Oh, the dragons are going to fly tonight

6 04 2017

And so the president has launched 50 Tomahawk missiles against Syria tonight.

I’ll say the same thing I said when the previous president was considering launching airstrikes against Syria: “I don’t know what the hell to do about Syria.”

And when that previous president chose not to strike?

The situation in Syria seems to me a case of stumble-recovery. I didn’t think the drawing of the “red line” regarding  chemical weapons use was that big of deal, not least because there were multiple responses besides that of a military strike. (And as for the alleged loss of presidential/American credibility, well, christ, if actual air strikes on Qaddafi didn’t deter Assad, why would threats do so?)

Assad is a menace, no doubt. Did he gas (again!) his people? No doubt. Has he ruined his country in order to preserve his own rule? Yeah, he has.

It is not at all clear to me, however, that anything that the US may do, short of invasion, which would change anything. Sending missiles might make anti-Assadists feel better, might cheer the hawks, might bolster those who think the strike shows “resolve”, but beyond that, what?

Was this a one-off? If so, to what end? If not, then escalation?

Assad is supported by Iran and Russia, so unless the Trump administration is willing to take them on—and pray to Athena it is not—it is difficult to see that this will appreciably alter Assad’s behavior. He will continue to bomb his own people, continue to starve them, continue to kill them.

Chemical weapons are a horror, at a level beyond that of barrel bombs and blockades, but they are not the only way to kill.

So, we’ve “punished” Assad for his chemical attack, but it is enough to deter future attacks?

I don’t see it. I didn’t see it when Obama proposed it; I don’t see it now.





Ramble on

3 04 2017

Oh, hey, hi! Hi! ‘Memba me? I ‘memba you! Hi!

Yeah, no good reason for the light no posting. Reasons, yes, but not good ones.

So what’s new?

WELL. I bought a new coffee machine. An expensive, fancy-pants coffee machine that readers of a now defunct website (ie, Gawker) declared their favoritest coffee maker.

I’d bought a cheapo coffee maker oh, a year ago, and never really liked it. That it was cheap didn’t bother me, but it was too small (Heyyy, why not get a 5-cup pot?) and every time I filled the water re-cept-a-cle I dribbled into the filter.

(Yes, I could have filled the water, first, then plopped in the filter, but THAT’S NOT HOW I DO THINGS—at least, not coffee things.)

Anyway, I didn’t love it, but it worked, so, whatever.

But then I saw the defunct piece on the expensive, fancy-pants coffee machine and I thought about my unspent Christmas money (why yes, I’m middle-aged and my parents still send me Christmas money—don’t yours?) and it was on a little sale (i.e., under the threshold at which I’d buy it) and so I bought it.

And. . . it was fine, at first. It has an insulated carafe, which I thought Whoo-hoo, no more burnt coffee (burnt and flavored coffees are the only bad coffees), and that first cuppa was, well, it was really nice.

But the second was a bit. . . not hot. And the third, even more not-hot.

Huh, I thought. And then thought no more.

Next day, same thing. And then, instead of just staring out the window with my lukewarm mug o’ joe, I took a look at the coffee maker. Whereupon I noticed that there was no warmer.

Huh.

Makes sense, really: the carafe is supposed to keep the coffee hot. But it didn’t, not really.

No problem, I’ll just return for the one with the glass pot. At which point I began reading the Amazon comments which I apparently completely blanked on before buying the damned thing, and lo, there were the observations about not-hot joe!

Well, what about the glass pot option? Glass pot breaks. Many commenters: glass pot breaks.

Me: That’s no good.

And then the weird little shit about this model—the filter sits directly on the carafe, there’s no place to store the lid when the coffee’s a-brewin’, and then no place to store the filter when the lid’s on, the carafe realllllly likes to hang on to that last bit of coffee that I otherwise insist belongs in my mug—all of the stuff that I shrugged off in those first, delirious days of fancy-pants coffee making, all of that was no longer charming and do-able but annoying and oh-my-god-I-paid-how-much-for-this-fucker.

So, glass breaks and annoying shit? No. Next model, please!

An hour or so later, after checking this machine and that (all expensive), I landed on this one. It’s programmable, about which I care not one whit (which is good, given that commenters complain that the programming gets fritzy), but I do like the removable water tank (if only for cleaning purposes), and that I can adjust temps.

And yes, I got the red one. I’m not usually much for red—the color makes me nervous, to be honest—but I thought, Ohhh, that’s nice.

It’s still too goddamned much for a coffee maker, of course, but as this officially counts as A Splurge, I officially Don’t Care.

On the other hand, if I don’t like this one, I’ll go back to the cheap-ass options and spend the difference on a bottle of scotch.





All things weird and wonderful, 56

17 03 2017

Willie Nelson is a goddamned American treasure.

I don’t own any of his cds, and there are only a couple of singles that I could conjure sans Google/YouTube, but man, these duets with other goddamned American treasures are spectacular.

And this one, this one has Emmylou.

Can’t beat Emmylou.





Got my brother down ’cause it’s nothing to me

14 03 2017

I, along with every single other Hillary Clinton voter, am tired of hearing how we, who did not vote for the racist poo-flinging toddler for president, must sympathize, must empathize, with those who did.

Especially when that means they will be hurt by those they voted for.

Fuck that. They’re adults and citizens who bear responsibility for their votes. If they couldn’t be bothered to learn that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare were the same damned thing, if they voted for Republicans who’ve promised for years and years and years to cut back on the social safety net and cut taxes the most for those who need it the least, if they decided that it was more important to make sure Those Others got less than everyone getting more, then they should goddamned own that.

They are my fellow citizens, my equals before the law and holding the exact same rights as me. I’m not going to treat them as lesser by condescending to them, ‘poor things’.

That long rant-claimer out of the way: they are my fellow citizens, and if I believe, as I do, that we should have universal coverage and more generous welfare for all, that means for all.

I get the impulse behind such monumentally shitty ideas as blue-state secession, but, as Hamilton Nolan points out,

The impulse to bandy about the threat of secession is not rooted in concern for the vulnerable. It is a tantrum by rich people who are angry that their political power temporarily does not match their economic power. Think about how shallow a self-proclaimed liberal’s commitment to social justice has to be for them to say that the proper response to the ascent of a quasi-fascist amoral strongman is to cede him the majority of the nation’s territory and stop helping to support social programs for everyone not lucky enough to live in a coastal state.

More to the point,

It is fine to point out that Donald Trump is a charlatan and the ignorant are his prey. It is not fine to conclude that they should all then be sentenced to die due to the Republican health care “reform” plan.

Nolan goes a bit more noblesse oblige than I’m comfortable with—“The responsibility of the coastal elites is to help those people, not cast them into the wilderness”—but I do think I have a responsibility to the fellow members of my polity.

Thus, if I think a policy—say, universal health care—is a good one, then I’m not going to say “but not for you”, that is, I’m not going to abandon a better policy for a worse one just to punish people who didn’t vote the way I did. Spite’s a helluva drug, but rather too corrosive to indulge with any regularity.

That said, as someone who prefers parliamentary systems to the Madisonian one we’ve got precisely because I think it leads to more “responsible” government—because a party has few structural barriers to enacting its policies, it fully owns those policies—there is a part of me that says, Well, if this is what you want, this is what you get. In other words, if Republican government and policies is what the unemployed coal miners who rely upon the ACA voted for, then it makes sense that they should bear the consequences of their votes.

Except: our system isn’t parliamentary and I’m not a Republican. I think their policies are bad and given that our system does allow for obstruction, then Democrats should obstruct all proposals that would make life worse for Americans and fight for those which make life better.

I think Trump is terrible and his administration a disgrace and the Republicans in Congress mean sons-of-bitches, and entirely too many of their supporters applaud the terrible meanness. Still, I’ll be damned if I let my disdain for them lead me away from what I think is good.

h/t Scott Lemieux





Nothing I try to do can work the same way

9 03 2017

I don’t know how deep these cracks go.

I noted at the end of the last post that I didn’t see what was always there, but the real kicker was less or not just the lack of sight but that I thought I did see: I thought I knew what I did not.

This isn’t just about thinking that racism or sexism weren’t that bad: I knew, knew, that it was bad, but that knowledge had not, somehow, been fully absorbed—tho’ I thought it was.

I hate head/heart binaries, so I’ll go with head/body: I had all of this knowledge tucked safely into my noggin, then the election came along and cracked my skull, and it all flooded down my spine, into my guts, and buckled my knees.

My body was not prepared for the blow.

To put this in less somatic terms, my sense of self is based on some notion of awareness (which, oy, creates all kinds of problems for me. . .), so I try very hard, intellectually, to maintain an awareness of my inability to be aware. I try to keep in mind that I’ll think I know more than I do, so, y’know, best not to run too far ahead of myself. And while I sometimes fail at this I sometimes also succeed, I sometimes remember there’s more out there.

And maybe that’s where I went wrong: Because I did sometimes remember about the out-there, I forgot that there’s also something in-here, in me, which affects how I experience that knowledge. It’s not just or even primarily emotional, but more basic, ontological.

The failure to see is painful; the failure behind that failure, even more so.

I’m fond of quoting Leonard Cohen’s line from “Anthem”: There is a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in. Maybe so, maybe so. But if the light is to reach all the way down, then so, too, will the crack.

This is not the worst thing, but it is a hard thing. If I can manage it, there’ll be a reckoning ahead.





I’m not angry

6 03 2017

Oh my god, I am so fucking angry.

At least once a day, every day, I am hit anew with the incredible fact that Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States, and that over 60 million of my fellow Americans voted for this. . . man, and that a good chunk of them approve of his job performance.

And I don’t know what to do about it.

Oh, yeah, I keep reading and thinking, but I’ve fallen off in every other way because it all feels too much like performing resistance and not enough actual resistance. I’m not a lawyer, can’t help with immigration; not rich, can’t afford to stuff money into empty pockets; and while I can do things, including writing (real writing, not just this blog), everything I can do someone else can do as well.

The anger is fine, anger is useful, but anger and helplessness enrages in precisely the way that will send me spinning into myself rather than out into the world, where the anger can be put to use and the helplessness dissipated. There actually are things to do, and I’m not doing them.

~~~

This is not just inward-anger: I am also angry at those fellow Americans who cannot be bothered to do the barest amount of work to educate themselves about politics and argumentation and reason and consequences. They’ll believe insane conspiracy theories and bat away any notion that logic or evidence have any role whatsoever in politics. They’ll burn the village to save it and if the village isn’t saved, well, then, at least it’s burned.

(Do I need the sidenote that political fevers cross boundaries, that bananapants may be worn by anyone who gets her march on? Fine, noted.)

I’ve said that Carl Schmitt gets something right in highlighting the friends/enemies distinction in politics, that theorists who forget this forget something essential about politics. But politics and, especially, governance, is about more than tribalism. Politics is not just war with words.

I have to remind myself of this, to not let my anger at Trump supporters transform me from citizen to soldier. If I’m angered that they can’t be bothered to perform some of the most basic duties of citizenship, I can’t forget that they are, in fact, my fellow citizens, and that I have obligations to something more than my tribe, regardless.

~~~

The anger manifested itself as moodiness this weekend as I watched the second and third seasons of The Fall.

I watched the first season around the time it came out, then just a bit of season two. This past weekend I watched the very last episode of season 3, then went back and filled in the rest. I don’t know if The Fall is any good—I admit to zipping through scenes that focused exclusively on the killer—but I did find it compelling.

Again, I was in a moody mood—had I been more upbeat I might have thought it all so boring—and there are some blind alleys, plot-wise, but I appreciated the sharper edge on sexual politics. Gillian Anderson’s Stella Gibson makes some shit decisions and is not a hero, but she is brave, and I wish I were as unflinching as she.

I think it was that sharper edge that pulled me in. As I said, I video-skimmed the killer’s story (yet another sexual-sadist-with-a-backstory who hates women) which likely had the effect of making more apparent the meanness of the culture in which he was able to kill. At one point the assistant chief constable—and one-time lover of Stella’s—attacks her; she fends him off, then, pityingly, tends to the wounds she inflicted. Later, he insists to her that he’s “not the same” as the killer; Stella agrees, then notes, “but you did cross a line.”

I don’t know why, but that exchange shivved me. I’ve never been a victim of sexual violence and haven’t had to deal with much harassment, but that notion, of having to tend to the feelings of a man who cares nothing for my own, well. Stella is tired of it, it’s clear, and all-too-practices in  maneuvering around it.

All of that maneuvering, all of those thickets and brambles, the constant need to pick burrs out of one’s hair and ignore the scratches and kick aside the rocks and duck the swaying branches and just get on with it. I’m not Stella, not by a long shot, but I felt a rather intense sympathy for her—a sympathy which morphed into empathy—that I didn’t when I first tuned in.

~~~

My reaction to The Fall made me think of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,  which was, apparently, initially titled Men Who Hate Women. (I didn’t love the book, thought the Swedish movie adaptation better, and didn’t read or see the second and third installments.) I once thought that first title a bit of a joke, a kind of over-the-top absurdism.

I don’t anymore.

No, no, #NotAllMen. But while I recognized almost immediately how shook I was by the acceptance of racism as manifested in Trump’s victory, only now are the quakes from the misogyny moving through me. I’m mostly over the shock of the racism; I’m just beginning to come to terms with how much women, as women, are despised.

Again, I thought I knew, thought long consideration—decades-long consideration—gave me clear sight. But, again, so much I didn’t see that was always right there.





There’s a red cloud hanging over us

1 03 2017

I am once again yelling at the media.

Back in the day—waaaay back in the day—I used to regularly berate journalists, pundits, and politicians who happened across my t.v. screen or radio. I’d slap the newspaper or crunch it between my hands. I’d carry on arguments and yell rebuttals and gesticulate and swear and occasionally throw soft objects at whatever device was relaying the offending message.

I once smeared a butter pat on the t.v. in my dorm floor’s lounge (I cleaned it up).

It got to be a bit of joke among my friends, but it was never schtick to me: I’d honestly get pissed off and let loose. They might have thought it funny or stupid, but I was dead serious.

And then, at some point, I stopped.

I don’t know why. Maybe when I got rid of the t.v. and thus no longer watched the news I fell out of practice. Maybe I figured out that I was not required to listen to bullshit and thus turned off the radio/t.v. rather than get into a fight with the voices coming out of it. Maybe I just gave up.

Well, I’m back, and so is the yelling. Well, not yelling so much as muttering, and I’m not back to full-bore argumentation. No, I’m dropping such bon mots as “motherfucker” and “asshole” as I flick through my Twitter feed and suggesting “go fuck yourself” to whichever Trumpeter is weaseling on the radio.

I’m not proud of this, but I’m not quite chagrined, either. Swearing may not work to hold back the pile of radioactive horseshit Trump and his GOP enablers are shoveling at us, but it does remind me that I haven’t given up, that I shouldn’t give up.

I do think I’ll leave the butter be, however.