It’s just a game that can’t go on (pt. 4)

16 01 2018


59. I think this’ll be the last iteration of the list. It’ll end on the number it ends on.

60. I was never a super-fan of the Cranberries (although I did have 2 of their cds), but I did like them. Hearing of Dolores O’Riordan’s death has made me more wistful for the time I listened to her music than the music itself—after all, I can still listen to the music—but I’m sorry for whatever she went through prior to her death.

61. No, I don’t know if she killed herself, but, well, it’s a damned shame she died so young.

62. I don’t go out a lot, and when I do go out, I generally mind my sixes. However, once a year or so I light up the night.

63. So, yeah, got that whole lit thing checked off for 2018.

64. I don’t know if Donald Trump is either physically or cognitively impaired and I don’t care.

65. What makes him unfit is not his physique, and it’s not as if he were less self-aggrandizing when younger.

66. His policies are terrible, but there are many people with terrible policies (including slim senator Tom Cotton or Mr. Workout, Paul Ryan) who are not unfit in the same ways.

67. Cotton and Ryan have commitments—terrible, wretched commitments—beyond their own selves. These men should be opposed for their policies, but they do manifest, it pains me to say, some understanding of principle and of public service.

68. God, I think I died a little writing that. But yeah, those two are old-school shitty, terrible in an ordinary way.

69. Trump, on the other hand, untethered to any idea or person beyond himself, is so far out there that the usual partisan epithets cannot capture the wrongness of his presidency.

70. So, no, I don’t care why he’s so wrong, just that he’s so wrong, and all the damage this wrongness combined with his (and his fellow Republicans) old-school wretchedness will inflict on so many of us.

71. In the first installment of this list I noted that I liked Kirsten Gillibrand, and, yeah, I do.

72. But two things: one, the elections this November matter more immediately than who might run for president in 2020.

73. I have no predictions about the midterms.

74. I trust no predictions about the midterms.

75. Let’s see who the candidates are and the races they run and then. . . I still will make no predictions.

76. And two, I’d like to see a big ol’ stuffed Democratic primary, with candidates from all over the country, from both state and federal levels, and with all kinds of backgrounds.

77. I don’t particularly want to see Oprah run, and don’t know why she would—the presidency, remember, is an exercise in failure, and she’s someone who likes to win—but hell, if she wants to jump in, that’ll, huh, that would be interesting.

78. I don’t particularly want to see Joe Biden run. I enjoyed his “Uncle Joe” schtick as vice president and thought he was a pretty good veep for Obama, but, man, no.

79. He’s too old, his legislative policy record isn’t great, and I am not encouraged by what he says today about his treatment of Anita Hill back then.

80. I don’t particularly want to see Bernie Sanders run—too old, and, goddammit, if you want to run as a Democrat, then join the goddamned party—but he has inspired a lot of people with his give-’em-hell approach to econ issues, so having him in the race wouldn’t be the worst thing.

81. I don’t particularly want to see Elizabeth Warren run–she’s veering on too old—but, as with Sanders, her critique of business as usual in the governments—and the Dem’s—approach to the economy is sharp.

82. Again, if neither she nor Sanders were to run, I hope multiple someones with their left-econ agendas do.

83. Back to the midterms: I am deeply ambivalent about Chelsea Manning’s actions, and almost certainly would not vote for her in a primary.

84. I am in general in favor of greater transparency at all levels of government and think far too much info is over-classified and for too long a time.

85. However, I also accept, reluctantly, that some info should, in the moment, be secret.

86. I don’t know where that line is “in the moment”—I think after some reasonable period of time all info should be released to the public—and, honestly, I don’t know enough to know if or when Manning (or Snowden) crossed it. Hence my ambivalence.

87. But I do think that whistleblowers do have to be prepared to discuss this, at some length and in public, with those who can thoughtfully make an argument against disclosure.

88. Man, this is tough: my default sympathies are with the leakers. But. But sometimes leakers may be wrong to leak.

89. Anyway, I’m glad her sentence was commuted and that she seems to be doing well in life: I thought her treatment in the brig and in prison was unjust, so was glad she was released.

90. But I still think if Manning wants to serve the public, then she needs a fuller accounting of the actions which brought her to the public’s notice.

91. So, how to end this list? How about a plea for recommendations for solid histories on the Hapsburgs, on Napolean, and on the French Revolution? I have Furet’s 2-vol set on the revolution, but I always prefer multiple takes on complex events.

92. Oh, wait, let’s instead end with Henry, my great-nephew: he’s now walking and teething and is a happy, laid-back boy.

93. Chill-baby Henry, yeah, let’s end there.



He’s a real nowhere man

10 07 2017

Donald J. Trump is a man without qualities.

He has no character, no public virtues, no apparent principles. He demonstrates no consideration for this country, for the Republican party, or for his followers; they matter not in and of themselves, but only insofar as they are of use to him.

He focuses on transactions, not relationships. He cares for others only to the extent they reflect him back to himself; if he doesn’t like what he sees, he blames the mirror.

In business and politics, yes, he wants to win, but even more important is that you lose; he is the exemplar of the sore winner.

Donald J. Trump cares not one whit for governance, and in that, is the perfect complement of the contemporary Republican Party, which has made a virtue of being sore losers. This is the party which has ejected all concern for constructive policy in its transformation into an election dreadnought, with the result that all its (admittedly many) victories are hollow. Their priorities are cutting spending, cutting taxes, and punishing those who get out of line; they are interested in building nothing.

And the Republicans in Congress will do nothing to stop Trump, because he is too useful to them. Because he cares about nothing beyond himself, they can sell him anything with his name on it. The Grifter-in-Chief is himself an easy mark.

Things will get worse. Trump will lose interest or lash out or retreat ever further into the Mar-A-Lago of his mind, and nothing will matter, because this is a man utterly without qualities, and he would destroy us all to save himself.

You better watch what you say

9 05 2017

Oh, are we fucked.

Eight ways to Sunday fucked.

Fuckity-fucked-fucked fucked.

Really fucking fucked.

I shed no tears for James Comey, a self-righteous shit who was more concerned about his own reputation than with the basic norms of electoral politics, a man made “mildly nauseous” at the thought he threw the election but would do it again, a man who, just a few days ago, delivered wildly incorrect testimony to Congress regarding Huma Abedin’s emails.

No, I don’t feel at all bad for him, including for the way he found out he was out.

I am, however, alarmed at the firing of this self-righteous shit by a president whose incompetence is outweighed only by his corruption. A man with no regard whatsoever for any norms at all. A man who seeks only his own advantage, who will never stop himself, who can only be stopped.

It’s not just Trump which worries me. If we had a functional Republican party, the damage could be limited—but, then again, if we had a functional Republican party, we wouldn’t have gotten Trump in the first place.

No, the Republicans as a whole are as craven as Trump. They might be troubled or concerned or disappointed, but as long as he tosses them Obamacare repeal and tax cuts and right-wing judges, they’ll do nothing to stop him. And hell, some think this is all just fine.

I don’t know if Trump fired him to hinder the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia or if he did so out of pique—was this tactical or narcissistic?—but by the hounds of Christ, a president under investigation who fires the investigator shows nothing but contempt for the citizens of the country he runs.

And yeah, it’s worth pointing out that even Nixon, architect of the Saturday night massacre, even Nixon didn’t fire the FBI director.


Shortly after Trump’s election, Dan Savage spearheaded a campaign to “impeach the motherfucker already,” with all proceeds split amongst Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and the International Refugee Assistance Project.

I thought, Oh, huh, okay. I mean, I wasn’t opposed to it—he’s already raised over 100 grand and cut a series of checks—but I also don’t think you should impeach someone just because you hate them. It’s not enough to accept electoral outcomes when you win; you also have to accept them when you lost. Democratic norms matter.

It is precisely because I believe democratic norms matter, however, that tonight I bought some ITMFA swag. I believe Donald Trump and his minions are undermining our democracy, and threaten us not just politically, but institutionally, constitutionally.

Before, I was troubled, concerned, disappointed; now, I am alarmed.

Donald J. Trump is a menace to society.

Rollin’, rollin’ rollin’

18 04 2017

Grading, grading, grading. . . .

Okay, that’s not the only reason for my silence. I’ve been thinking about a particular post and what I wanted to say and it all just got bigger and more complicated and more. . . ugh.

I don’t really need to write it—others are writing on the same topic—and, honestly, I’m probably not in the best frame of mind to write it.

It’s about the election, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders.

(You get the “ugh” now, don’t you?)

I mean, I might at some point look particularly at the Trump campaign and what it did to burn through the Republican field and then to beat Clinton, but a big “Here’s the thing. . .” piece? Nope.

Why aren’t I in the best frame of mind to write it? Because I get really fucking angry even thinking about it, and anger and clarity do not mix well in my noggin.

It’s not even a reasonable ire at, say, the FBI and James Comey, or at the media—well, okay, a little bit at the media—but at the Berniesta dead-enders.

These folks are in no way the majority of Sanders supporters and, frankly, deserve no more attention that Jill Stein stans. But, goddammit, I keep running into them on Twitter and, yes, this means I should lay off Twitter but I kinda dig Twitter even though it drives me crazy so I won’t, and I keep getting pissed off.

God, even thinking about why these people piss me off is pissing me off.

Okay, lemme at this sideways. The particularities of the pissiness comes down to two, interrelated phenomena: the sanctification of the senator, and the bullshit illogic that the the only reason he lost to Clinton is that she cheated and the proof of this cheating is that Bernie lost.

That latter bit is bad sportsmanship, and I fuckin’ hate bad sportsmanship.

Yes, matches may be fixed and there is cheating in politics, but you have to bring, y’know, EVIDENCE of such cheating beyond an unhappy outcome.

And no, a party saying “you have to join the party in order to influence the party” is not evidence of cheating, nor is it unfair that long-standing Democratic politicians and activists would prefer, y’know, the long-standing Democratic candidate to the temporary-Democratic candidate.

Anyway, the bigger problem might be the former one: that Sanders is perfect and deserves no criticism, ever. Again, I don’t see this among most Sanders fans, but treating Sanders, or any politician, like some kind of savior is truly, madly, deeply wrong.

He’s a good and decent man, a good and decent senator who continues to pound on an issue which requires constant pounding: economic inequality. Good. Go Bernie!

But there are other issues, including ones related to that inequality, about which he doesn’t have much to say. That’s fine, really: no one can cover everything, and there are others who can air out those things. To mention this to Sanders-zombies, however, is to imply that He is Not Perfect, which is quite literally unbelievable. If Sanders must be right at all times and in all things, then any who disagrees or criticizes must be a heretic.

This is just shit politics. Like your politician. Love your politician. Volunteer for your politician—by all means. I really liked Obama, greatly admire him, and don’t think I will see a president as good as him in my lifetime. I think he is an exceptional man who failed well at an impossible job.

But there were things I didn’t like about his policies and questions I have about some of his decisions, and I am grateful for those good critics of his immigration, national security, and transparency policies in particular. And I think that some of the criticism he received regarding our carceral state helped to move him—alas, perhaps too late—toward some reform of our prison-industrial complex.

He was my president, and I was glad he was president. He wasn’t perfect, and didn’t expect to be treated as such, either.

I’m guessing that Bernie Sanders knows he’s not perfect and accepts that even those who quite like him might nonetheless wag a finger or two at him. Now, if only his worshipers could accept this as well.

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.

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

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.