29 May 2016


Watching the Libertarian National Convention on C-SPAN is weird and amusing, at least if you can find amusing the clash of gun fetishists (I saw more of this flag than any other), young techno-utopian marketers, and women with pink hair and Statue of Liberty headgear.

Gary Johnson will be their presidential nominee, again.   To summarize his acceptance speech:  he really loves you guys and is happy to throw himself on a pyre and crucify himself on a cross of media bias, but you have to understand that Bill Weld is a good man and has made at minimum 25 media appareances already, and besides, we share a secret twin language to communicate in when Trump and Hillary might be in earshot.  (The party's delegates vote on the VP nominee separately, because Freedom.)

I am sympathetic to third parties in general (the Green Party most of all) but I'm not really into child labor and having neither roads, bridges, air traffic control, nor schools.  And that's what "the less government, the better" means in practice.  I hope some of the younger people at this convention will figure this out one day.

18 May 2016

This is how one writes about politics succinctly and accurately:

  • Bernie Sanders is still a long shot to win the nomination, but his continued strength has put a spotlight on Hillary Clinton’s vulnerabilities.
  • Mr. Sanders reaffirmed his intention to stay in the race on Tuesday.



I'm prepared for at least 300 pieces in Politico and Slate before June 7th saying that it's "impossible" for Bernie to win the nomination, that his staying in the race is "selfish,"  "destructive to the country," or maybe even a plot to get Trump elected.  No matter how many times he denounces Trump and his fell brand of politics from the podium, Bernie will be accused of crimes against liberalism.  This is to be expected when the affluent people who pay for media advertising are afraid of talking about ways to improve the quality of life for most Americans, and prefer to work liberal readers and viewers into a lather over "the enemy from within" -- always a good marketing hook.

It cannot be mathematically impossible for Sanders to take the nomination before June 7th and the California primary.  Clinton's lead is not big enough to insulate her from a possible (though very unlikely) sweep of California's 475 pledged delegates by Sanders.  Even if she swept all of Puerto Rico's 60 pledged delegates on June 5th, her lead would be less than 400 delegates.



02 May 2016

planet loser:  a response

It was with much sympathy and a lot of nodding to myself that I read Freddie DeBoer's recent essay "planet loser."  I believe it worth my time to contribute a response -- from the perspective of a non-academic, gay worker bee who has gone through many not-very-creative jobs (although, like DeBoer, I was the son of a tenured professor).

Yesterday, I stood for election as a delegate pledged to Bernie Sanders in Wisconsin's 2nd congressional district "caucus."  This is a party-run meeting in which anyone can vote who showed up at a preliminary Sunday meeting in April and registered; Democratic party affiliation is not required.  (Yes, it is exclusionary because people have jobs and troubles getting to these meetings, but I find many of the criticisms of "oligarchy" leveled at the Democratic Party overblown.  I am grateful to George McGovern and others for getting this participatory primary tradition started in the 1970s.)

In a large, non-smoking conference room in Madison's Labor Temple -- a Magic the Gathering tournament was going on directly below us -- a little over a hundred of us made our decisions.  I, along with about thirty other candidates, gave a one-minute speech before any voting was done.  I was proud to receive four votes (none of whom were relatives) before I was eliminated.  I voted in two additional rounds before leaving the meeting.  Some tempers ran high, but it was on the whole a very civilized process.  (I can only guess at comparisons to the Republican delegate selection process.)

Honestly, I came away from this meeting feeling much better about American democracy and the quality of the society I live in.  I have my worries:  will Wisconsin get its 12 delegates from the LGBT community and thus meet one of its diversity goals? (There were apparently none from my district.)

Those of us who hate our jobs, find them unfulfilling, or have no job may be deemed "losers" in the way DeBoer explains.  A respected polling organization's work suggests that a large majority of those employed are not engaged at work.  The magical marketing and desire machine that is the Donald Trump campaign has been so active because tens of millions of people think they deserve more from their jobs and their lives.  The tragic part, in my view, is that so many of these people reject out of hand the very processes and institutions that would concretely help them to a better standard of living.  Labor unions are too "corrupt," universal health care is a "socialist monstrosity," and the mainline churches that have been a key part of American society for generations, providing what charitable services they can, are tarred as "un-Christian" and "watered-down" by fundamentalists (hello, Ted Cruz!)  The military still enjoys broad respect and popularity, and woe to us if they are really the only institution remaining to hold that prize.  (I wonder if this is what the President was alluding to in his bleak joke about "the end of the Republic.")

My conclusion is simply to say that we can all be winners if we try.  This will of course sound Pollyanna-ish to some and just like more of the same capitalist bullshit to others.  But what I mean by "trying" is getting involved in our communities in whatever way is easiest or most amenable to us.  It is serving without the immediate expectation of reward.  I dare say when Bernie Sanders first ran for mayor in Burlington, Vermont that is exactly what he was doing.



25 April 2016

A More Informative Slate , week of April 24

 
THE SLATEST
Clinton Refuses to Condemn Everything Henry Kissinger Ever Said About Southeast Asians
Single-Payer Health Care Systems Still Popular in Canada and Elsewhere, Polls Show
Food Pantry Use Across America Heavy As Month Nears End
Did Tolkien Understand Our Politics Better than David Brooks? By Skye Winspur

12 April 2016

Deray Mckesson's Bid for the Mayorship of Baltimore

Far-travelled, all our pilgrim paths redound
To one same glory, by CV unbound;

Forsaking 'real jobs' and risking much,
I learned that grace proceeds in shady paths.
You too will gain a crown of life unmarred,
Because you strove t'attain a higher good --
Against the math of systems in decline,
You brought out conscience and its upright line --
It matters not the outcome of one day,
When patronizing eyes our prospects slay.
The cause is juster when the young go in,
unsettling older sages with a vest,
or spurning that old guard by power caressed.





04 April 2016

1.  The Administration's strategy of denial re:  Judge Garland is patently ridiculous, and when historians look back on the Obama years this will be one of the most difficult things to explain.  When you are faced with unprecedented obstruction, you are being given carte blanche to do the unprecedented yourself and make a recess appointment.  (This could have been done as early as March 21, when a two-week "State Work Period" Senate recess began).

2.  In a somewhat related vein, looks like at least one Democratic candidate has earned grudging praise from Trent Lott.  The Palladium of Bipartisanship (copyright 1994, Newt Gingrich) often goes to the most unlikely of competitors.

02 March 2016

My head was working full speed in these minutes, on our joint behalf, to prevent the fatal first steps by which the unimaginative British, with the best will in the world, usually deprived the acquiescent native of the discipline of responsibility, and created a situation which called for years of agitation and successive reforms and riotings to mend.  I had studied Barrow and was ready for him.  Years before, he had published his confession of faith in Fear as the common people's main incentive to action in war and peace.  Now I found fear a mean, overrated motive; no deterrent, and, though a stimulant, a poisonous stimulant, whose every injection served to consume more of the system to which it was applied.  I could have no alliance with his pedant belief of scaring men into heaven...

T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, chapter 117