01 February 2019

Finding out that the New York Times has never written an obituary for Scott Joplin is just, like, one of those WTF moments, brief because you soon realize that the Times really has been that racist all along.

Without Joplin, or without the African-American audience that made his music catch on, we would never be enjoying this delightful American fusion:

30 January 2019

I can't say I really agree with anything Ben Studebaker advocates in the real world, but I'm still reading him, maybe solely because it amuses me to read an American PhD student in England write about American politics.  Sentences like these are produced:

It is long past time that we started taking our queues [emphasis added] from the workers who vote in those key Midwestern states, the ones that voted for Obama and then flipped to Trump.

But to respond to the argument:  Ah yes, the Obama-Trump voters who litter every medium-sized town in the Midwest like cast-off car parts, the voters that Wisconsin's Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, dismissed as infertile ground.  No wonder he failed ... clearly, this political naif must be taught a lesson!

There is a certain kind of purity politics on the left I have seen a lot of in my 37 years, and Studebaker seems to partake of it.  I understand its appeal:  hearing candidates who speak your language without reservation or apology is hard to beat for a political ego boost.   The problem is much amplified, though, when you get a degree or two and read some E.P. Thompson and Noam Chomsky.  Soon you're thinking that anybody who was once (GASP) a district attorney, like Kamala Harris*, is forever captive to a carceral system and an enemy of working-class children everywhere.  You find yourself gravitating strongly to old straight white male candidates, because they're the ones who talk about your issues the right way.  There are always reasons to discount the other candidates.  The "real workers" wouldn't like them anyway.

Taken to extremes, this desire for purity will result in you withdrawing from the political process altogether, sitting alone in your coffee shop of choice, hunched over your laptop with its DON'T VOTE sticker clearly visible to all around you (yes, I really saw a disheveled-looking white man like this recently).  The siren call of embittered anarchism is the only thing that penetrates those jaded ears.

My serious response to Mr. Studebaker is this:  people are not categories.  They often vote without regard to their economic interests, and good for them!  If everyone did vote their "pure interests," based on some Bentham-like calculation of tax rate and minimum wage "utils" or what have you, rich people would have been eliminated a long time ago and we wouldn't even have a socialist movement to argue about.  (People like me who work to facilitate voting would also have a hell of a time trying to feed people all the numbers they need to make those calculations.)

Yes, it is painful to see homeless families existing in a country as rich as ours.  (Consider homeless families in the MIDST OF THE POLAR VORTEX the next time you want to make a political point from their lives.)  But telling the parents in those families that you need to vote for the old guy from Vermont, and by the way, that DA Harris who prosecuted you is BAD, is not gonna remedy their condition in any substantive way.  Electing a president who won't shut down the Department of Housing and Urban Development for months at a time:  that might help.


20 January 2019

I have to say I'm no longer even faintly amused by the Organizing for Bernie emails I receive.  This is how one I got this morning begins:

Hey Skye,
We wanted to make sure you saw this — earlier this month, tens of thousands of Bernie supporters came together to watch our livestream, and learn how they could get to work, building a campaign-in-waiting for Sen. Sanders, if he decieds to run in 2020.
On January 26 & 27, Bernie supporters across the country will continue that work by coming together and starting conversations with people in our communities. Can we count on you host a canvass or house party during the Weekend of Action, January 26th & 27th?

I'll pass over the misspelling of "decides," which is something I'd expect from a Bush-Cheney campaign email written by a drunk intern.  Hosting a "canvass or house party" for a US Senator on the weekend that federal workers will have missed their second paycheck and millions of low-income people will be desperately trying to work out how to avoid starving after their SNAP benefits run out?  What words come to mind for you to describe this?

I will shortly be unsubscribing from these emails, and I want Spencer Carnes and everybody else at the OfB mothership to know:  This is a complete goddamn waste of your energy and not something you should relish telling your nieces, nephews, or grandchildren about when they ask what you did in the American Crisis of White Supremacy.  You have already lost the point of Bernie's 2016 campaign if you want to spend all of 2019 trying to tell America how Bernie alone is the solution to our suffering (then again, maybe you were high every time the candidate said "this isn't about me, it's about all of us"?)

Go clean up some national parks, at least.  I hear Colorado (where your postal address is) has a few small ones.

 Politics: pg. 2   Base-ball: pg. 4   Astronomy & Chemistry: pg. 6    Fine Arts: pg. 8   

 Emergency Letter -- Is your federal arsenal adequately protected? : see insert

How Popular is the "Confederate States of America"?

UPDATED JAN. 20, 1861

55.2% Disapprove

40.0% Approve

18 January 2019

Socialism deserves a hell of a lot more than a niche. It’s been purposely stomped out of our culture, of our conversations, of our political atmosphere. But it was alive and well in this country in the past, and it can be again. In order for that to happen, people need to start encountering a socialist perspective in a variety of contexts, including maybe a comedic animation about how much work sucks.

--Naomi Burton

15 January 2019

I'm very pleased that the chancellor of UNC will have "Silent Sam" removed from campus.  Yes, it does belong in a museum (and perhaps Ivanka can pay the costs of moving it).  It is not simply a monument to racism, but also a monument to white women destroying their own lives for the cause of the Confederacy:  this, at least, is the way I interpret the bas-relief below the statue itself, which has been somewhat overlooked these days.  (Yes, you can say the goddess-lady is about to hand the sword over to the young student, but that young student looks like he's never held anything resembling a sword in his life.  Makes much more sense to me that she's saying farewell to him before she plunges the sword into herself - a fitting metaphor for what happened to the Southern agrarian economy during the war.)
As a Scottish guy in the Midwest, I cracked up over AOC's recent media diversity tweet.

This Fivethirtyeight chat contains a pretty good overview of media stupidity regarding AOC, as well as some interesting general reflections on political power and how to communicate politically to good effect.  Trigger warning for right-wingers:  it features 2 female political scientists and discusses the work of yet another one (Barbara Sinclair).  Hold on to your MAGA pearls.

12 January 2019

Yeah, some of us on the left think preparing quasi-Stalinist legal briefs against Elizabeth Warren is a productive form of writing, but I'm not one of them. 

I would love to see Ben Studebaker, or anybody for that matter, tell me what the purpose of Ted Cruz's 2015-6 campaign was.  Since Ben is reasonably convinced that Warren's intent in starting so early "is to siphon money and manpower away from more competitive left candidates," perhaps he can divine Senator Cruz's intent circa April 2015.  What was that teardrop logo really about?
OK, Oliver Roeder, stop

Cute math puzzles that are invariably too hard for me are one thing, but blaming my ass for the shutdown because a bunch of (invariably male*) game theorists have theories about how politics works?  Hold on.

Yesterday I called the DC Water Board to protest their decision to give the White House free water (forgiving a $5 million unpaid water debt) while the shutdown continues.  My name was recorded.  If you call during business hours I expect you can register your protest as well!

The chairman of this board, an elderly white man, was quoted in the New York Times as saying about this debt, "we can let this one slide."  I guess free-market capitalism really has outlived its usefulness, and certain resources must now be without cost to divinely anointed ones, like the God-Emperor of Dune?

* I can accept that there are female game theorists out there, too, but they never ever seem to make it into these But Game Theory, Bitches articles.  Maybe their notion of "logical ends" to political standoffs is different.

11 January 2019

Clueless 2:  AOC in DC

[Excerpt from an as-yet-unmarketed screenplay]

EMMY CLEAVER and STENY HOYER are sitting around a Starbucks table sipping Valentine's Day-themed pink lattes.  The cafe is empty of customers except for them, because of the government shutdown.

EMMY:  Oh my Goddd, can you believe what she tweeted this morning about the Green New Deal?   So gross. 

STENY:  Girl, you don't know the half of it.  I saw her hanging out with that hijab-wearing chick after Congressional book club on Monday.  [quickly sighs] She is so pretty, but she totes doesn't understand that you can't do that kind of thing in Washington.  Mmm, I have to Instagram this cute poodle walking outside --

EMMY:  She said we shouldn't get paid during the shutdown.  What kind of person does that?  Does she want us all to survive on cans of soup from the food pantry and eat dinner with Pramila every week?  Ughh.

STENY:  Oh, I know.  And I offered to pay for four nights in Cancun for her last week -- she's so into self-care, right -- and she looked at me like I was Ivanka, and said "I don't run away from Washington's problems."  Like, what?

EMMY:  Girl, don't feel bad.  She's too young to rent a halfway-decent car, and she hasn't had a boyfriend in ages.


PELOSI:  Ladies, I need you back at work for a vote.  Now.

EMMY:  We'll be right along, Leader Pelosi.  Just give Ms. Hoyer a few minutes to straighten her bangs.

STENY:  Emyyyy!