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?

Sincerely, oh yes, sincerely

23 06 2015

Sincerity is overrated in politicians.

It’s not that I don’t care at all about the dimensions of their beliefs, but I’ll take a right act for the wrong reason over a wrong act for the right reason every damned time.

So, all those Southern Republicans who have had a “change of heart” and now support the removal of state support of the Confederate Battle Flag?

I don’t care what’s truly madly deeply in their hearts. I care that the flag of treason and white supremacy is finally, finally, being stripped of official honor.


Taking down the flag is one thing, not every thing, and in the long slog to dismantle white supremacy, certainly not the most important thing.

But that it is now, finally, being treated as a symbol of white supremacy by those who have long profited from the active denial of white supremacy, matters.

And if they don’t truly madly deeply believe, in their hearts, that it is such a symbol, and are now just pandering to distance themselves from those who might cause them trouble?

I’ll take “pander” for the win, Alex.

Brother, brother

18 06 2015

The names of the dead:

Clementa Pinckney, 41, the primary pastor who also served as a state senator.

Cynthia Hurd, 54, St. Andrews regional branch manager for the Charleston County Public Library system.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a church pastor, speech therapist and coach of the girls’ track and field team at Goose Creek High School.

Tywanza Sanders, 26, who had a degree in business administration from Allen University, where Pinckney also attended.

Ethel Lance, 70, a retired Gailliard Center employee who has worked recently as a church janitor.

Susie Jackson, 87, Lance’s cousin who was a longtime church member.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, a retired director of the local Community Development Block Grant Program who joined the church in March as a pastor.

Myra Thompson, 59, a pastor at the church.

Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, a pastor, who died in a hospital operating room.

—compiled by Andrew Knapp, The Post and Courier


Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s Republican governor, made a curiously obtuse statement on Facebook in the aftermath of Wednesday’s massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. “While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another,” the governor said.

[. . .]

On the same program, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani also confessed to being baffled about possible motives. “We have no idea what’s in his mind,” he said. “Maybe he hates Christian churches. Maybe he hates black churches or he’s gonna go find another one. Who knows.”

South Carolina Senator and presidential candidate Lindsey Graham questioned whether this was a “hate crime” and tried to suggest factors other than race were involved. “There are real people who are organized out there to kill people in religion and based on race, this guy’s just whacked out,” Graham said on the TV show “The View.” “But it’s 2015. There are people out there looking for Christians to kill them.” (Via)

“I have to do it,” the gunman allegedly told a survivor. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

In response to the Boston bombing of 2013, Senator Lindsey Graham demanded that the government do everything it could to learn from the attack and prevent future attacks.

This man, in my view, should be designated as a potential enemy combatant and we should be allowed to question him for intelligence gathering purposes to find out about future attacks and terrorist organizations that may exist that he has knowledge of, and that evidence cannot be used against him in trial. That evidence is used to protect us as a nation.

[. . .]

Graham’s reaction to Wednesday’s attack on a black church in his home state of South Carolina was very different. . . .

“I just think he was one of these whacked out kids. I don’t think it’s anything broader than that,” Graham said. “It’s about a young man who is obviously twisted.” (Via)

Oh yes, and this:



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