlikely, so I think 2 probably passes as well, but with a lower margin of victory and a higher margin of error.

This is good news! There has not been much of that in 2020 so far. All sorts of fucking awful shit was going to happen in my district without this money. There is still room for plenty more awful shit to happen over the summer, but at least this particular avenue for awfulness looks like it’s probably been closed off.


In other might-be-interesting news: 8% of Republicans voted for Bill Weld, and 76% of Democrats voted for Joe Biden. I was not among them; I sent in my primary ballot before it became sufficiently clear that Tara Reade was not to be trusted, and for that and several other reasons (primary among them being I wanted her to win) I voted for Elizabeth Warren.

For at least the second time in a row, my Congresscritter Jackie Walorski couldn’t break 80% in her primary, even though her opponent’s only qualification for the job was having a penis. I could have sworn I’ve talked about this here in the past but can’t find the post; she’s had basically an invisible primary opponent in the last couple of elections, somebody with no fundraising and no real presence anywhere, and both times that guy has gotten 20%+ of the vote, meaning that Republicans literally shrugged and voted for someone they knew nothing about other than that he had a penis. This guy at least has a website, and the fascinating thing about it is that if you read his Issues page you could be forgiven for thinking that he’s a conservative Democrat. So they not only voted for someone who they knew nothing about, they voted for a fuckin librul, too.

He literally announces elsewhere on the page that he will accept no donations of any kind for this run, so he’s either richer than any man with that facial hair should ever be or he’s a moron. Not sure which.

Speaking of conservative Democrats: there will no doubt be some links to my posts about the last time Jackie Walorski ran for office, where the Democrats managed to run someone who had no interest in actually being a Democrat for the job. By the time the actual election rolled around I hated Mel Hall with a fairly passionate intensity, and I ended up writing in the name of my primary choice, Pat Hackett. I am very pleased to announce that Pat has won her primary and we will have an actual fucking Democrat running for office in IN-02 this year. Redistricting has made this district an uphill climb regardless, but I still think she has a chance of snatching up the seat. We’ll see. At any rate, I’ll be upping the donations I’ve been making to her campaign.

Wait, shit, is that two pieces of good news? Wow.

More later, as I unbox and then destroy the bike.


12:31 PM, Wednesday, June 3: 1,835,681 confirmed cases and 106,312 Americans dead.

An anecdote, apropos of nothing

Every so often, my wife will get into some sort of conflict with my son when I’m in another room. This isn’t something that happens a lot, mind you; once or twice a week, maybe, generally around bath- or bedtime. The details don’t really matter all that much. He’s either doing something she doesn’t want him to do, or he’s not doing something she wants him to do. Sometimes he manages both at the same time.

And my reaction, generally, is to let her handle it. Not because I don’t care, or because I think discipline is her job; we co-parent as much as we can, and on the rare occasion where we disagree on how to handle something involving him we sort it out when he isn’t around. Because here’s the thing: if my wife and son are having an issue, particularly if he’s already upset and not just being a butthead, the second I show up– even if I don’t say anything– I have escalated the situation, just by my presence. Now my son’s not scared of me, there’s no threat of physical violence here– I’ve never laid a finger on him. But if he’s already upset, the second he’s outnumbered he’s twice as upset as he was before.

I have made things worse, simply by showing up. It might be my intention to calm things down or, alternatively, to lay down the law and quell the misbehavior, but what I have done is escalated the situation.

Now let’s imagine that I walk into the room, and my belt is in my hand. I don’t say anything; I’m not screaming or yelling or carrying on. I’m just there, leather belt in hand, perhaps doubled over on itself.

That’s gonna be even worse, right? Even though I haven’t actually done anything. I’m just standing there, with my belt, and I’ve made things more frightening, more violent, more alienating, more dangerous. Just by standing there.

Funny how that works.


8:34 PM, Monday, June 1: 1,809,109 confirmed cases and 105,099 Americans dead.

In which we’re gonna need a bigger boat

I’ll get to the graphic in a minute; this is gonna be another grab-baggy sort of post. Bear with me.

I just finished mowing the back yard, just in time for it to start pouring outside, so I’m sure all the grass will be regrown in a day or two. I have shared my distaste for lawn work many times before; in fact, bitching about my lawn was one of my first posts around here. My wife, who is more fond of working outdoors than I am, generally handles it; my job is to remove snow, and we collaborate on leaves. You may recall that she broke her foot a couple of weeks ago, which coincided with the weather being nice enough that the grass came back to life; to her credit, she waited for me to figure it out myself that I was going to have to mow the fucking yard and didn’t bring it up until I’d ruined my own day. Having mowed the full mess over the last two days, I have realized something: I feel basically the same way about yard work as I do about writing fiction. I absolutely hate doing it, but the feeling of being done with it is absolutely stellar. I love looking at a freshly-mowed yard. I just don’t want to have to create the conditions to be able to do that. If I ever figure out how to enjoy writing as much as I enjoy being done with writing I will be at Seanan McGuire levels of productivity in six months.


Speaking of mowing: I don’t wear headphones all that often, so it was already kind of weird that I shelled out so much money for the AirPods Pro that I bought a bit ago– but holy shit, am I impressed by how good noise cancelling works. I wasn’t even listening to music for a good part of mowing the yard; I just had the headphones in with the noise cancelling on and I could barely hear anything. Cue someone hopping into comments to tell me that’s going to kill my ears, of course.


Regarding yesterday’s addendum to yesterday’s first post: I think, based on comments, that it is clear that 1) I don’t know anything about Great Britain or their money; and 2) It is absolutely the way people write about their money that is bullshit, thus Option Two wins. I don’t feel like it is unreasonable to suggest that if you are going to spend a fair amount of your time in a book talking about people’s income levels and how much things cost, and the people you are talking about use a monetary system that is no longer in use and is not exactly intuitive, maybe put a chart somewhere explaining how it works? I’m willing to be accused of shocking ignorance on this, that’s fine, there are lots of things I don’t know, but part of the reason I was able to not realize that the shilling got phased out however many years ago was that nobody ever explains what the fuck a shilling is in history books. They just assume you know there are 3.2 shillings in a Cumberbatch and move the fuck on with the narrative. Put a damn chart in there somewhere!


The feasibility study has been returned, and it turns out I’m not actually able to watch the Snowpiercer TV series without spending additional money. I had heard it was showing up on Hulu, but apparently that’s only true if you pony up for some sort of “Live TV” add-on, and … nah.

I will, nonetheless, bow to the will of the interwebs and watch this program as soon as I can do so without spending money for it. That may take a while, however. In the meantime, Avatar: the Last Airbender is on Netflix and I somehow haven’t finished Season 5 of She-Ra yet so I need to up my TV-watching time as a percentage of my day.


I have seen a couple of different variations of the graphic at the top of this post floating around on the internet recently, as well as a couple of different NO NO THIS IS THE INTERNET BEING STUPID types of counter-posts. Folks, the official CDC “considerations” are right here; feel free to look at them yourself and compare them to whatever version of the graphic you’ve seen recently. The paraphrasing is essentially accurate, and the fact that the CDC, whether they’re calling them “guidelines” or “considerations”, doesn’t actually have the power to make their thoughts law doesn’t really matter. The point is, the fucking Center for Disease Control has effectively said that there is no way to safely open schools. Because these “guidelines” or “considerations” or whatever the fuck you want to call them are impossible, and every teacher and other adult who has ever spent any time in schools knows that. I am done for the year, effectively, and my son’s last day was yesterday (I still have some PD stuff over the next couple of weeks, and grades have to be finalized, but there is no further e-learning this year) and there is a lot of time for things to change one way or another between now and August, but the way things stand right now we are not going to be able to reopen schools this fall. Not safely, at least. I know the person in the White House doesn’t give a damn; that’s perfectly clear, but so far the governors have been more reasonable.


Speaking of governors, I had this conversation with my wife earlier:

For context, Woody Whoever’s last name is not Whoever and he is running for Governor as a Democrat, and he is running such a low-key, bullshit campaign that I literally didn’t know that there even was a gubernatorial race this year until seeing his name on my primary ballot. I do not at this time remember his last name and I’m not about to look it up. I did some quick research before I marked his name on the primary ballot (not that it would have mattered, as he was the only candidate) and he seems basically competent, but Gov. Holcomb is one of the few Republicans I’m aware of who I would also describe as “basically competent.” He’s shit on education, but so is everyone else in the damn world. Obama was shit on education. I’ve voted for one candidate who was good on education policy in the last fifteen years or so and she turned out to be a shitty politician and got voted right out again after her first term. It just doesn’t happen that damn often.


Regarding the headline to this post: when I initially wrote it I had plans to tie it into one of the parts of the post, and it was going to make sense and be at least moderately funny in the way my post titles occasionally are, and I have completely forgotten what the hell I was going to tie it into or how– something about classroom size, maybe?– but I’m not going to change it. “I am an idiot” is definitely a theme of this post so we may as well run that shit straight into the ground while we still can.


3:24 PM, Friday, May 22: 1,590,349 confirmed cases and 95,490 Americans dead.

On the limits of my principles

I’ve mentioned that my wife broke her foot the other day. She does most virtually all of the grocery shopping. While I am perfectly capable and willing to step in and handle that job, the simple fact that I don’t do it means that it will likely take me twice as long to get the job done because I don’t know where everything is, and I’ve discussed my (getting better) issues with panic attacks while wearing masks a couple of times as well. So as soon as we discovered that we could do curbside pickup for our groceries for just $5 extra plus the tip, we decided that at least for right now that’s how we were going to handle things.

Now, they allow you to set general rules for what to do if something you want isn’t in stock. I’m not sure what the options are (she did the ordering) but basically it boils down to they pick substitutes or they don’t. Our son has some allergy issues so she decided that the best move was just to go with no substitutes, and if for some reason we’re denied something that we feel like we need I can always make a run tomorrow for a couple of things.

You may recall also that I wrote a Comprehensive List of Things I am Currently Boycotting a couple of weeks ago. One of my friends mentioned Papa John’s in the comments. Papa John’s is another sort of edge case for me; I generally avoid eating there but that’s as much because my aging digestive system can no longer handle their garlic sauce (which is absolutely essential to the Papa John’s experience; do not insult me by suggesting that I can eat their pizza without drenching it in garlic sauce) than it is because of their politics.

That said, I’ve been craving the damn place ever since reading that comment. It’s a terrible idea, so we haven’t caved, but it’s been lurking there in the back of my head.

We decided on the way home from getting groceries that we’d have pizza for dinner, as there were supposed to be two pizzas in our order. Then we got home and discovered that one of them wasn’t there, presumably because they were out of stock on that specific kind of pizza.

Damn. We briefly discuss other options, and Papa’s comes up, and I shoot it down, because it’s a terrible idea. And then I interrupt the conversation to go use the bathroom, and while I’m in the bathroom I hear my son yell for my wife from our other bathroom. And when I come out, she tells me that I have something I need to deal with in the other bathroom.

And, well, a minute or two later, after seeing what I had been summoned for, I sent this text:

If you’re thinking “Okay, this sounds like that happened, but the size of a baseball? It has to be something else.” No, it doesn’t. That’s what happened.

I have about an hour to get my affairs finished off for the evening before I begin paying for dinner.


8:45 PM, Friday May 8: 1,283,846 confirmed cases and 77,178 American deaths.