Circus Maximus MMXVI: I break down in the middle and lose my thread

10 11 2016

I forced myself to listen to the radio yesterday morning, but last night I couldn’t do it, and today, still, radio silence.

Twitter, however, is still a go, with so, so many people saying THIS ONE THING is why Clinton lost/Trump won.

This gent, however, digs into the data to warn us “waitaminute”:

Read through the entire thread, as he really digs into and compares data across a number of states.

As he helpfully notes, there is no, one reason, and no reason that holds across all states. The “US electorate”, after all, is actually 50 states electorates, plus the D of C. What mattered a lot in one state may have mattered very little in another. Mistakes might either have tipped that electorate or were of no consequence whatsoever.

I don’t know that anyone has AN ANSWER to what happened on Tuesday, and if they do, I won’t believe ’em. I do think, however, that we can identify the possible pieces (or threads, if you will), that resulted in the overall electoral map, recognizing that the “thickness” of those threads varied across the states.

The parties: Republicans generally voted for Republicans and Democrats generally voted for Democrats, with some (varying) amount of crossover.  That’s been the general trend in American politics and there’s little evidence of deviation from it. The roles of the RNC and DNC were secondary to those of the campaigns.

The candidates: Each was flawed, each in his or her own way. Trump deviated a great deal from the standard Republican candidate, while Clinton was pretty much a standard Democratic one. What horrified Clinton supporters about Trump—his lack of political experience and unstable temperament—delighted his supporters: he was an outsider who spoke his mind. Similarly, his supporters derided her as a corrupt (emails! Clinton Foundation!) insider, with her experience a strike against her.

Some have argued that Sanders would have performed better than Clinton, but that’s awfully hard to conclude. He might have done better with some white voters, but not as well with black voters. That Feingold lost to the demonstrably terrible Johnson in Wisconsin leads me to doubt the “Sanders coulda. . !” advocates, but it’s also possible that Sanders at the top of the ticket might have helped Feingold. I doubt Sanders could have outperformed Clinton, but it is possible.

The campaigns: Given the candidates, did campaign strategies make sense? Arguably, Clinton erred in not spending time in Wisconsin, a decision driven in no small part by polling. Was there too much reliance on what turned out to be flawed state polls? What about ad strategy: too much on Trump’s flawed character and not enough on empathy for those attracted to him? Not enough reachout generally?

Turnout: This is of a piece with the campaigns itself. I had thought infrastructure and organization mattered a great deal in turning voters out, but Trump was able to do so with apparently relatively little staff. Does this mean that organization doesn’t matter generally, or that he was an outlier, able to pull people in via other means?

Racism/white nationalism: One of those possible other means, of course, was the implicit and explicit appeal to white nationalist grievances.

On the one hand, this is obvious, insofar as his support was overwhelming white, while Clinton’s was more ethnically mixed. On the other hand, there are also certainly plenty of Trump supporters who while tolerating the racism also seek to distance themselves from it, as well as to downplay the racism of the candidate himself. Those who revel in racism and those who tolerate racism collaborated to elect Trump, which matters a whole lot; but that they are also distinct may (or may not) matter as well.

(Add: class) As for those who suggest (often while touting Sanders) Clinton should have paid more attention to the “white working class”, well, if the key motivator is “whiteness” as opposed to “class”, then what? Is it possible to peel away an attachment to whiteness such that white workers consider themselves as part of a larger, multi-ethnic working class? Finally, initial data (subject to change) that I’ve seen suggests that Trump pulled the bulk of his support from the solidly-middle and upper-middle classes.

Actually, class deserves more than a parenthetical aside, not just for this campaign but for those going forward. It’s just that disentangling it from race is damnably difficult.

Sexism: How  and how much did it matter, one way or the other, that Clinton is, yes indeedy, a woman? How did that affect campaign strategy and tactics? How did it effect how the press covered her? How did it affect willingness to vote for her?

Voter suppression: Some states (WI) had tough voter i.d. laws such that some citizens couldn’t register to vote; some states (WI, NC) reduced the number of polling places and polling hours or relocated polls to locations less convenient for Democrats. Did this effect turnout? If turnout was down, as it was across many locales, could this be tied to suppression or simply to lack of enthusiasm?

The press: There have been a number of analyses of the amount of media attention given to policy versus everything else (emails emails emails), as well as a sense that few took Trump seriously enough to consider what his administration would actually look like.

They complained about her lack of press conferences, but said little about his similar lack. They (media organizations, not necessarily individual reporters) consented to having their reporters penned up. And Trump rather easily slid away from demands for his tax returns. Was she covered too much, too unfairly? Was he not covered enough? How did the coverage affect voting behavior, if at all?

The role of the press is highly contentious and will likely see the greatest play, not least because one of the media’s favorite activities is to talk about itself.

James Comey’s letter: This might be a sub-variable of the press, given how the press shouted about SHADOW OVER CLINTON WON’T GO AWAY. Still, should be considered on its own terms, especially given apparent widespread agency animus to Clinton. And, again, don’t know if or how it mattered at all.

Wikileaks: Again, another sub- of the press. Did the press give adequate context to the emails, especially in terms of ordinary operating procedures to campaigns? What of any (alleged) connections between Wikileaks and Russia? And even if there is a connection, does it matter?

Polls: They got it wrong. Why?

Voters: This would seem to be an output rather than input variable, but insofar as candidates will configure their campaigns around what they think will appeal to those voters, how voters respond to those campaigns will in turn affect the campaigns. What motivates and de-motivates voters? What do voters know, and what do they know that just ain’t so? What is the mix of rationality and irrationality among the voting public? And what of those who’ve voted before, but didn’t this time?

None of these variables is independent, of course. Some of these pieces reinforce and magnify others, while some minimize; and the relative size and  position of those pieces vary from state to state.

And this is crucial: Clinton won the popular vote (final tally t.d. unknown) and lost the Electoral College vote, so any wholly national focus will be wrong. What worked for her in one state could have worked against her in another, but given that the majority of voters did, in fact, vote for her suggests that she didn’t do everything wrong.

Finally, I’m trying to see a way to put together a rational understanding of what happened, but, as Carl Schmitt reminded-warned us, there’s a great deal to politics which is decidedly irrational.

Which means, of course, that you could do everything “right” and still lose.





The heaviness, oh the heaviness

22 04 2014

Kathy’s death has really thrown me to the ground.

Chris‘s death was a surprise; Tracey‘s wasn’t.

Kathy’s was somewhere in-between: I’d known her cancer had recurred, but somehow didn’t think through what that meant. And because I didn’t think, I didn’t make the effort to contact her, to let her tell me how she was, to tell her how very much she meant to me.

With Chris and Tracey, things felt “even” somehow. Chris and I had been in at most indirect contact for years—with which we were apparently both okay—and C. and I did what we could to be with Tracey as she rounded that last curve.

They died too soon, but the loss is the loss of them, not also of unsaid words and unspent moments.

Not so with Kathy. I feel like I let her down, that there was something I could have given her that I withheld.

I don’t want to blow this out and make it sound as if  ‘but for me, she died alone’: Her family was with her at the end, and I’d bet her many friends and colleagues were with her before then. No, Kathy would not have been alone.

And yet, I would have liked to have given back to her at least some of what she gave to me. She deserved that.





Listen to the music: the sound of silence

2 01 2014

The weekend after the burgarly, still trying to get over the fact I’d been burglarized, I heard Chet Baker on CBC Radio.

My Funny Valentine—that slow narcotic tenor, simple, soft. A November day in Montréal  and I was bereft.

I don’t think I cried about what was taken—I was too pissed—but I was very sad about the Chet Baker.

Of course, the cd could be replaced, and was. I got to know the Plateau and Mont Royal neighborhoods very well in hitting all of the cd shops, and became friendly with one proprietor on St Denis—got some great stuff on his recommendation.

In that sense, the burglary wasn’t all bad: it got me prowling about some near-east side neighborhoods, made me comfortable with the Métro, and I ended up picking up a fair number of Canadian artists. I’d still rather never have been burgled, but there were pleasures in the recovery.

I do miss some cds which, it turned out, were irreplaceable. Some were local discs I’d picked up in Minneapolis, but one loss in particular pains me: Chris Lowe.

No, not that Chris Lowe, which is the problem.

My Chris Lowe was (is?) a singer/songwriter from New York who played and sang at my friend M.’s wedding. He gave out copies of his cd at the wedding (the artwork for which won some kind of marketing award), and I listened to the shit l out of that cd.

It was a bit uneven—it sounded as if the songlist stretched back a ways—but he had a nice way with a lyric, and I’m a sucker for sandpaper voice. It was lovely and lilting and sad.

I did make a tape of it, and I do still have a boombox that plays tapes, but I want that damned cd—which I can’t find, because my Chris Lowe shares a name with another musical Chris Lowe,  super-famous Chris Lowe.

Well, maybe some night I’ll sit down with a bottle of something and dig my way through the cyberverse until I bump into that eponymous cd and take it home with me, where it belongs.

~~~

Again, this list is a bit out of sorts since I started it before the great cd mash-up, but as I’d only posted once previously on lost cds, it’s only a little disordered.

7. Afro Blue Band, Impressions
8. Chet Baker, in a soulful mood
9. Tony Bennett, Perfectly Frank
10. Bettie Serveet, Palomine
11. Andy Bey, Ballads Blues & Bey
12. Mary J. Blige, Mary
13. Blue Up? Cake and Eat It
14. BoDeans, home
15. David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. . .
16. Billy Bragg, Back to Basics
17. billy Bragg & Wilco, Mermaid Avenue
18. T Bone Burnett, The Criminal Under My Own Hat
19. Cannonball Adderly Sextet, In New York
20. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, The Good Son
21. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Henry’s Dream
22. Exene Cervenka, Running Sacred
23. Bill Charlap, All through the night
24. Barbara Cohen & Little Lizard, Black Lake
25. Leonard Cohen, The Future
26. John Coltrane, The Art of John Coltrane
27. John Coltrane, Live at the Village Vanguard
28. Elvis Costello, Brutal Youth
29. Elvis Costello & The Brodsky Quartet, The Juliet Letters
30. Mary Coughlan, Live in Galway
31. Cranberries, No Need to Argue
32. Celia Cruz, Queen of the Rumba
33. D’Angelo, Brown Sugar
34. Miles Davis, Birth of Cool
35. Miles Davis, Bitches Brew
36. Dead Can Dance, Into the Labyrinth
37. digable planets, reachin’ (a new refutation of time and space)
38. Dire Straits, Making Movies
39. John Doe, Meet John Doe





It’s another round in the losing fight, pt III

6 09 2013

Rounding out the reconsideration:

3. It’s not unfair when you lose. Yes, if the game is rigged or there are payoffs or some other kinds of undermining going on, that’s unfair. But loss in and of itself is not unfair, in sport, argument, or politics.

And loss in these areas is just loss, rarely anything more. It’s not evidence of conspiracy, of the evil of your fellow humans, or of the breakdown of civilization. It is not The End.

“Win some, lose some” (or, for the more ursine-inclined among you, “sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you”) is the point, here.

4. It’s only unfair to use your rules against you if the rules were unfair to begin with. Kinda a mouthful, I know, but it pretty much gets to the point: If you’re fine with the rules when you were winning, it’s gonna be tough to garner sympathy for THE INJUSTICE OF IT ALL!!! when you’re losing.

Relatedly, if it were fine for you to write the rules when you were in charge, then it’s just sour grapes to bitch about other people writing rules when they’re in charge.

5. That you lost or are unpopular doesn’t mean you’re oppressed. If you live in a political culture of strict majority-rule losing can lead to repression, but neither the politics nor the culture of the US is strict majority-rule. Almost no political win or loss is final (cf. “win-some-bears-get-you”), and even in those cases where the culture seems to have shifted decisively, as with same-sex marriage, those on the losing side can continue to fight as long as they have fight in them.

It’s true that those who oppose civil recognition and the normalization of same-sex relationships will likely have their arguments dismissed by those who already think such relationships normal, and may be called bigots and homophobes. Those opponents might feel they can no longer bring up their views at work or in public, and worry that there may come a time when they have to choose between their principles and their jobs or a friendship. Going along to get along can, in fact, feel pretty damned oppressive.

But here’s where #4 comes in. If it’s terrible that you no longer feel you can voice opinions which you once offered freely, was it terrible that those who disagreed with you felt they couldn’t voice their opinions? And if it’s terrible now, why wasn’t it terrible then? And why isn’t it terrible for other unpopular opinions? And, to sharpen the point, if you lose your job or a promotion because you hold political views contrary to those of your boss, is the problem the contrary views or an at-will employment system which does not protect political minorities?

I do have some sympathy for those who feel they can’t speak up, precisely because there have been times I’ve kept my mouth shut rather than make trouble. You don’t want to be That chick or have to explain why you would even consider holding the views you do over and over and over again. If you are out of step, it is easy to feel stepped on.

So, yes, JS Mill had a point about social conformity: it often is oppressive! To live among others is to conform, which means there’s no way to escape such oppression.

But that there are consequences for nonconformity doesn’t always mean one must conform: If you can, in fact, live with those consequences, then perhaps you are not oppressed—or, at least, not helplessly oppressed.

I, for example, don’t care much about money, and I live in a culture—and in a city, especially!—which prizes financial gain. That I haven’t sought to maximize my wealth marks me as a kind of loser, and when I visit family and friends who own houses and don’t make shelves out of wine boxes I think Jeez, I am doing life wrong.

Still, most of the time I am able to live with the consequences of my choices and priorities. It’s a pain in the ass that I have to think about money as much as I do, and think that if I made just a wee bit more I could happily minimize my cash anxieties, but I’ve managed to cobble together a life of which I at least have a shot of making sense.

Am I oppressed? I don’t think so. Out of step in some important ways, yes, but as long as I am able to step out, to live my own absurd life, well, I can live with that.

~~~

And yes, there will be a caveats-to-the-caveats post.





Don’t want to be a richer man, pt II

29 08 2013

Back to unpacking that hastily stuffed post:

2. Losing status is not an injustice. It’s not fun, and it may feel unfair, but the loss of status in and of itself is not unfair.

Status can be earned or unearned, related to deeds, to relationships, to kinship, something taken or something granted. It almost certainly is culturally dependent—what earns you status in one culture may earn you contempt in another—and, depending upon that culture, may be related to justice or not. In cultures in which people think they deserve their status, they are likely more likely to believe that changes in the culture which lead to changes (loss) in status are unfair.

This could be seen as the aims of the civil rights movement in the US were absorbed into society and instantiated in governmental and corporate policy. As a result, those who had formerly only to compete with one another for position were instead forced to compete with those who had been kept out of the game.

To switch up the metaphor: white men could no longer count on always being first in line for jobs, promotions, college admissions, and sundry other social goods. They lost status.

That they did so, however, was not unjust. American society was formed out of the ungainly mess of egalitarianism, white supremacy, patriarchy, justice, toleration, conformity, segregation, integration, settlement, escapism, hard work, and luck, and as the polity shifted away from over supremacism in terms of both race and sex, the sense of “who was best (for the position, say)” shifted.

The liberationist in me would say Not damned nearly enough, but I do recognize the shift has occurred, and in a direction which has benefitted me and, I would argue, society as a whole: I think it is better to live in a society in which the placement of one’s reproductive organs  does not determine one’s prospects in that society, or where  people”will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.”

(I know that’s an overused phrase and not even his best one, but on the 50th anniversary of the speech, it seemed apropos.)

Now, I admit that I’m overloading “status” somewhat, leaving “justice” untouched. No, I don’t think justice exists outside of culture, but one of the enduring fictions of American culture is that, supremacism notwithstanding, justice bears some relationship to deeds, and that everyone deserves a fair shot at a decent life. The definition of justice didn’t change so much as did the “everyone” who deserved the fair shot: the pool of who were to be considered in matters of justice got a whole lot more crowded.

With the expansion of “everyone” to include almost every citizen, the status which had accrued to white male citizens simply for being white male citizens was necessarily lessened—not because status was taken away in an absolute sense, but, because it was granted to so many other people, meant relatively less.

To bring in yet another analogy: it’s not that white men got kicked out of the pool but that they had to share it. And yeah, if you’re used to having the joint to yourself, having to share it is a loss.

But it is not unjust.





Listen to the music: No I don’t want to hear it

13 11 2012

Four hundred and sixty.

That’s how many cds were stolen, four hundred and sixty: 407 pop, et. al., and 53 classical. Of those, I replaced 276 of the stolen pop, and 22 of the stolen classical—which means of course, that 131 pop and 31 classical were not replaced.

I’m no longer exactly sure how my cds are arranged—since they’re now all in my wine-box bureau, i.e., hidden away, I’m much less likely to rearrange them by various genres—but it looks as if my jazz, classical, traditional, and perhaps soundtracks are separated from the pop, blues, and electronica stuff.

So, had my collection not been pilfered, I would have already listened to:

1. Dot Allison, Afterglow
2. American Music Club, Mercury
3. Laurie Anderson, Mister Heartbreak
4. Laurie Anderson, Home of the Brave
5. Laurie Anderson, The Ugly One With the Jewels and Other Stories
6. The Band, The Last Waltz

I would have been able to replace all of these from the used bins while I was living in Montreal, but for whatever reason, I chose not to.

Right after the burglary, I was mad to rebuild my collection exactly as it had been, title for title, whether or not I had listened to or even much liked the lost cd. After awhile, however, I relaxed, and while browsing for the gone-away cds would also be on the lookout for new (used) discs that I wanted more than the old-used discs.

I do remember that I wasn’t terribly impressed with Laurie Anderson’s Mister Heartbreak, and while I liked Dot Allison’s cd, there were always others that, on my scavenges, I found more interesting. I can always get that later, I thought.

Yes, I did have renter’s insurance, but there was a limit as to the dollar amount of the cds they’d replace. I bought extra coverage, but it still wasn’t enough to pay for everything. (I’m not complaining: my insurer dealt with me quickly and didn’t contest any of my claims.) Anyway, that my coverage was limited meant that I couldn’t just stroll to the HMV and load up on [outrageously high-priced] new cds.

That was fine, actually, as I preferred with both cds and books* to prowl the used shops. I’m not much of either a shopper or a hunter, but my atavistic impulses emerge at the challenge of trying to find what I want in the bins and on the shelves.

Then there is the added thrill of coming across something that just looks. . . intriguing, and taking it home for the hell of it. Sure, that can happen at a new-goods store, but it seems that kismet is more likely at a hodgepodge kinda joint.

So while I didn’t  replace 162 of the cds (although there are a few I couldn’t find and still pine for), I did end up finding room for hundreds of cds I might not have otherwise.

On the whole, I’d rather I hadn’t been burglarized, but with the music, at least, the loss led to something more.

*Oddly, not one of my books was stolen. I wonder why that was. . . .





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: It was sad, so sad

9 11 2012

I am so enjoying the wailing and gnashing of teeth among celebrity conservatives.

Oh no, we lost America! America died! The makers have taken over! Alas and alack, we are ruined! No marriage, no babies, just guns and ammo and hunkering down for the coming doom!

Et cetera.

TNC has a post up on the denialism of such reactions, and many, many others have corralled the increasing number of howls into lists of lamentations and these are all so. . . incredibly. . . amusing.

I have zero sympathy for the pundits and professional liars, so my joy in their sorrow is pure.

Regular folks, though, the people who make no money spinning bullshit into gold but who honestly believe that Republicans have the best ideas and that the country will now be worse off under Obama than it would have been under Romney, I do sympathize with them.

I’ve been there. It hurts. It hurt to care and believe and work and lose. It always hurts to lose.

There’s a tumblr called White People Mourning Romney that, yeah, I clicked through, but I felt bad for doing so (and am thus not linking to it). There are a few screenshots of the Fox-Cons, but most of the pictures were of ordinary Republicans looking sad.

I didn’t enjoy that. People shouldn’t be mocked for caring about their country or hooted at because they wanted to win and are crying because they lost.

Politics is about a lot of things, but at the center of it is love. Karl Rove might believe the crap he spews, but he’s also paid to spew; the volunteers and voters just believe, and they do the work because they love their country and believe that their ideas and politicians are the best for the country.

Yes, some of them hate—politics is also about hate—and motives regardless are almost always mixed. But let’s give the ordinary losers the dignity of their love and hope and dreams.

As for the rest of them—Krauthammer and O’Reilly and Coulter and Lopez and that whole lot—-do not let pity interfere with your enjoyment of their dismay.