IMPEACH

22 04 2019

No, the Senate won’t convict—remember, impeachment is only the first part of the process to remove a president—but that a conviction is unlikely does not mean no investigation or vote should take place.

I’ve often snarked on tactics and consequentialism and overall Machiavellianism, but even at my bitchiest, I’ve never gone full nihilist. Politics matters, and elemental to that politics is some understanding of principle.

Political principle isn’t a pure thing, but at its root are two lines: This must be done and This must not be done. Where you draw those lines, how much space is between them, what you think is justified inside of those lines, are all at play in politics, but if you don’t have any lines at all, then what you’re talking about isn’t politics, but something else entirely.

I understand the concerns that House Dems have about backlash and every other downside to impeachment proceedings, but, goddammit, if protecting our (shabby) democracy and trying to expose and inoculate against (further) corruption of our elections isn’t worth the risk, then what the hell is even the point of being in politics?

Oh, and yeah, this goes for Republicans too, but good fucking luck finding any at the federal level who haven’t gone full nullification.

So this falls to House Democrats. Some may be afraid, some may not see the point, but let there be enough to say: This must be done.

Advertisements




We blended in with the crowd

20 11 2016

Walt Whitman’s I contain multitudes gets its fair share of shares, and for good reason: it’s exuberant and ironic and sincere and boastful all at the same time, a declaration and excuse and an invitation to the tumult of life.

It’s easy to think of that tumult as a kind of playful churning, a shotgunning through rapids in which you are tossed and soaked but ultimately delivered, safely, to the sandy shore. It’s a ride, not a tsunami, not a hurricane; a volunteer thrill, not a crashing terror.

It is, of course, both.

I often forget this, that the multitude, the mix, the plural, contains not just joy but fear, that it’s not just a condition of freedom but the grounding of fear. I like to say about New York that we don’t all love one another, but we do, somehow, manage, mostly, to live with one another.

This is an accomplishment, albeit a fragile one.

Well, okay, not just fragile: there is a sturdiness to this and other places like this. There is a sturdiness to this country. But in taking for granted this sturdiness I have too often treated its fragility as a remnant, or mere theoretical possibility. I’d forgotten that if anything is possible, then anything is possible.

I don’t think we’re on the way to fascism, and do think that our many, varied, institutions, formal and informal, can serve as bulwarks against authoritarianism—emphasis on can. While inertia has its own force, there is nothing automatic in a defense of plural democracy: we have to act.

It’s hard, defending the tumult amidst the tumult. I don’t want everything to be political, everything to be are-you-with-us-or-against-us, even as I see the necessity of holding the line. I want to defend my side but since my side declares that everyone gets to pick their own side, do I end up defending those who would harm me?

I won’t hold to a principle which requires its own extinction, but neither will I abandon it for its practical difficulty.

This will take some doing, and some contradiction, too, probably. There is the theory, and the practice, and both will need some work.





Git ‘er done

21 02 2013

A person without interests has no business in politics. Further: A person who is all principle and no interests is a menace to politics*.

Those were a pair of off-the-cuff remarks I made to Jtte in response to some statement she made about the movie Lincoln and the allegedly nefarious means used to pass the 13th Amendment. For chrissakes, I said, are people really shocked that deals are made in order to accomplish anything?

(Well, Thomas Frank is, apparently, but as much as I enjoy his Doris Kearns Goodwin-bashing, I think he needs to dry his eyes and unclutch his pearls.)

What was that line about how the British Labour Party managed to get the National Health Service through Parliament? Ah, here it is: NHS champion Aneurin Bevan overcame doctors’ opposition to his plan when he “stuffed their mouths with gold”.

Goddamned right. If that’s what he needed to do in order to bring health care to every citizen of Britain, then stuff away.

I am not in any way opposed to principle in politics: It is at the core of why anyone should bother with it, and without it politics degenerates into a corrupt flea market.

But politics without interest isn’t politics, either, as much as it pains this Arendtian to say that: It is instead a high-minded—and inert—debate club. It is not enough to proclaim one’s principles and ideals; one must also get something done.

And when there is opposition in principle, you get something done by appealing to interest. No, the true believers won’t be “bought off”, but those for whom something is a moderately- rather than strenuously-held principle, one can bargain one’s interest in order to shape the policy more in line with one’s principles.

As a political scientist, as well as a leftist whose views are not adequately represented by the Democratic Party (and, I have to add, as a still-too-gleeful observer of current Republican and conservative agita), I’ve thought a lot about compromise and lesser evils, holding fast and moving over. When I was younger I was much more militant—which only meant I agonized over my pragmatism.I might vote for the Dems, but I felt bad for doing so.

No more. Now my attitude is take what you can get, then take some more.

I still agonize, to be sure, because there are some matters which are either/or, and by voting for this senator and that president, I’ll end up electing someone who will end up on the either when I am holding to the or.

But most things aren’t all-or-nothing, and always refusing anything less-than-all is apt to leave you with nothing.

~~~~

*By this I mean electoral politics and elected politicians. Those who lead social movements might lean more on principle than do politicians, but even social leaders have to take stock in order not to become either fanatics and/or useless.





Wait, what was that?

5 07 2009

Re: the soon-to-be-former governor of Alaska. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Some Freepers are peddling the line that she’s too good for politics, and her decision to ditch is evidence of her superior character—as opposed to, say, an inability either to govern or to develop the skills necessary for political leadership.

And as to complaints about Everybody Being So Mean To Her: If she can’t handle Katie Couric and David Letterman, how the hell could she handle Netanyahu, Putin, Mubarak—or Pelosi or Reid, for that matter?

Fair, unfair: Neither of these matters in political campaigns. Read some Machiavelli, fer cryin’ out loud—and if that’s too much to ask, remember Vince Lombardi.

Shees.

————————-

I know I have issues with community. It’s less that I’m enthusiastic about CAPITAL-I! individualism than I am suspicious of the group—especially a group which claims special status based on its group-ness.

Yeah, I have a past with cliques, the push-pull of wanting to belong and wanting to tell others to fuck off, but I don’t want to reduce this to psychology.

No, I want to reduce this to principle: Don’t tell me [who’s not a member of your group] that I’m less worthy [because I’m not a member of your group]. As a political matter, don’t claim rights based on your group which are denied those not members of the group.

In practice, of course, groups are often religious communities, and the rights claimed are based on the freedom of religion, not on the rights of the group.

All kinds of ways to take off from here, but, after my friend E. called me out on my bias yesterday, I think I need to stay right here, and consider what is principle and what is, simply, prejudice.

Background: I’ve mentioned previously encounters with religious folk which I’ve considered insulting. In one case, two women wouldn’t take an item from my hand, but asked that I set it down before they would touch it. In the second case, a man responded to my outstretched hand with a mumbled request that I withdraw it, out of respect for him and his religious beliefs.

In both cases, I took their reactions to me to be based on their religious beliefs, and further inferred that they thought I was lesser or would somehow taint them with my touch. In both cases, I (behaviorally) respected their expressed wishes, but I was also offended.

E. was puzzled by my response, especially to the situation with the two young women (religion unknown; from their dress, either Christian or Muslim was a possibility). Why do you think that has anything to do with you, she asked?

Because I was there!

Yeah, but they weren’t asking you to do anything offensive.

Huh.

As to the second case, with the no-handshake man, she focused on his explanation for why I should respect him. Why would he assume you’d know about his religious beliefs?

Another good question. I assumed he was Hasidic, although he wasn’t wearing a fedora and it was so dark that I couldn’t tell if he had peyos, but, as E. pointed out, Orthodox men will wear the shawl—and Orthodox men will shake a woman’s hand.

Yes, I agreed, I’ve shaken hands with Orthodox men, and, come to think of it, I don’t know for sure if he was hasidim.

Given my skepticism toward groups and my disdain for patriarchy, I bundled together a few pieces of information about this guy into an unmerited heap of a conclusion. I thought it was about the group and the group’s beliefs about women and his expectation that I alter my behavior to suit him—and I was offended.

But maybe it wasn’t really about me. Maybe, as E. pointed out, his English just wasn’t that great, that he didn’t know a more polite way to make his request.

Well, dammit, E., what are ya doin’, making me rethink these things? I was so comfortable in my anti-fundamentalist stance and here you go redirecting my attention. What the hell kind of friend are you, anyway?

Hmpf.

I’m fine with my skepticisms and criticisms, but I’d rather not be reactionary. So I’ll follow this redirection, see where it takes me—and try to keep my biases out of my way.

Thanks, E.

————————-

Inspired by a segment I heard on WNYC about members of They Might Be Giants banning certain phrases, I humble ask for the retirement of the following (I direct this to myself, as well):

  • Meh
  • Wow. Just wow.
  • Batshit crazy (I do like this one, but, Enough.)
  • Just sayin’
  • teh gay/s
  • ZOMG! WTF?! ROTFL, et. al.
  • Meme (I have always hated this term. Always. Goddamned genetic reductionists.)

I probably should ban ‘heh’, as well, but no need to get all Puritan, here.

———————-

Jasper update: He is on,

or off.

No in-between.

A little less smelly (gave him a washcloth rinse yesterday), but still in need of a dunking. With soap.

Very friendly, and eager for a lap. Good purr.

Ten week-old kittens have really tiny heads. Tiny teeth, too, but sharp.

Still working on the biting. No biting.

Working on the staying off of computer keyboard, too. He’s logged me out of Firefox a couple of times, opened about fifteen help windows, and at one point sent my computer into hibernation. Fancy feet on that boy.

Not so much in the litter box, however. Jasper has no litter skills. Yes, he uses his wee box (a cereal box with the back cut out, lined with a plastic bag), but he’s a bit fuzzy on the whole covering-one’s-leaving concept: He’ll scratch at the air, at the floor outside of the box, on the wall next to the box, but actually in the box? Not so much. [I know, I should retire this one, too, but it’s too good to lose!]

I hope his skills improve when he moves to the big box.

He has gotten within a foot of Bean, who has responded with hisses and yowling. At one point she swiped at him, but, as he was a good foot-and-a-half away, nothing happened.

Still, at some point there will be contact, and he will learn that Bean is Queen.