Snap that thin thread

29 03 2013

I used to be so good.

Not my character or morals, no: I used to be so good about staying on top of things.

“Things”, y’know, basic life-things. Bills, paperwork, returning calls—all of those miscellaneous and mostly mindless tasks which are a price of living in society.

Then, at some point, I wasn’t.

Don’t know exactly when it happened—I recall even well into my depressive cups I managed to deal with insurance and student loans and whatnot—but at some point I just gave up. It’s not that I suddenly stopped taking care of these tasks, but that I lost the sense that it made sense to stay ahead of them.

No, wait, that’s not right: I never lost the sense that it made sense. No, what I lost was. . . the will? the habit? of proper task management. It’s as if once that rubber band snapped, I no longer knew how to keep my shit together, and was reduced to denial, dread, and oh-shit last-minute scatter-shot toss-offs.

I get it done, but in the worst way possible.

This is no way to be an adult human being. It’d be one thing if the whirlwind approach didn’t bother me, but those small to-dos just grow and grow and grow in the middle of my chest* until they crack my ribs and leave me panting for air. I am so anxious about dealing with the things when they’re small that I can’t deal with them until they’re big, at which point my sleep is punctured and concentration swiss-cheesed.

You’d think that knowing how badly I react to stretching a task out I’d hop to it immediately, but it’s almost as if the anticipation of the late-anxiety rebounds backwards into a show-stopping early anxiety—which, because it’s early, I’m able to suppress, albeit with ever-decreasing success. By the end, the stress of the task is magnified by the looming deadline, and I’m left, well, sleep-deprived and wild-eyed.

No, it’s not everything: the more routine the task, the more habitual my response, but even there, I’m not as automatic as I used to be. I know what I have to do, but that knowledge is only sketchily linked to the doing.

And that, frankly, sucks. I know that there are things from the past which are gone, gone, gone daddy gone, but it would nice if I could get this particular mojo back.

~~~

*Yes, I finally did that thing. Not at the actual last-minute, but damned close.

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Cheese, glorious cheese!

28 03 2013

Now this is my kind of crime story:

Illinois Man Arrested in NJ With Stolen Wisconsin Cheese

Police said the man was driving a refrigerated truck carrying 42,000 pounds of Muenster cheese

.
The headline says it all.
.
h/t Shakesville




You put the load right on me

27 03 2013

I don’t believe in rights.

No, no, that’s not, mm, right. I don’t believe in natural rights, inalienable rights, rights granted by the Creator. . . you know Imma ’bout to tag-team this off to Bentham, don’t you?

Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense — nonsense upon stilts.

Rights are, instead, rhetorical artifacts, crafted out of history and philosophy and given heft in political culture. They haven’t always existed; they may not always exist. But, for now, we act as if they do, and grant them such privileged status in our theories of liberty (another rhetorical artifact) that a claim of right serves to silence alternate claims of expedience and desire.

(Or, y’know, start a fight  if one’s rights claim is countered with another. Then Mill is invoked: The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people, i.e., my right to swing my arms ends at your nose. And when that doesn’t work, well, that’s another post.)

Where was I? Ah, yes: the durability and privileged status granted to rights.

Which brings me to Prop 8 and DOMA and Constitutional rights and democracy.

I’m not a Constitutional scholar, nor even a dedicated Court-watcher (more of a Court-peeper, actually), so I have nothing to say regarding the juridical strength and weaknesses of the petitioners arguments before the Court. I do find issues of Constitutional interpretation interesting, mainly because I find issues of interpretation interesting (and will blow a gasket at Scalia’s claims regarding originalism), but, today, I don’t have anything to say on what the justices may or ought to say about the Constituion vis-a-vis same-sex marriage.

This doesn’t mean I have nothing to say, of course. (D’oh!) Let’s talk politics! Yay! More specifically, let’s talk about the politics of rights-claims versus majoritarianism, and which is the better way to cement a political victory.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg has famously argued that Roe v. Wade was decided too broadly, that more and more states were moving to relax their abortion laws, and that by creating a federal right to abortion, the Court simultaneously energized the anti-abortion opposition and imperiled reproductive rights.

It is a plausible interpretation of events. I am not at all sure, however, that it is the correct one.

Which, roughly, brings us to the question: When ought claims be treated as preferences and run through majoritarian processes, and when ought they be treated as rights and granted (near) absolute status, safe from majority preferences?

I don’t know that there’s any good answer to this. On the one hand, I prize liberty, for which rights are a if not the crucial component, but I also prize representative democracy, in which majorities may legitimately impose their preferences on minorities. Turn everything into a right, and the collective may do nothing; disregard rights, and majorities become tyrannies.

It is demonstrably the case that majorities (or the fervent sub-majority among them) can get irritated when they are prevented from imposing their views on others, and, sometimes, may so strongly react against such prevention that the backlash may be worse than and last longer than would have the original situation.

So what’s a minority to do?

The Ginsberg approach argues in favor of the slog: get in and chip away, chip away, chip away, until the mountain pressing down upon you crumbles away. Once it’s gone, it’s damned well gone.

There’s a lot to recommend to this approach, and, on the whole, I favor it.

But that doesn’t mean one can’t or shouldn’t occasionally stick some dynamite into that mountain, yell FIRE IN THE HOLE! and blow that sucker to smithereens. Sometimes justice—oh, yeah, justice!—demands the weight removed in all due haste.

Sometimes justice says to hell with the backlash.

Justice, too, sits alongside and occasionally jostles rights and liberties in a democratic society. Minorities must have justice, but so, too, must majorities; is there any way to determine ahead of time who must carry the weight?

No, there isn’t. You go with what you’ve got, and if you lose in one arena, you try for the win in the other. If you think you’re right, if you believe your claim is a matter of liberty and justice for all, then you fight in every way possible.

That’s politics.

And a right to marry? I honestly don’t know if there is a right to marry, for anyone. But it seems that if that right is granted to some, then—liberty and justice for all—it should be granted to all.

~~~

h/t for that fantastic Michael Bérubé link—go ahead, click on it!—to Scott Lemieux, LGM





Big wheel keep on turnin’

25 03 2013

Funny how that works: You start writing, and then. . . you just keep writing.

The upside of inertia.





Looking for a moment that’ll never happen

22 03 2013

I have to stop before I start screaming.

This is my last post on support for/dissent from the Iraq war—not because there’s nothing left to say, but because I could bang on and on about this, digging out every last awful pro-war piece  by allegedly thoughtful conservatives and liberals (to say nothing about the bilge which burbled out of the pits of (neo-)conservatism).

And then I could howl some more about the backhand given toward those who were right and the shrug toward those who were wrong.

No, I have to let it go because otherwise I will never let it go.

Two last things. One, presidents matter. Two, protests don’t matter.

On the first point: It was a bit of a toss-off point I made the other night, that if the president decides to go to war, then nothing will stop him, but upon reflection, I think that I nailed it.

Are there any cases in which a president wanted publicly to wage war and was prevented from doing so by the Congress or the citizenry?

It’s possible that there were instances in which a president privately mulled war with his advisers but pulled up before going public, and it is possible that in those instances it was the prospect of public push-back which [were among the variables which] stalled him. But has a president ever decided publicly to commit troops to battle and not gotten his way?

I can’t think of any.

Which leads to the second point: Once the decision has been made to go public with the case for war, it’s too late for protests.

This doesn’t make protest any less necessary, but (we) dissenters have to be aware that we are protesting to save our own minds, to make ourselves visible to one another and to reassure one another that, in fact, we haven’t lost our minds.

As regards the path to war, however, we are as ants to a tank.

If we want to matter, then, the best we may be able to do is to mitigate the worst effects of the war, to aid veterans, to send money to civic and humanitarian organizations working in-country. To make public one’s own dissent, if only to remind one’s fellow citizens that it is possible to dissent.

Maybe it will matter, next time, behind the closed doors, as the president and his (or her) advisers ponder breaking into another country. Maybe.

Is there anything more than maybe? Probably not.

What, then, is to be done? If we want to stop war and protests won’t stop war, what is to be done?

This brings me back to the first point: Don’t elect presidents who want war, who hire advisers who want war, who  can’t be bothered to think about the agonies of war.

It’s not much; it’s all we’ve got.

~~~

h/t & general fuck-yeahs to Conor Friedersdorf; Scott Lemieux at LGM, Matt Yglesias, Charlie  Pierce, James Fallows (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), and everyone else who’s sunk her teeth into the backsides of the warmongers and won’t let go. [Removed link to MY because it was a mistake to have included him: he might now be truly sorry, but he was among the mongers.]





Rage against the machine

20 03 2013

*Update* Check out Conor Friedersdorf’s review of anti-anti-war commentary.

I don’t even remember why I was against the war.

It’s easy, now, after the lies and mess and blood and money and vengeance and torture and horror and exodus, to say What a monstrous disaster.

Did I see all of this coming? I don’t know. I was skeptical, fearful of the what-ifs, but did I foresee the monster we would become, the disaster we would inflict on ourselves and the people of Iraq?

I doubt it. I doubt it.

I don’t feel vindicated for having been right. I didn’t have to argue myself into skepticism, didn’t have to fight my way past the shiny objects dangled in front of the American people in order to arrive at the summit of wisdom.

There was no summit, and I claim no wisdom. Is it really that hard to be skeptical of unnecessary war?

This is why I rage and despair in equal measure at those pundits who say “I was wrong, but I could have been right, so. . . .” They couldn’t be bothered to perform the most basic act of citizenship: to think, to think beyond one’s desires and sorrows and glee—and you betcher ass there was glee at the prospect of war—about what we were, truly about to do. Could they not be bothered to wonder at their own anticipation?

I am ungenerous in my interpretation of the commentators who supported the war, ungenerous in my reception to their ex post facto “soul-searching”; I read their apologies as justifications.

This is unfair (at least to John Cole), but I don’t care. They lost nothing by being wrong, suffered no consequences for whooping it up as the Congress and the Bush administration led us into destruction. They are sorry only that the destruction was inglorious, rather than shockingly awesome.

Again, this is unfair, I know, I know.

And it puts too much on the sideliners, not enough on the Congress and the Bush administration. I vent my rage at the pundits because I despair of influencing the politicians.

Once a president decides to go to war, that’s it, we’re going to war.

Pundits make the pitch easier; protesters are, if not ignored, a useful foil. But, truly, nothing any of us says, matters. We don’t matter, except, perhaps, to ourselves.

If a president wants war, war is what we get.





Ten years after

19 03 2013

You know what this is about, right?

~~~

March 19, 2003-March 19, 2013.

Financial cost: $812,067, 323,000—and counting.

Cost to to US soldiers: 4487 killed, 32,223 seriously wounded, 30 percent of all who served developed serious mental problems shortly after returning home

Costs to Iraqi civilians: estimates of numbers killed range from over 100,000 to over 600,000

(And much more here)

Removal of murderous dictator: done

Democracy established: ???

Number of nuclear weapons found: 0

Evidence of links to Al Qaeda found: none

Former Vice President Dick Cheney thinks it was all worth it.

~~~

I marched against the first Gulf War in 1990, unsure whether it was necessary, worried about the fight I was sure the Iraqi army would give to the US. We’d win, I remember musing to my friends T & S, but it could be bad.

It was bad, but not in the way I thought it would be.

So endeth my venture into confident predictions about complex events.

~~~

I was in Montreal when the planes were hijacked, crashed. I got into an argument either that afternoon or the next morning with a colleague’s girlfriend over the innocence of the US, over ‘who started it’, how it would end.

At least, I think that’s what we argued about; I could be wrong. I do remember the director of my program murmuring that it was perhaps too soon to be voicing such opinions.

I don’t remember if I responded that it would be too late it if I waited, or if I just thought that.

~~~

The US wouldn’t attack Iraq, would it? Really? Isn’t it obvious this whole thing is ginned up? What the hell is in the water down there? Has everyone gone mad?

~~~

January is not the best month in Montreal in which to march around outdoors for hours, and then stand and listen to speeches for awhile longer.

But hundreds of thousands of us did, more than once. If you looked through the side streets from Ste. Catherine you could see the people streaming past in the other direction up boulevard René-Lévesque.

Some of us carried signs, some of us carried children, some, candles. We shouted and sang and chanted in French and English and Spanish and Arabic and Hebrew and we could all hear one another, but none of it mattered.

We froze our asses off for peace and none of it mattered.

~~~

Why didn’t more people listen to the skeptics, the peace-mongerers, the critics?

They didn’t like our puppets. We said mean things about Bush. We were leftists. We were anti-American. We were against all wars. We were nobodies. We were rude. And smelly. And played drums.

I mean, if the people against war play drums, that’s certainly a good reason to support war, isn’t it?

~~~

Those who were right about the war were dismissed for having been right.

Who was against the war? cry those who were for the war. How could we have known? We were too emotional, too caught up in war fever.

Why did no one speak?

What else did you expect?

So we were wrong, but we were right for having been wrong.

And those who were right? Well, they could have been wrong.

~~~

Lessons?

There are no lessons—no, wait, too many lessons, none of which will be learned.

The wrong have “moved on”. Those who admit they were wrong are cleansed by the admission; those who don’t, blame those who were right.

Lessons? There are no lessons.

There’s only next time.