You can be active with the activists

19 03 2018

Cynthia Nixon is running for governor of New York. Huh.

That’s a real, not snarky, “huh”: I don’t like Cuomo and thus am interested in any Dem who’d run against him, and don’t know enough about Nixon to have an opinion one way or another.

Yeah, I generally think it’s a good idea for candidates to have political experience at the lower levels before running for higher levels, but, unlike the presidency, I don’t think that’s an absolute requirement for other offices. And she has been politically active for years, which does count.

As for policies: she’s in favor of fixing the MTA, (which, jesus, someone should be) and opposed to the Independent Democratic Conference (which gave the Republicans control of the Senate), and she highlights the screaming inequality in our state—so, y’know, righteous on the basics.

It’ll take more than basics, of course, not least because other candidates (if there are other candidates) will also be righteous: she’ll need to lay out a framework for how she plans to govern, that is, what skills she’ll bring to move her agenda through the fetid mire that is New York state politics.

I don’t know if she has those skills, but she’s got time to show what she could do; if I’m not yet convinced, I am convince-able.

After all, she does start with one significant advantage:

 

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

16 01 2018

Cont.

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.

Fin.





It’s just a fire thrown across the wall (pt 1)

1 01 2018

Scattered year, scattered thoughts; let’s see how well I gather them up this new year.

1. I don’t really buy or even listen to much music anymore (don’t know why, don’t, . . . , just don’t know why), but this, from Erik Loomis’s best listens of 2017, is somethin’ else:

2. Got restless, reorganized my work space by turning my desk and assembling some disassembled shelves. Didn’t like it, so disassembled the assembled disassembled shelves, scooted around some other things, and now it’s fine.

3. I like to say I’m not much for magical thinking, but I just know that this reorganization will increase my writing by 1006.34 percent.

4. I don’t know what I can do for the 2018 elections but I have to do something.

5. I have combined the words “president” and “Trump” exactly twice: both times in a classroom when I had just referred to “President Obama” and/or “President Bush” and/or “President Clinton” and thus felt there was no way I could avoid saying, you know.

6. I will usually just refer to him as “Trump” or “the president” or, more rarely, Mr. Trump. I don’t want to deny reality but I’ll be goddamned if I grant him. . . anything.

7. Still, I don’t regret the two times I did say it. However awful is the current part-time occupant of the White House, I thought not saying it would have been about me rather than the point I was trying to get across.

8. Not sure if I’ll keep my Twitter account. Against expectations, I don’t tweet that often, but I do regularly pop open the app and scroll through the timeline—which, entirely in keeping with expectations, really is like snackin’ on chip after chip.

9. I mean, I’ve gotten some good sources and leads for my own work, but, honestly, this really is the equivalent of getting protein from Doritos.

10. And I could really do without the endless (ever-fuckin’-lovin’ ENDLESS) Bernie vs. Hillary debates. JFC.

11. I should also point out that I have become more sympathetic to Hillary and less to Bernie. This sympathy is completely about them as personalities, not at all about their policy orientations—which, in the end, are remarkably similar.

12. This is somewhat surprising to me, this sympathy. I’m not quite sure where it comes from.

13. Okay, it’s partly a feminist sympathy.

14. Oh, and also impatience with those who dismiss (still!) Clinton’s work-horse sensibility, not least because they don’t understand the work itself.

15. In the legislative sphere, there are process folks (e.g., Schumer), policy folks (Clinton), and passion-istas (Sanders). There are also those who just like being members of Congress, and whose function is largely to vote for party leadership and party initiatives.

16. Good legislative leaders are often process-ors who are able to herd the wonks, the bomb-throwers, and the generic MCs  through the legislative rapids to victory (or, alternatively, to dam up the other party).

17. Competent processors are often irritating (sell outs! why didn’t they do more! what’s the hold up?!) to those of us on the outside who could give a shit about procedure, but shit doesn’t get done without them.

18. Also: they rarely run for president. (Yes, I know: LBJ, but he ran for president as president, not as a legislative leader.)

19. Executives (governors, presidents) have to have some competence in all three areas, although some are stronger in one area or another; the best master all three, the worst, none.

20. Draw your own conclusions re: which presidents are masters and which, incompetents.

21. Did you notice that I left out what’s necessary for a good candidate? Because I’m damned if I know.

22. That said, I’m likin’ Kirsten Gillibrand for 2020.

To be continued.





Nazi punks fuck off

20 09 2017

Ohhh, I don’t know why, but it seemed that it might be a good time to read Deborah Lipstadt’s Denying the Holocaust.

No reason, really. Y’know, I just happened to have recently watched Denial, happened to have been at the Strand, happened to have to have found myself in the Holocaust Studies section, and, Oh, look, there it is. And then I just happened to have found myself in the opposite corner of the basement in the Law section, where, again, Lookee, here’s History on Trial.

I have said before that, after that first rush to do something, anything, to grit up the gears of the Trump machine, I’d deflated.

I’m still flat. Oh, I still go to the occasional protest and holler, but mostly, I read of all the harm this administration is doing and think God. Fucking. Dammit. And not much more.

I am still trying to think, however, and I figured Lipstadt would be among those authors who could give me something to think about. She doesn’t sketch out an explicit typology of denial in Denying, but in laying out the stories of Hitler and Nazi apologetics, she makes it easy to see the tricks and bullshit these horrid wretches pull to advance their pernicious claims. (In fact, I think I may go through the book and pull out and arrange that tricksy shit for all of y’all.)

It is discouraging, however, to note that, in the preface to Denying, she writes of the incredulity her work provoked, as if no one could believe such a rebuttal were necessary. But then, she continues, That situation has changed dramatically. Regrettably, I no longer have to convince others of the relevance of this work.

Why discouraging? Denying was published in 1993.

~~~

I know, it’s easy to laugh at tiki torches and fashy haircuts, but anyone who wears a swastika is a menace. I absolutely believe that we can and should laugh at these assholes as much as possible—if mockery can shrink ’em, then let’s errrrybody mock—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take them seriously, and shouldn’t be ready to confront them at every possible turn.*

I’ve long thought it important to keep an eye on the fringes, even if I didn’t think it necessary to do more than that. The overt antisemites are still on the fringes, along with the hood-wearing racists, but that they’re popping up has made it even easier for the ‘respectable’ white supremacists to advance their ideas about “globalists”, “thugs”, and “aliens”.

Again, none of these convictions translates, for me, into a clear sense of what, exactly, I should be doing. But I know I need to prepare for whatever comes.

~~~

*I just re-read Jen Graves’s 2013 piece on Charles Krafft, an artist who worked—ironically, it was thought—in Nazi imagery; turns out that, no, really not ironic.

So Krafft is a piece of shit. But what’s striking is less his shittiness than his friends’ reactions to that shittiness:

Another old friend, Tacoma writer Peggy Andersen, said she had to stop socializing with Krafft. “I told him, ‘When I hang out with you, I feel like I’m endorsing something.’… His main thing is that the Holocaust is an exaggeration. I say, if they only killed 10,000 people because they were Jewish, it would still be a holocaust, jackass.” As Andersen and I ended our interview, she said, “Be sure to say I love Charlie.”

A longtime friend who insisted on anonymity said, “It’s not only anti-Semitic stuff, it’s also racism—you know, blacks and women and anything that is held dear by the liberal establishment. And I can see a reaction against holier-than-thou attitudes, I mean, yeah, of course. But…”

Other friends, like Larry Reid, coauthor of the 2002 monograph on Krafft, Villa Delirium, just sort of look away. “I try not to pay too much attention,” Reid said.

Yeah, no, looking away, proclaiming love, not paying attention: not gonna fly.

Like I said, I may not know what to do, big-picture, but if one of my “kind”, “generous”, “articulate”, Zen friends goes Nazi, I sure as hell hope I know at least enough to say NOPE.





Break down, it’s all right

1 08 2017

When I was 22 I gave up hope.

It was necessary, a way to keep myself alive, but I don’t know that it was a conscious decision so much as a fait accompli.

Almost 30 years late, and I’m still snagged on that word, hope: hope you’re feeling better; hope it goes well; etc. I didn’t use it at all, for years, but sometimes there’s no good way to avoid the word without drawing attention to its avoidance. So, I use it, sparingly, and always with a mental reservation.

I gave it up because I was broken, as a person. I may or may not still be broken, and perhaps I won’t ever get past those breaks without at least a handshake with hope, but I have managed to put together a life without it.

It’s hard, and I wouldn’t particularly recommend it to anyone, but if you have to abandon hope, you can, and live.

The loss of hope is, or can be, less a tossing-away than an uncovering: you’ll see things, in this hope-less life, that you wouldn’t otherwise. I can’t say if this new sight is worth it, relatively speaking, but, again, there is a kind of clarity, here.

This is how I’m coming to see my response to the 2016 elections. Something broke inside of me, and I couldn’t get a handle on it. Now, I’m thinking that I had a kind of hope in American politics, a hope I never really considered, never really recognized, and that now that’s gone.

Again, a hard thing, but not the worst thing. Again, I gain a sight, a sense of the meanness of this country, which, however maddening, is useful to have.

The differences between the personal and the political hope-loss are that I didn’t know I had any left to lose, and that I thought I already knew how the US could be; that’s what made election night so unbelievably painful.

A more significant difference is that I ended up in a place where there are already a hell of a lot of people—mostly, people of color—who had discarded hope long ago. They haven’t given up; they just don’t expect that everything will somehow turn out right. No, there is work to be done.

This work would be easier, I’d think, if there were hope; or maybe it would just be easier to avoid the work. (I have evidence from my personal life to support both possibilities.) Regardless, there is work to be done.





The chains are locked and tied across the door

21 07 2017

How does helplessness become resentment?

I’m in the midst of reading Robert Gellately’s edited transcripts of psychiatrist Leon Goldensohn’s interviews with Nazis at Nuremberg, Nuremberg Interviews; what is striking are the protestations that they could have done nothing other than what they did.

They were helpless.

They were helpless before Hitler’s charisma, helpless before his charm, helpless to do anything other than their sworn duty—to the military, to Germany, to their own high moral principles. And those who weren’t personally helpless emphasized Germany’s helplessness following WWI and the victors and their unjust Treaty of Versailles.

And as for the Jews, well, while these Nazis disclaimed any personal anti-Semitism, they did point to Jewish dominance of German cultural life and that so many Communists were Jews—so really, was it so wrong to want to free Germans from the yoke of such an alien people? Goldensohn paraphrased Alfred Rosenberg:

The cause of the Jewish question was, of course, the Jews themselves. The Jews are a nation, and like every nation, have a nationalist spirit. That’s all every well, but they should be in their own homeland. … Why couldn’t the Jews be allowed to remain where they were , in other lands? They would have been all right if they didn’t do bad things, but they did. What did the Jews do? They spat at German culture. How? They controlled the theater, publishing, the stores, and so on.

Similar sentiments were expressed by others: Jews provoked anti-Semitism by their involvement in German life. What else could Germans do? Of course they had to defend themselves.

There has been a great deal of discussion of the role of resentment in politics, but isn’t behind resentment some notion of victimhood, helplessness? How does despair over the inability to control one’s own life become politically virulent?

Propaganda, inarguably, but that can’t be the sole catalyst, can it? What makes it work?

And while it is supremely easy to dismiss the rationalizations of Nazi defendants, what cannot be dismissed is that some peoples have been victimized, are being victimized, and may justifiably feel helpless amidst the conditions of their oppression. Is it not just that they be freed?

Political mobilization draws in part on moving people from a sense of apathy or despair and toward action; when is this mobilization just, and when is it malignant?

One quick response might be that any mobilization which relies on or stokes resentment tends toward malignancy, but, honestly, that seems too quick: what, for example, distinguishes “righteous indignation” from “resentment”?

It could be that this distinction is too caught up in ideology to be of any analytical use, that is, that my good views will always be based in righteousness, while your bad views are riddled with resentment.

Again, there’s a ton of work, both scholarly and journalistic, on resentment in politics, so likely nothing I’m saying here is at all original—for originality, I recommend Nietzsche.

Still, Nietzsche disdained the ressentiment of the weak toward the strong; the resentment of the strong toward the weak, well, that would not even have occurred to them: to be strong was to be above it all.





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.