Circus Maximus MMXVI: We don’t need another hero

8 10 2015

“I have had a gun held on me when I was in a Popeye’s organization” in Baltimore, [Ben Carson] told Karen Hunter on Sirius XM Radio, referring to the fried chicken fast-food chain. “Guy comes in, put the gun in my ribs. And I just said, ‘I believe that you want the guy behind the counter.'”

Doubt the guy behind the counter is going to be voting for the good doctor.


Circus Maximus MMXVI: Sincerely

7 10 2015

Hillary Clinton has come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and I say ‘Great!’

I also say: don’t believe it for a minute.

If she becomes president and the deal has been ratified by Congress, she’ll do nothing to overturn it; if it were shot down, she’ll find a way to resurrect it.

So, too, would a Republican president.

Even money on whether President Bernie Sanders would throw in with the TPP.

Circus Maximus MMXVI: Sh’ dooby

15 09 2015

Yes, yes, yes!

I was yelling at someone a week or so ago that the way to take Trump out is by mocking him.

I mean, Jesus, is there anyone more mockable than The Donald? Mr. Winning?

I mean, someone else must have thought to put a picture of Charlie Sheen next to him, with WINNING! the caption, right?

(I would do this if I had any ability to, uh, splice separate photos into one image. And caption it. But I don’t. I am not a WINNER.)

If asked about him, condescend. If in a debate with him, laugh at him. Be amused, not angry, and if Trump gets angry, laugh some more.

He wants to be taken seriously, so do not under any circumstances take him seriously.

This is not elevated political discourse, I know, but if you’re dealing with someone who so gleefully breaks the rules of electoral decorum, then you have to follow him through that breach and break him. Poking at someone until he explodes may not be edifying, but with someone as gassed up on ego as Trump, it can be effective.

Now, I think Trump’s gonna deflate before the first primary anyway, but if I’m a competing candidate, why take that chance?  More to the point, why not get the lift from sending that particular hot air balloon careening off into the treetops?

But, whatever, Republican candidates. If you’re afraid to take on a mouthy real estate developer with zero political experience, then, again, you’re the losers Trump says you are.

This whole frigging place will be down to the ground

2 09 2015

I’m teaching Weimar this semester.

Two months ago—a month ago—I didn’t know that’s what I’d be teaching, but once I hit on it, I thought Yessssss!!

This is actually the 4th version of my Politics and Culture course. The first one, based on women and human rights, was terrible; the second one worked well, but after teaching it a few years, I got bored and redid the syllabus; the third version was okay, but it never quite came together, and I was never fully comfortable with the course.

So, time for yet another revamp.

My first thought was that I’d use Acemoglu and Robinson’s Why Nations Fail. While I had a few issues with their argument (as I had with the Nussbaum book I used for v. 2), I thought the book would work well for the course: it’s well-written, and, importantly, it had the kind of big theory that was missing from one of the books (Banerjee & Duflo’s Poor Economics) I used in v. 3. The students in that course responded when I gave big-sweep historical lectures, so I figured Acemoglu & Robinson’s big-sweep historical analysis would go over well with them.

Except: I couldn’t figure out what to use as an adjunct to the text. Why Nations Fail is all about political and economic development, and while (political) culture plays a role in their argument, I still wanted to round out the course with something else.

Only, I couldn’t figure out what that something else would be. I’d spent a fair amount of time over the past few months looking over my books and pulling one, and then another, and then yet another off the shelf, but I couldn’t settle on one. Then, at some point in mid or late July, I was peering idly at my history books, and I scanned across Richard Evans’s Third Reich trilogy.

Huh, I thought. Then, Yesssss!!

My first thought was The Coming of the Third Reich, then I thought, The Third Reich in Power, but then I went back to The Coming.

Weimar. Perfect. It’s politics and culture galore, is a subject which I’d been reading about off and of the past coupla’ years, and, most importantly, it was something that I was immediately excited about.

I was not immediately excited about Why Nations Fail.

And that’s when I remembered the lesson I keep forgetting: teaching something I’m dutiful about is a pain; teaching something I’m excited about is a gas.

It also helps to teach something which is more rather than less in my wheelhouse. I certainly have interests in political and economic development, but I’m not a political-developmental economist: I’m a theorist, and I want to know how and why ideas move people to act. Material conditions absolutely matter, but they are not determinative; I’m interested in that great gauzy space beyond the material, and how that works out in actual political life.

So why wasn’t I teaching that? Why was I abandoning something that I think also matters? Why wasn’t I taking theory—and politics—seriously?

Weimar gives me a bit of everything; hell, the glory of Weimar as a teaching subject is its too-muchness: economics and diplomacy and monarchy and fascism and liberalism and communism and violence and art and theater and so much promise and in the end, too much peril.

I’ve only taught one session so far (the class meets on Fridays), and we won’t really get into Weimar until the third week, but the students seemed into it. They might not know much about Weimar, but they certainly know something about what came after—Nazis on the march do tend to get one’s attention.

Anyway, I don’t know if this course will work or not, but really, I think it will. And I think the students will end up digging it, too.

In any case, it certainly can’t go any worse than the Republic itself.

Circus Maximus MMXVI: We will we will rock you

30 08 2015

Trump will not be the nominee of the Republican party.

I’m not much for predictions, but I feel pretty good in making this one: he’s peaking too soon—the nomination fight won’t be decided until next spring, at the earliest—has little support among party elites, and, most crucially, lacks the infrastructure to win the nomination.

He has an audience, not an organization.

That said, I do get why some folks on the right are excited by him: he lays it out there with, as the saying goes, no fucks to give.

That’s what I’ve liked about Hillary Clinton—I keep posting that photo of her banging her fists at one of the endless Benghazi hearings, and head any post about her with “Army of me”—and I’m not the only one. And think about the delight some of us are taking in President Obama’s willingness to plant his flag where’er the hell he pleases.

No more fucks to give, indeed.

It’s just tribalism, a part of the passion of the partisan, and it’s neither pathological nor puzzling: we want our guy or broad to win, and we want to see our guy or broad want to win. And we want them to win for us.

Oh, sure, I’m all about policy and the common good and all that, but, goddammit, I’ve also chosen a side, and I want the candidate on my side to be glad s/he’s on this side. I don’t want someone who’s sorry that s/he’s taken a side.

And I think that’s what those crowds like about Trump: he ain’t sorry for nothin’.

That’s not enough to get him the nomination, but it is enough to get folks to show up and cheer.

And hey, as long as Trump keeps eating away at the base of this fucking guy, I’m all for it.

Circus Maximus MMXVI: Wrecking ball

13 07 2015

No surprise, but the man who’s been befouling my home state has finally made it official:

Walker announcement

Gott im himmel, I’ve got to find some way to talk about this bastard without losing my mind. And if he actually gets the nomination*, I. . . I. . . fuck, I will either have to refrain from blogging altogether, or just go tits-out and plaster this joint with


*Which means I’ve got to hope—now there’s a word I don’t often use in conjunction with Republican politicians—some other GOPper palooka takes him out.

Circus Maximus MMXVI: Big time

12 07 2015

The intelligent Bush brother:

“You don’t have to be the world’s policemen, but you have to be the world’s leader and there’s a huge difference,” Bush explained. “This guy — this president and Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry – when someone disagrees with their nuanced approach where it’s all kind of so sophisticated it makes no sense. You know what I’m saying?”

Bush continued, “Big syllable words and lots of fancy conferences and meetings and – We’re not leading. That creates chaos. It creates a more dangerous world. So restoring the alliances that have kept the world safer and our country safer – getting back to a position in the Middle East where there’s no light between Israel and the United States.”

Big syllable words? Is that, like, when you write BUUUULLLshit—y’know, extra-emphasizing one part of the word to be all nuanced and fancy-conference-y and stuff?


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