the new year and the bend of the arc – encore

I follow John Scalzi on his blog whatever. I tried to follow him on Twitter, but he’s so prolific that he’s too prolific, so I stopped and follow his blog instead. I can keep up with that.

I came across this entry, “The New Year and the Bend of the Arc,” which he published January 1st. I found it so compelling a read that I’m copying the entire thing here, as much a personal reminder for the future as anything.

We’re facing one of the worst presidents in modern American history, if not the worst in all of American history. As a consequence, I can perform one of two actions; ignore it as much as possible, withdrawing into my own world, or do as much as possible, individually and as part of a larger group to counteract the damage to our nation and our democracy that is surely to come with the Trump administration. Because I also believe the future of the planet, not just our nation, is literally at stake, I have chosen to do that later. How I will do that remains to be seen, but the motivation is certainly there, if not the specific action(s). The motivation was certainly there before I read John Scalzi’s entry. John has eloquently stated what I could only viscerally feel.

Here, then, is John Scalzi’s complete entry.

As we begin 2017, there is something I’ve been thinking about, that I’d like for you to consider for the new year. It starts with a famous quote, the best-known version of which is from Martin Luther King, but which goes back to the transcendentalist Theodore Parker. The quote is:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

In the main I agree with that quote. There are things about it, however, that I think many of us elide.

The first is the word “long.” I think both Parker and King understood that moral endeavors can be measured in years, decades and sometimes centuries. This is not an argument toward complacency; indeed I think it’s an argument against defeatism and fatalism in the face of setbacks and stalemates. We live in moments and days and it’s often hard to see past them, and it’s easy to believe when we are struck a hard blow that all is lost. All is not lost. The arc is long. Nothing is ever fully decided in the moment or the day. There are years and decades and sometimes centuries yet to go. The arc continues to bend, if we remember that it is long, and that we need to imagine it extending further.

We need to imagine that because of the second thing: The arc is not a natural feature of the universe. It does not magically appear; it is not ordained; it is not inevitable. It exists because people of moral character seek justice, not only for themselves but for every person. Nor is the arc smooth. It’s rough and jagged, punctuated in areas by great strides, halting collapses, terrible reverses and forcible wrenching actions. There are those, always, who work to widen the arc, to make that bend toward justice as flat as they can make it, out of fear or greed or hate. They stretch out the arc when they can. If people of moral character forget the arc is not ordained, or become complacent to a vision of a smooth, frictionless bend toward justice, the work to flatten the arc becomes that much easier.

Right now, today, here in 2017, there are those working very industriously to flatten out the arc. They have lately seen little penalty for their hate, or their dissembling, or their disdain or greed; they have contempt for justice other than a cynical appreciation of its features when and only when it is to their advantage; they don’t care for anyone or anything outside the close horizon of their own interests. They have won a moment; they have won a day. They will try to win more than that, now, however they can, flattening the arc with hate and fear and greed.

On this day, in this year, in our time: Help to bend the arc back.

As you do, there are things to remember.

Remember the arc is long. It’s not one moment or one day or even a year or four years, even when that moment or day or year seems endless.

Remember the arc is not inevitable. It needs you. You are more important than you know, if you don’t give in to despair, to complacency, or to apathy. Add to the moral weight that bends the arc toward justice. You can’t do it alone, but without you the work becomes that much harder.

Remember that those who are working to flatten the arc hope you give up and give in. They are relying on you to do just that. Disappoint them. Disappoint them in big ways. Disappoint them in small ways. Disappoint them each day, and every day, in all the ways you can. Do not consent to this flattening of the arc.

Remember finally that this arc toward justice never ends. We are human. We are not perfect. We will not arrive at a perfect justice, any more than we will achieve a perfect union. But just as we work toward a more perfect union, so too we bend the arc toward justice, knowing the closer we get, the better we and our lives are, as individuals, as communities, as a nation and as a world. This is a life’s work, not just work for a moment, or day, or year. You won’t see the final result. There isn’t one. It doesn’t mean the work doesn’t matter. It matters. It matters now. It matters for you. It matters for everyone.

It’s a new year. There’s work to be done. I hope you will do it, and that you find joy in the work.

Happy 2017.

See you on the arc.

in defense of the tesla model 3 and other alternatives


I need to stay away from John Scalzi’s “Whatever” blog, because once again I find myself writing a reactionary post to one of his, “The Tesla 3 (and Why I Probably Wouldn’t Get One).” To be fair to John, it isn’t his post so much as many of the responses to his post, some of which I’m sure are trolling. Whatever…

In no particular order, and not pointing out any specific commenter, here’s my response.

The Model 3 Itself

I’m a Prius owner. My first Prius was a red 2009 model that, by the time I traded it in 2012, I’d racked up nearly 80,000 miles on. 80,000 very happy, issue-free miles. This is the same period that saw the accelerator pedal fiasco and subsequent recalls. In spite of this I’m still loyal to Toyota and have the attitude that a bad Toyota is a better vehicle than just about anyone else’s “good” vehicle. I was satisfied enough with the 2009 Prius that after months of looking at many other brands and models I bought not one, but two, 2012 Priuses, using the 2009 as a trade-in on mine (I got $18,000). Since that time I’ve managed to put a mere 61,000 miles on mine, while my wife has just 55,000. I don’t know what my wife averages MPG-wise, but I average in real day-to-day driving of between 50 and 55mpg, more on the freeways than the surface streets (in spite of the claims of the other way by Toyota). All of this after nearly four years of 2012 model year ownership. We intend to keep these Priuses until either they just die or else something better comes along.

That something better might be the Tesla Model 3 or its follow-up. There’s a lot to like about the Tesla as well as the man behind Tesla. I appreciate both the 3’s styling as well as the technology. After owning the Prius for as long as I have, I’ve grown immune to the openly hostile and deeply uninformed criticisms, just like the same class of critiques aimed at the Tesla. I would consider buying a Model 3 because it would fit quite well into where I live here in Orlando Florida. The range is more than enough to visit either coast along I-4, and the climate is such I don’t have to worry about cold effecting the battery. The only reason I won’t buy an Model 3 is timing; financially I’m not in the market for a new car, and I’m not well-heeled enough to consider any vehicle an impulse purchase. But, if the Model 3 had been available in 2012, at least one of the Prius would have been a Tesla Model 3.

Mass Transit

One of the commenters decided to troll the others with a comment on mass transit. Here in America, mass transit is a mess. In other parts of the world, not so much. An example of excellent mass transit is Japan. Since December 2013 I’ve traveled to Japan four times, all on multi-week business trips. I’ve visited Tokyo, Osaka, and Sapporo. I’ve traveled quite a bit on Japan’s rail system, from the Shinkansen on down. They are all excellent to ride on. Japan does have considerable cars in its roadways, but it also has a rail system that moves considerable numbers of people quite efficiently.

One interesting feature is how the larger train stations are integrated into the central city proper. The Japanese have built huge malls over and around those train stations, and they’re always packed with customers. Examples I’ve experienced are Sapporo, Shinjuku (Tokyo), Ikebukuro (Tokyo), Tachikawa (Tokyo), and Osaka.

If you can’t find the right train, there’s plenty of busses and taxis. And if you can’t get somewhere directly, you can walk; things are close together. We used to walk a lot in this country, especially from bus stops to places of work, worship, and residency. We don’t anymore and it’s contributed mightily to our obesity problem. In all my travels, I’ve noticed far fewer overweight Japanese in a comparable urban setting than anywhere similar in America.

America needs mass transit badly, and it needs a far deeper commitment to it than we currently give it. Mass transit fails in America because we want it to fail.

There was one comment about how western cities grew up around the freeway. One western city in particular, Los Angeles, had an extensive street car system that served the core of the city quite well until it was purchased by National City Lines, whose owners included Firestone, Standard Oil (now Chevron), and GM. This led to the General Motors “streetcar conspiracy,” which in turn led to the dismantling of many city transit systems. We had a foundation for mass transit building up the first half of the 20th century, but it was essentially destroyed by Detroit. And when it became obvious we needed mass transit in those same cities where it was allowed to die in (such as Atlanta, where I was born), we’ve paid dearly in the second half of the 20th century rebuilding mass transit systems that have yet to reach the coverage of the older systems that were dismantled.


I don’t know when it will happen, but the pure ICE (internal combustion engine) auto is coming to an end. Whether it’s meeting ever stringent carbon emissions, or the rising cost of the auto itself (inexpensive is now around $15,000), or changing demographics and desires, the pure ICE is either being replaced by hybrids and electrics, or it’s being eschewed completely by people who just don’t want the hassle and expense (gas, insurance, maintenance, tolls) of owning a car and prefer mass transit. There’s going to be a huge stratification in the next two to twenty years, where a good majority of people are going to give up their cars, leaving only the very well off to afford electric vehicles. We don’t have the resources (which includes the space to park them) to own and operate automobiles. I’ve been driving and owning my own car since I was 16 back in 1970. In spite of this, given a set of choices, I’d much rather own an electric, and if I were living in a society with decent mass transit, I’d give up my car and go back to rail and walking. I’d be a lot better off physically and financially.