It seems like everybody got the blues

27 08 2018

This is not an obit.

Yes, Aretha Franklin has died. And John McCain. And Neil Simon. But I don’t have much to say about any of them.

I mean, Aretha’s “Respect” is a song for the ages, one I can’t begin to listen to without finishing it, and what she could do to and with so many songs? Yeah.

But even as I had a cd or two of hers, I wasn’t a devotee, and don’t know that there’s much I could say.

I’ve enjoyed Simon’s work, but: ditto.

And John McCain? His reputation was on the whole better than he was, but that for bravery was entirely earned. And as terrible as so many of his policy preferences were, he seemed actually to give a shit about the common good.

A low bar, yes, but one too few are able to clear these days.

Anyway, I comment on these deaths mainly to comment on the commentary on their deaths. It wasn’t enough for Aretha to have been a musical genius: every song she sang had to be better than any other version! And John McCain? He was a hero! He was a warmonger! How dare you say anything good! How dare you say anything bad!

How dare you say anything good! How dare you say anything bad!

That’s how it is, I guess, policing every reaction to every event. It’s probably always been like this—gotta keep folks in line—but with social media it’s not just fights but fights about the fights and fights about the fights about the fights. I like a decent recursion, but this is a bit much, even for me.

I’ve got my own lines, of course, but as I’ve said before, I’m not much for boundary policing. There’s some worth to it, I guess, especially on public matters, but I don’t much see the point of cracking on people for their personal reactions. I read a really good in-depth negative obit of McCain—one which probably comes as close to any to capturing my own sense of the man—but I’m not bothered by those which lean positive. There’s no betrayal of principle in recognizing he lived a long time, did a lot of things, many (from my perspective) negative, but a few positive.

Besides, what the hell kind of principle is it to deny humanness to an adversary? He may not always have been the best of us, but I think he tried. I think it’s fine to land on either side of that; just don’t deny the other side.


That said, I’ll be honest: I probably won’t react well if, when the current president dies, someone who ought to know better says something good about him.

So, if I do anything other than roll my eyes at those folks, well, feel free to call me out. This is one line I would defend.



But you’re a piece of junk

14 10 2013

“We can’t get lower in the polls. We’re down to blood relatives and paid staffers now,” said Senator John McCain on CBS’s Face the Nation. “But we’ve got to turn this around, and the Democrats had better help.”

If by “turn this around” the senator from Arizona means, pass a budget and raise the debt ceiling, by all means.

But if “turn this around” refers to the sub-basement esteem in which the public holds the GOP, then no, no, the Dems had better not help—except, perhaps, to send down more shovels.


Quote via Robert Costa, National Review

A message for John McCain

18 12 2010


“I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage,” Mr. McCain said. “And we could possibly and probably, as the commandant of the Marine Corps said, and as I have been told by literally thousands of members of the military, harm the battle effectiveness vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military.”

Go fuck yourself.

Waiting for the great leap forward

29 10 2008

So I heard there’s going to be an election next week. Something about the presidency. . . ?

Yeah, I’ve been markedly blase this election season, and not just because ‘election season’ started shortly after the dinosaurs were killed off. I don’t like Bush, have little respect for the Democratic Party (tho’ much respect for individual Dems—go Russ Feingold!), and tend to think that the machinations in the nation’s Capitol are more likely to grind up citizens than ennoble them.

(Ennoble. I know, too much to ask for, but not too much to demand.)

Anyway, long before the major parties settled on their candidates, I knew I’d vote Dem. I’m not a Democrat—it’s a capitalist party, and I’m not a capitalist—but I often move to the right to vote for them. I don’t expect much (anymore), but thought Hey, if the Dem would close Guantanamo and stop torture, the vote would be worth it. That ought not be too much to ask for, and if I get more (sane HHS policies regarding women’s health and contraception, say, or an understanding that diplomacy is required in dealing with one’s adversaries, not friends), all the better.

So I registered with the nice woman in a Bed-Stuy park and asked for time off from Job1 to make sure I’d have time to get to the polls and listened to the conventions and speeches and urged my students to register and vote and listen to the conventions and speeches and listened to political coverage on WNYC  and read and read and read and. . . thought, Whatever.

It’s not that I’m blase about a McCain presidency. Given his apparent lack of interest in domestic policy, I feared that he would appoint ideologues to key positions in HHS, Education, and Justice as a bone to the rightists in his party (this was before the selection of Palin as his running mate). And while I agree with some conservatives that political questions ought to be dealt with politically and not juridically, I’m not looking forward to the judges a President McCain would appoint. Oh, and that whole Iraq thing. . . .

Still, as a pinko in the US, I’m used to the political despair of life under running capitalist dogs! in opposition. It’s not that hard, really. Try not to be OUTRAGED! every time someone says or does something with which you disagree—too exhausting. Don’t think that every person on the other side of you is fatally compromised as a human being—you will end up drinking alone. Oh, and have a drink every now and then, with friends to bitch, and with friends to spar. Yell, if you need to, then eat pie.

This is the one saving grace of the remoteness of federal politics from the ordinary lives of citizens: losing isn’t that much different from winning. Things may be slightly better or slightly worse, but you’ll get to bitch about it, regardless.

More to the point, you’ll get to bitch about it and forget it. That matters, more than any unhappy words (traitor! hater!) that some fool hurls at you. It used to. . . well, it still does irritate me when people foam that a Bush (or Obama) presidency means the end of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Whatever the flaws of the US, this ain’t Russia or Saudi Arabia or Myanmar: when you levee vos skinny fists comme antennae to heaven!, you will most likely be ignored, not imprisoned, disappeared, or murdered.

This is not to say that as long as we’re not being terrorized by our government all is well. Even as beaten-down a politics as exists in the US gives us some space in which to think and to act. Although I’ve moved from wide-eyed activist to squint-eyed theorist, I’m not willing to write off the possibility of something. . . good coming out of elections.

And thus my reconsideration of the coming election. I retain my squint, but I have to admit there is a humming within me at the prospect of an Obama presidency: Maybe we will get something more! Finally, an African-American president! Oh, the possibilities. . . !

It is a faint hum, but it’s there. Oh, the possibilities.

Why I sing the blues

22 10 2008

No, not another disquisition on depression—although the real topic, presidential politics, is depressing enough.

Multiple posts on toleration, respect, religion, agnosticism, but only a few quick hits on politics.

What the hell? Aren’t I a political theorist, after all? Aren’t I the one who, in 2004, moved from a city I loved in another country back to the US in order to participate in politics? Who dragged her ass out of bed on Saturday mornings to ride a bus to another state for the privilege of knocking on doors and asking those granite folk who they were likely to vote for? Who had her dad drive her to NOW meetings (until she got her license)? Who remembers raising her first-grade fingers in a ‘peace’ sign every time the school bus driver/town mayor halted at the railroad tracks?

Jesus Christ, politics has been in my conscious life as long almost as long as I’ve been conscious of life. And yet my response to this campaign has been: Eh.

Yeah, yeah, I’ll vote, and I really am looking forward to an African-American family in the White House, but, honestly, I simply think Obama will do less damage (to this country, the rest of the world) than would McCain.

I’m not a moderate (I’m a ‘hard-core leftist: run for your lives!’), and my vote for Obama is not reluctant. I just doubt it’s going to matter all that much.

Sigh. It will matter, on some crucial issues: judges, executive power, Guantanamo, torture, access to contraception, the Lily Ledbetter pay act, diplomacy. These are not small things, so in saying I doubt how much the presidential race matters, I’m not saying it doesn’t matter at all. It does. That’s why I’m voting.

And Iraq? I truly don’t know how much leeway the next president will have to do anything momentous. From what I’ve been reading, the Iraqis want the US out sooner rather than later (tho’, preferably, not right this instant), and while the surge has brought a kind of peace to many areas of the country, it’s pretty clear that the force levels required for the surge are unsustainable. I’m guessin’ that whoever the next president is, the next stage of Operation Iraqi Freedom is ‘Iraqi-zation’.

Afghanistan? Unclear that either has a workable plan. That said, Obama seems far more practical (i.e., willing to adapt to exigencies) than does McCain.

So the vote matters: who do you want as captain of the ship?

And this is where I sigh and say, Eh, and sigh again, a bit more angrily, and say I don’t want a fucking captain and I’m not a goddamned ship’s passenger. I’m a citizen in a democratic republic who’d like there to be at least some connection between the peoples’ representatives and the people, who’d like to be addressed as something other than ‘constituent’ or ‘taxpayer’ or ‘prospective voter’. I don’t want to be wooed or massaged or have my pain felt up by some suck-up in a suit who’s going to tottle off to Washington or Albany (or City Hall) and do all that he or she can to cut the citizenry out of politics.

No, I’m not talking about enacting or blocking favored social programs (tho’ I would dearly love universal health care), but about legislators doing what they can to deepen democracy, to involve us further in our own governance. I’m thinkin’: New Deal. Or, more recently, efforts by people in the gulf region post-Katrina to rebuild their cities, physically and politically (and getting at best little help and at worst obstruction from govt officials). This isn’t just about self-help, but about acting in concert with one’s fellows and fully conscious of the political implications of such solidarity.

There’s so much more to say, and I think this really does matter, deeply and broadly, to us as citizens. To presidents, senators, representatives, governors, mayors, and city council members: we’re not you’re goddamned pets. Quit throwing us bones.

And to the rest of us: quit begging for those bones. Stand up already.


Here’s the link to the lyrics to BB King’s ‘Why I sing the blues’

Or better yet, get Aretha Franklin’s ‘Spirit in the Dark’ cd and listen to her version. Fantastic.

They’re not stopping!

15 10 2008

Forty more minutes of this.

Each minute a nail in my melting head. You’d think that [melting] would make the pounding [of nails] hurt less.

And yet it doesn’t.

Make them stop. Please. Make them stop.

15 10 2008

Oh my god. The debate.

The horror! The horror!

Be glad I’m stifling the urge to blog line by line. This is less out of self-discipline than self-preservation: I fear my head would deliquesce.

I will forbear, and listen. But must. stop. writing. . . now.

Enough already!

13 09 2008

Just who the hell is running for president, anyway?

Sarah P. has done what is necessary for the GOPper ticket—sent an electric current into all those social conservatives who had taken McCain’s maverick reputation seriously and thus considered staying home E-Day—so why is anyone not in McCain’s camp continuing to take her seriously?

Yeah yeah yeah, he’s old, she’s new, she could be the NEXT LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD (world world world. . .), but criminy, she’s a VP candidate. The only way she could be the NEXT LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD (world world world. . .) is if the man slotted into her party’s presidential candidacy is elected.

So why aren’t we talking about him?

And for the Obama/Biden camp, here’s the 11 millionth piece of unsolicited advice for you: ignore her. Stop talking about her RIGHTNOW. And in the VP debate, treat her as the adjunct to the McCain that she is: slice through her to stick your knives in him. That’s it.

McCain’s the one standing in the way of an Obama presidency, remember?