He’s a real nowhere man

10 07 2017

Donald J. Trump is a man without qualities.

He has no character, no public virtues, no apparent principles. He demonstrates no consideration for this country, for the Republican party, or for his followers; they matter not in and of themselves, but only insofar as they are of use to him.

He focuses on transactions, not relationships. He cares for others only to the extent they reflect him back to himself; if he doesn’t like what he sees, he blames the mirror.

In business and politics, yes, he wants to win, but even more important is that you lose; he is the exemplar of the sore winner.

Donald J. Trump cares not one whit for governance, and in that, is the perfect complement of the contemporary Republican Party, which has made a virtue of being sore losers. This is the party which has ejected all concern for constructive policy in its transformation into an election dreadnought, with the result that all its (admittedly many) victories are hollow. Their priorities are cutting spending, cutting taxes, and punishing those who get out of line; they are interested in building nothing.

And the Republicans in Congress will do nothing to stop Trump, because he is too useful to them. Because he cares about nothing beyond himself, they can sell him anything with his name on it. The Grifter-in-Chief is himself an easy mark.

Things will get worse. Trump will lose interest or lash out or retreat ever further into the Mar-A-Lago of his mind, and nothing will matter, because this is a man utterly without qualities, and he would destroy us all to save himself.

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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.





Stop making sense

8 04 2015

wis-smAnd so they lost.

I didn’t go to a bar, didn’t follow the game online (tho’ I did check early in the second half to see the Badgers up), didn’t even stay up to see how it all turned out.

It is unlikely they will get back even to the Final Four anytime soon.

So, three reactions:

1. The critic-of-the-NCAA side of me is mildly satisfied with the loss, insofar as it makes it easier for me not to pay attention to college sports.

It’s a shitty reaction, I know, and only reinforces the fact that my so-called principled stand against exploitation is weak and requires reinforcement.

(See also: TBI and football and hockey.)

2. The fan side is sad.

I noted in the last post that a week away from the game and the game won’t matter; here it is two days out and it doesn’t matter.

Still, a win would have nice, and I would have enjoyed it, however fleetingly.

3. I really don’t like being a fan.

Some of the teams I have rooted for—Badgers (various), Brewers, Packers, Habs—have done well, some have not, and I had a lot of fun rooting for them when they won. Losing could be a bummer, but only of the most minor sort.

And then at some point the teeter tottered and the fun fleeted and the bummedness hunkered down, and I ended up ginning up serious mopes over losses.

That just seemed silly to me, so I stepped back.

This isn’t a critique of sports or any other kind of fandom (in fact, I kinda wish I had some of my old music-and-theater mojo back), and I’m making no point beyond the very small one that, for the most part*, for me, following sports stopped making sense.

*Except for women’s tennis. Yeah, as long as Serena is playing I’ll be paying at least a little bit of attention.

 





One day it’s fine, the next it’s black

5 03 2012

Buncha thoughts, none of which currently coheres into an argument or essay:

Why should I have to pay for a woman to fuck without consequences?

An attack on women’s sexuality—yeah, yeah, nothing new—but the logic behind this bares not just hostility to women claiming their full humanity, but to insurance itself.

Why pay for contraception is a question that could be asked of any medical intervention. Why pay for Viagra is the obvious follow-up, but the underlying sentiment is why should I pay anything else for anyone for any reason?

Actually, that’s not just an attack on insurance, but on politics itself.

~~~

When to stay and when to go?

This is an ongoing conflict between my civic republican and anarchist sides: When should one fight to stay within any particular system, and when should one say I’m out?

One part of me wants the full range of women’s health services wholly ensconced in medical education and practice, an integral part of the medical establishment, and another part of me says Enough! We’ll do it ourselves!

I’ve mentioned that when I was in high school I helped to start an independent newspaper. We wanted to be in charge of what was covered and what was said, and decided that the only way to assert that control was to strike out on our own.

Given our options, given our willingness and our ability to do the work, and given what we wanted to accomplish, it was the right choice.

I’m not so sure that peeling ourselves off of the medical establishment would be anywhere near as good an idea, not least because the conditions are, shall we say, rather different from starting a newspaper; more to the point, what would be the point of such disestablishment?

In other words, what’s the best way for us to take care of ourselves?

~~~

For all my anarchist sympathies, I am not an anarchist, and my sympathies do not run in all directions.

I am not a fan of homeschooling, for example, and have at times argued that, in principle, it should not be allowed. I have at times argued that, in principle, no private K-12 education should be allowed.

I have principled reasons for these arguments, but, honestly, there is a fair amount of unreasoned hostility to such endeavors.

This is a problem.

No, not the contradiction, but the lack of reflection. If I’m going to go against myself, I ought at least know why.

~~~

I might be done with Rod Dreher.

I’ve followed Dreher on and off for years, first at BeliefNet, then at RealClearReligion, and now at American Conservative. He’s a self-declared “crunchy conservative”, writing about a kind of conservation care, community, and his own understandings of Orthodox Christianity. He also wrote quite movingly of his beloved sister Ruthie’s ultimately fatal struggle with lung cancer.

As an unrepentant leftist I think it’s important for me to read unrepentant rightists: not to get riled, but to try to understand. And Dreher, because he has so often been thoughtful about so many aspects of his own conservatism, has been a mostly welcoming guide to a worldview not my own.

More and more often, however, that thoughtfulness about his own side is being drowned by a contempt for the other side. This is not unexpected—one remains on a side because one thinks that side is better—but Dreher has turned into just another predictable culture warrior, launching full-scale attacks on the motives of the other side while huffily turning aside any questions regarding his own motives.

Perhaps he thinks the best way to deal with the alleged loss of standards is to double them.

And that, more than any political difference, is what is driving me away: he no longer writes in good faith.