Circus Maximus: If you act, as you think

8 11 2016





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Someone told me not to cry/I never thought I’d need so many people

8 11 2016

Double bill, because it’s Arcade Fire and Bowie, Bowie and Arcade Fire:

1.

2.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: See them on the beach or in New York City

8 11 2016





Circus Maximus MMXVI: This ain’t no fooling around

8 11 2016





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Now someone yelled timber take off your hat

7 11 2016

VII. As someone who’s as cold-blooded as they come about elections, I am unshocked by the declarations of support by various Christian conservative pundits for Donald J. Trump.

I am similarly unshocked by the argument that prudence, rather than God, dictates such support.

Finally, the next-breath argument that “you have to vote for the bad man to prevent the bad woman because that’s what God wants“, however much that contradicts the argument from prudence, is not only not shocking, but predictable.

There are things you want and you need to win in order to get the things you want so it is easy to justify doing almost anything to win so that you get the things you want.

If not the whole of politics, that is a not-inconsiderable part of politics.

So these men act politically in a political arena, which is fine. And they seek to wrap that political action in Christian robes, which, however annoying, is entirely ordinary.

But if I were a Christian who took seriously the obligation to act in accordance with godly principles in all matters in life, I might just side-eye those who’d put an asterisk next to politics.

VIII. It can be difficult to parse one’s principles when it comes to politics.

I don’t remember how I reacted to Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. I almost certainly was dismayed for reasons of both principle and politics (unfair in different ways to Lewinsky and his wife; ammunition for opponents), and I thought impeachment a gross overreaction to his misdeeds, but. . . did it affect my view of him as president?

Maybe? I really don’t know. I mean, I voted for him in 1992 but not in 1996 (third-party—I know), and was never in thrall to the man. He clearly had political skill, but his lack of discipline limited his effectiveness as a politician. And while I don’t recall paying attention to the crime bill I do know I fucking hated welfare reform.

He was better, policy-wise (and definitely judiciarily) than Bush or Dole, and thought Gore an idiot for declining to make use of him on the 2000 campaign trail. Overall, I didn’t love, but in retrospect I think I voted for the right guy in ’92 and probably* should have voted for him again in ’96.

But my own asterisk: What about the allegations not of stupid consensual extra-marital sex, but of decidedly non-consensual sexual harassment and sexual assault? If I didn’t vote for Clinton’s re-election because he was too conservative I think I was wrong, but if I had refused to vote for him because he was a rapist. . . ?

That would not have been wrong.

Like I said, I don’t remember what I thought of these allegations 20+ years ago, but given how I voted in 1992, I probably minimized or possibly even dismissed them. I probably take them more seriously now than I did then.

I don’t think a man who’d been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment or assault could be nominated for president in the Democratic party going forward, but if he were, I’d like to believe that, no matter how left-wing he was, I’d say Nope nope nope.

But I honestly don’t know.

IX. I tend to give a pass to family members of politicians for their support of those politicians and alleged criminals.

I mean, your dad is running for president, whattya gonna do?

That said, I do admit to unkind thoughts regarding the business prospects of Ivanka, Donald Jr., and Eric Trump.

X. And while I also tend to give a pass to those defeated or who’ve left office—they’re no longer in public life, let them live their private lives in private—I may have said that I hope Trump’s business empire crumbles, his brand dissolves, he loses all of his money, and his wife leaves him.

I’m not proud of this, but there it is.

XI. Happier thoughts? I think Hillary Clinton will be a better president than her husband.

She’s not as good a campaigner as he is, but man, she knows how to follow the many threads of policy without getting tied up in them.

Also, she’s explicitly seeking to strengthen and extend the legacy of a man who has, all things considered, governed mostly well and wisely.

XII. I’m going to miss Barack Obama as president, and the Obamas as First Family.

I think skepticism toward the charm of politicians is always warranted and am leery of the alleged authenticity of their behavior in highly scripted events, but yeah, the Obamas got to me—not least because of how they acted when seemingly unscripted.

Maybe nothing is ever unscripted, not the interviews with comedians in cars or the crawling on the floor with babies or even the laughter at a toddler pope, but I did enjoy those times when the Obamas seemed to be enjoying themselves.

That was unexpected. And nice.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: You know you’ll be hearing that sound

1 11 2016

IV. It’s not bad that white working class folks are getting some (sympathetic) attention from the press.

It is bad that it is mainly white working class folks who are getting the attention.

V. However much race and class are fused in the US, they are nonetheless separable. Those in the WWC who embrace Trump do so more in the name of their whiteness than their class.

Have their been breakdowns of union member support for the candidates? Do white union members put class before whiteness? What are the conditions under which white workers choose one candidate over the other?

Unionism is no barrier to racism—not by a long shot—but union membership, to the extent that it raises consciousness of one’s class status, might therefore blunt the primacy of whiteness.

VI. It’s worth pointing out, of course, that, during the primary season, the median income of Trump supporters was $72,000 while that for Clinton (and Sanders) was about 61 grand—in all cases, above the national median income of $56,000. And a Pew poll of general election preferences showed that Clinton did better both among $100,000+ voters (51 to 43%) and those making less than 30 grand (62 to 33%); they more-or-less tied in the two middle income categories.

Given how the Pew survey numbers are presented, however, it is difficult to draw any conclusions about the percentage of white working class voters who support Clinton or Trump. That overwhelming percentages of black and Hispanic voters support Clinton suggests that she’s drawing from all classes. And while Pew didn’t offer any numbers on Asian-American voters, 538 highlights a National Asian American Survey showing a clear movement of most groups away from Republicans and toward Democrats.

On thing that can be concluded is that Democrats are ethnically diverse and Republicans, increasingly, are not.

And that’s going to matter—although how, at this point, I can’t say.

I fear the possibilities.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Pick up the pieces and go home

19 10 2016

Off all else, this is the takeaway:

nytimes-debate3

Three more weeks.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: And a little bit not (I)

13 09 2016

Oh, to be of many minds:

Mind1: The bug-eyed conspiracists certain that Hillary Clinton is hiding, I dunno, a tumor/mainstream pundits who are more than happy to indulge the, well-this-certainly-plays-into-the-appearance-of-dishonesty are shoveling enough shit to cover the prairies from Kansas to Saskatchewan.

Woman has pneumonia, got dehydrated while standing in a crowd, had to be helped into SUV, is apparently recovering. Bummer for her, not a big deal.

Mind2: Hillary Clinton, if elected, will be the second-oldest person (after Reagan) to begin her first term. This doesn’t mean that she’s enfeebled now or will be during either (Inshallah) of her terms in office—but it does mean that she is, to be grossly generalistic, less robust than someone 20 years younger.

This is a legitimate concern—not an emergency, not a disqualifier—but, yes, a legit concern.

(And no, that Trump is a year older than her doesn’t make Clinton “young”, even in comparison.)

Mind3: That pundits and conspiracists (and, yeah, one of my neighbors who is terrified of Trump and so highly concerned about Clinton’s health) are keening into the high winds about both her health and her alleged penchant for dishonesty makes me wanna holler She’ll be fine! She’ll be fine! Her doctor says she’ll be fine!

It also sets me to muttering that no matter what she says or authorizes her doctor to release, she’ll be accused of lying.

Mind4: She probably will be fine; I doubt she’s lying.

That said. . . whether or not the so-called narrative of Clinton’s dishonesty—isn’t that a nice way to call someone a liar by implying Oh, look, everyone thinks she’s a liar—is accurate, it has, in fact, taken hold. While it’s possible-to-likely that a more comprehensive summary of Clinton’s current health (i.e, past few-t0-5 years) wouldn’t satisfy those who refuse to be satisfied, it also wouldn’t be a bad move, if only in giving her a ready answer to questions about her health.

Given that Trump is shameless, there’s no way that her release of info would shame him into releasing his. Nope, any Clinton release would be a defensive tactic against the press and, perhaps, a kind of reassurance to her supporters (including my anxious neighbor).

Mind5: Did you notice what I did, there? I doubt she’s lying. Gliiiiiiided right past that.

I went fairly hard the other day about tossing aside all concerns other that politics, thereby brushing away concerns about Clinton’s alleged dishonesty, not least because I do think the whole “narrative says so” is bullshit.

But I didn’t stress enough that I really don’t know. I mean, she’s been involved in politics for a very, very long time and seems as sincere as a politician could be, but it’s also clear that she’d rather not share every last bit of info about her doings, please and thank you.

What does that mean? I dunno. Since she’s on my side of the field I’ll be voting for her, regardless; if she were on the other side this would be yet another reason not to—but, honestly (snerk), this wouldn’t be the thing I’d latch onto about that opponent.

I mean, that Trump hasn’t released his tax returns isn’t in the top 50 of the worst things about him.

Mind6: Is it fair that Clinton’s getting her bell rung by the press and Trump isn’t?

No; so?

As I’ve banged on about repeatedly, there’s nothing fair about elections, winning is the only thing that matters, etc., etc.

Besides, in this case, the unfairness may be less that the press expect Clinton to answer their questions about her health but that they don’t expect the same from Trump.

Mind7: In other words, it is not unreasonable to expect candidates for the presidency to release information about their health.

A full release of all of their health records is unnecessary and, likely, unwise, but, again, a comprehensive summary should give manage to drive the screamers back to the fringes from whence they came.

As for those who think the candidates’ own docs can’t be trusted? Well, I like the ideas put forth by some doctors and ethicists for a (voluntary) independent evaluation of the candidates by a doctor or panel of doctors. How to go about this would need to be worked out, and it might need some tweaking over successive elections, but this would likely be an improvement over the  ad-hockery (and ad-hackery) of the current non-system of health disclosure.

Mind8: Even as I write that it’s reasonable to want some reliable info on the candidates’ health, I am uneasy with that expectation.

Again, most powerful person on the planet, but I think even the most powerful person on the planet deserves some privacy.

Not total privacy. Not total transparency. Something in between. I don’t know what that in-between would be. Something about recent (and relevant less-recent) past health, current health, yes. Chronic conditions. Medications.

What about psychotherapy? Marriage counseling? Would pastoral counseling count?

That’s too much, isn’t it? I mean, maybe not the fact of counseling itself, but certainly not any details. . . and, frankly, wouldn’t it be nice for that as-yet-unnamed panel of doctors to recommend a psychiatrist or psychotherapist be assigned to the White House as a matter of course? Is that already the case? Too much of a tangent. . . ?

And what about genomic testing? I mean, Jesus, that seems way too far, but what happens when (and it is a when, not an if) everyone is tested as a matter of standard medical protocol? Hell, a lot of people are already paying out of pocket for their own partial genomic profiles; what should be the response to demands that candidates be tested?

That’s just. . . oh, man, that would be a terrible idea—which is, of course, no barrier to its adoption.

All of these minds cannot be successfully melded; I have, in the end, only questions: How much privacy should a candidate, a president, have? What do we, as citizens, deserve (as opposed to merely desire) to know about those who would lead us?





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Just a little bit longer

8 09 2016

I may wax and wane in my enthusiasm for voting for Hillary Clinton, but I am firm that I’ll vote for her.

And whatever waning there is, doesn’t mean I think I’m voting for “the lesser evil”.

Greater and lesser evils in politics: such horseshit.

Bernard Crick argued that politics requires pluralism, which in turn creates the conditions in which politics may flourish: that there are differences requires some mechanism for negotiating amongst those differences, and politics (as opposed to technocracy or totalitarianism) provides an open, inclusive, and non-violent way for a citizenry to deal with itself.

Politics is more than this, of course, but that notion of conciliation and compromise are key: if factions are only ever maximalist, only ever all-or-nothing, only ever my-way-or-else, then politics will be ground out of existence.

Which is where my evilism-is-horseshit stance comes from: someone is decried as a lesser evil because she isn’t perfect, is compromised, is too willing to compromise, adheres too closely or not closely enough to the party line, will disappoint, will likely fail.

All politicians fail. Good politicians fail well, bad politicians fail badly, but if politics is about advancing an agenda against competing agendas, then the old cliché sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you means that even the greatest advances will contain losses.

It also means that to advance your position, you’re likely to have to settle, to give something to get something. To compromise.

Yeah, sometimes you can hold the line, and those hard-liners do have a place (tho’ not in leadership) in politics, but if your political adversaries are present in enough numbers to get in your way (which is almost always the case, if not at any one moment then certainly over a relatively short period of time), you’re going to have to pay attention to them. You’re going to have to deal.

As with failing, you can be a good (moves you closer to your goals)  or bad (moves you further from your goals) dealer, but if you don’t deal at all you’re not much of a politician, much less a political leader.

To deal is to be political, not to be evil, so any assessment of a politician should not be Does she deal or not but Is she a good dealer or bad dealer?

Again, none of this means candidates, even ones one is waxingly enthusiastic about, are above criticism—criticize away! But criticize them on their politics, not on the fact of their imperfections.

~~~

*It’s not that evil doesn’t exist at all in politics—if you’re a genocidal dictator you pretty much fit the definition of an evil leader—but that in ordinary or functioning politics, the evil quotient is going to be pretty low. (I could go full Crick and state that genocidal dictators are anti-politics by definition, and thus fob off evil on the upside-down, but that’s a little too convenient.)





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Army of me

8 09 2016

Since I’ve used the lyric, I gotta use the pic:

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Some specific observations:

  1. Hillary Clinton is a flawed candidate.
  2. Every candidate is a flawed candidate.
  3. That every candidate is a flawed candidate doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t point out the flaws of a particular candidate.
  4. I think she erred in setting up a private server. (Error in judgment)
  5. I think she’s too hawkish. (Policy difference)
  6. I think her resentment of criticism can lead her to focus too much on the fact of criticism itself, and not enough on whether the criticism is warranted. (Temperamental issue)

Some general commentary on the specific observations:

I have other policy differences (mainly in foreign policy and the national security state) with her, and I think her approach is sometimes too incrementalist, too conciliatory, but I also think the positions she does hold are not insane, and that sometimes the only way to make any gains at all is to conciliate, and to take the inch when you can’t reach the foot.

I also think she’s tough as hell, and when she gets that inch she will not yield it, and that she actually does give a good goddamn about governing well.

I don’t think she’s a criminal, and while I would have liked to have seen the speeches she gave to various financiers—I’d guess she was entirely too conciliatory toward their feelings and interests—I have a hard time getting worked about her alleged corruption.

I mean, “take the money and run” isn’t exactly a high-minded, um, principle, but in a society in which everyone is encouraged to monetize everything all the time (she said with just a wee exaggeration), I’m not shocked that she cashed in. I’m not crazy about it, but I’m also not seeing how it’s made any difference to her policy proposals.

Some specific commentary on specific observations:

Now, regarding #s 4 and 6: I absofuckinglutely understand her bitterness at having to shovel herself out from under the piles of bull-, horse-, and chickenshit tossed her way. One of the reasons I can’t get too worked up about the server thing is my sense that if it weren’t the emails, the press and Republican adversaries would have found something else on which to launch a thousand investigations.

Have you heard of Benghazi?

There are legit questions to be asked about the server and about policy decisions and about the Clinton Foundation, but it’s like fucking Groundhog Day with the punditocracy: in the morning the questions get asked, by the evening she answers them, and the next day, the same goddamned questions get asked all over again.

No wonder she’s pissed off.

Hell, I’m pissed off and I’m the kind of person who thinks that if you’re running for the presidency of the most powerful nation on the planet you should just suck it up: whatever the pundits or even the Congressional back-benchers fling at you is nothing compared to what’s going to get tossed at you by the world itself.

Some tentative conclusions:

Clinton, of course, knows this, so whether her resentments get in the way or spur her on—whether her jaw is clenched in anger or determination—she’s shown she’s able to keep grinding her way towards the White House.

And once she’s there (oh Apollo, she’d better get there), I’m guessing that she’ll take a breath, straighten her jacket, and get to work.

Recommendation:

Hillary Clinton for president, 2016.