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!

09 January 2019

I have always liked Dave Weigel, and this interview with Pod Save America's Tommy (the Nordic-looking one) is really a treat.

Yes, I can certainly imagine voting for Warren some day*.  She has lived the struggle of working Americans in a way that makes it immaterial whether or not she likes the word "socialism."  Weigel briefly mentioned the absence of Secret Service at this early stage in the campaign, though, and I cannot but feel that there ain't gonna be no Secret Service protection for any Democrat at any stage of this campaign.  (I would advise Warren to study up on the presidential campaign of AMLO in Mexico, who ran very much outside the political elite and won by a landslide**.  They are about the same age, and have both been dismissed by pretentious grand poobah sages*** as extreme and unelectable).

*Come to think of it, I have voted for her.  I helped put her in the Senate, in 2012, in Massachusetts.
**Winning 31 out of 32 Mexican states.
***In AMLO's case, men like Mario Vargas Llosa ("The Most Illustrious":  I'm not making this up).  I'm not sure if Vargas Llosa has gotten up from his marchisanal fainting couch after the shock of AMLO's inauguration yet.

House Democrats are planning to start passing individual spending bills that would reopen closed departments in hopes of ratcheting up pressure on Republicans. But the Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring legislation to the floor that Trump has not explicitly said he would support. (Lauren Gambino, 12:14)

What closed departments do Republicans have any interest in reopening?  This is a party that for decades has bashed "bureaucrats" and government employees generally.  You can see now that some of them are feeling nervous about stiffing large numbers of their constituents, but if they suddenly develop feelings of real concern, they can always resign, collect their pension, and start writing mini-op-eds in Time magazine assuring Americans that they always had their best interests at heart.*  

Pelosi and Schumer sound the right notes on TV, but they are stuck in some kind of 1970 mentality (I chose that date because it was six years before the National Emergencies Act but after JFK's assassination), where it is taken for granted that both parties want a stable America where all classes of people can work with dignity.  I hope the federal workforce as a whole is not going to wait for them to remember what Newt Gingrich started before taking direct action - yes, striking is illegal under Taft-Hartley, but there are many kinds of mass protest actions still available to them; and they have natural allies in the Coast Guard, that is clear.  And even if they do formally strike, well, good luck finding enough unoccupied police officers in the nation to arrest all 800,000 of them.

*The Paul Ryan Way (followed by Senators Kyl and Hatch and a ridiculously long list of House members, including some who appear on MSNBC now, their sense of shame having been surgically removed, and lecture us about bipartisan solutions.)

08 January 2019

God bless you, Kamala Harris.  It is not "playing coy" to wait a while before announcing a run for President when the Presidency is rapidly morphing into the Führership.  We can apply the values Senator Harris is talking about today, not two years from now, and no need to wait for Grandpa Mueller's permission.

I am grateful not to be embedded inside the political media right now; hell, it sounds perverse, but I am grateful to be unemployed, considering what pressures a scared boss might subject me to right now.  I will not do my taxes, even if the Reichsfinanzministerium promises me a speedy refund.  I'll carry on with life, but I will not pretend this is the best of all possible worlds and the only way to heal the country's wounds.
[The German populace] knows the gravity of the situation, and its leadership can therefore demand the necessary hard measures, yes even the hardest measures. We Germans are armed against weakness and uncertainty. The blows and misfortunes of the war only give us additional strength, firm resolve, and a spiritual and fighting will to overcome all difficulties and obstacles with revolutionary élan...
I know that many of our people are making great sacrifices. I understand their sacrifices, and the government is trying to keep them to the necessary minimum. But some must remain, and must be borne. When the war is over, we will build up that which we now are eliminating, more generously and more beautifully, and the state will lend its hand.
 Josef Goebbels, February 1943 speech on Total War (translated by Randall Bytwerk)

I can relate, and I'm sure that the people on the receiving end will make adjustments - they always do, and, uh, they'll make adjustments ... I really believe that these people, many of the people that we're talking about, many of the people you're discussing, I really believe they agree with what we're doing ... I think if you ever really looked at those people, I think they'd say, "Mr. President, keep going."
Recent White House statements 
A Response to Benjamin Studebaker's Essay on Self-Care

This is certainly an interesting take on the idea of self-care, but fundamentally, I disagree that self-care is about "amusement," at least in the shallow sense Studebaker is using.

Self-care is recreation.  I think of sports as self-care for a lot of people (not professional athletes, of course).  And the motivation for playing those sports is not to create value for a corporation - don't take those Adidas or Nike ads too seriously.  If Studebaker despises all sports, I would suggest board gaming as an alternative to him.

Aristotle, at least after he became an established philosopher with a steady income, did not have to think much about self-care:  he had women and slaves (we could just say he had women, really, in the social context of classical Greece) to do household tasks such as cooking for him.  I find Aristotelian ideas of virtue interesting and relevant to today's society, yes, but mapping Aristotle's definition of slavery onto self-care is just too glib.

If we want to bring slavery into this discussion, I think we should start with more recent history.  A hundred and sixty years ago much of America's population was enslaved.  These people were legally the property of others (not always other individuals; churches, for example, owned slaves too).

{It is worth noting here that many of the appeals for self-care written today are directed at African-Americans, who have a lower life expectancy than white Americans and are disproportionately burdened with a variety of health problems.}

Being the property of others did not (alas for the owners!) prevent these people from having aspirations, dreams, or a sense of personhood.  So there was a concerted effort by the ownership class to prevent these people from thinking themselves as good as anyone else.  You can start with "the curse of Ham" (supposedly a Biblical thing), and go through all the petty regulations slaves were subjected to whenever they got the chance to mingle in free society.  (I highly recommend Frederick Law Olmsted's travel book from the mid-1850s, whose title escapes my memory, for details on this from a white man's perspective.)

Slavery ended, but (I hope this is not shocking to Studebaker) the racial attitudes formed under it persisted.  And this is where self-care comes in.  Internalized oppression is real, and it is not going to be eliminated by simply giving people more "leisure."  Self-care is a kind of work, valuable in itself but not something that an employer can monetize.  Maybe for this reason it is incompatible with Marxist theory, but I do not give a damn about that.

Taking time out for self-care is important if we are all to see that life is worth living and social equality is desirable.  We might have great people "doing the thinking" in our left-wing political groups, but culture is not about thinking*, and we cannot transform culture simply by thinking better.  American slavery would have ended before 1800, probably, if that were true, because Ben Franklin and a lot of other big thinkers were already condemning it.  And if we consider homophobia as another kind of persisting prejudice, well, why are there even "ex-gay camps" more than 40 years after the American psychology community decided homosexuality was not a mental illness?

*There, I said it.  I am a hopelessly irrationalist reactionary....