An Open Letter To Eric Greitens

Dear Mr. Greitens,

This morning, at the gym, I got on the treadmill, switched on the tv monitor, plugged in my headphones, just in time to catch one your campaign ads.  It prompted me to write, to ask a couple of questions.  Clarification seems in order.

Several years ago you founded the Mission Continues as a community activist agency and I was very impressed. I thought, this guy has a lot going, and when rumors began to circulate that you might run for governor, I thought here’s a Republican I could vote for.  I know there are Republicans worth my vote, they just seem overwhelmed by those who aren’t. You, I thought at the time, were an exception.

Then I saw your ad.

Not the first one, the one you pulled, on the shooting range.  An ill-conceived mistake, taken away.  Not a message appropriate to the people served by Mission Continues.  No, not that one.  The one in which you are looking at the camera, dark background, and earnestly telling us your positions.

I was very disappointed.

You preface your claim to be “Pro-life, pro-gun” but declaring your belief that Obama is the  worst president ever.  Or at least in your lifetime.  Granted that you’re only 42, which means your first opportunity to vote for a president would have been Bill Clinton, so as an active participant you don’t have much to choose from—three presidents.  But as someone aspiring to office I would expect you to have a better grasp of history than such a statement shows.

Worst president ever?  By what metric?

I hear that from people who hate Obama.  I look at them and while I can understand the emotionalism I cannot understand on what basis they make that claim.  Granted, most of them are not running for office.  They have not seen much of the world.  They do not have the experiences you have.  Most of them do not have a degree from Oxford nor have had your first-class education from Parkway to UMSL.  History is a foreign language to most Americans, but I expect people who aspire to high office to know better.

I have yet to hear one thing that merits such an assessment about Obama.

Now, there are many things you might have said which would not have sparked my reaction.  Had you said you think he is a middling or even mediocre president, I might quibble, but fair enough.  It’s a complex office, context matters, and mileage varies.  I might disagree (I do) but I can respect an assessment like that.  It indicates a degree of thought went into it.  However, a blanket “worst ever” is nothing but political bombast irrespective of reality.

It is not what I expected from you.

So I repeat: by what metric?  Because based on the metrics Republicans usually use to claim success for their own, Obama is a raging success.

Therein lies the problem.  If I thought Republicans were critical of the situation that boasts an unemployment rate that disregards those chronically unemployed who simply have fallen off the roles, then I might listen.  If I thought Republicans were critical of trade deals that injured American job prospects even though the stock market shows the economy booming, I might listen.  We could go on, but you see my point.  The fact is, Republicans—at least those in office—are not critical of those things and if under the same circumstances one of them were in the White House with these numbers, they would be hailing that president as the second coming of Lincoln.  So it has nothing to do with what Obama has done.  By their own metrics, he should be lauded.

But he’s the wrong man for that, isn’t he?  For a number of reasons.

That kind of cheap denigration should be beneath you.

I repeat, by what metric?  Explain to me what he has done that has been so terrible that you would take the opportunity to craft an ad for your campaign that leads with that cheap shot?

And then I have to ask, compared to who?

Because if we’re going to dig into the box of history, we can come up with several far worse, including but not limited to Obama’s predecessor.

Memories are short.  Politicians rely on that.  People forget.

But let me move on.  Your next claim.  “Pro-life, Pro-gun.”  Do you have any idea how that sounds to reasonable people?  It is oxymoronic, a logical inconsistency.  You are pro-life in support of the personal means to take life.

I know that’s not what you meant, not exactly.  You’re playing to an audience.  People who don’t like abortion and think someone is about to take their guns away, which they need to protect themselves from people hundreds if not thousands of miles away.  Because in spite of what we see on television and on Facebook and hear from the pulpits of jingoistic opportunists, crime is on a downturn in this country.  Things have gotten better over the last few decades.  So feeding the myth that everyone needs their firearm because the crazed bad guys are coming through their doors any minute is just irresponsible nonsense.  This is the politics of fear and completely inconsistent with the Greitens of Mission Continues.

As for the pro-life part, that is pure emotionalism wrapped up in a bundle of distracting falsehood.  You want to cut back abortions, then you do something to provide women with the means to manage their own fertility.  Birth control, sex education, and empowerment.  We have the proof that these are things that work.  It is not guesswork, not wishful thinking.  Make birth control available, provide for comprehensive sex education at an early age, stop shaming people for their private lives, unwanted pregnancy goes down.

Defunding Planned Parenthood is the exact opposite of policies that work.

This is not opinion.  We have seen it work.  More, we have seen the abysmal, tragic failure of so-called Abstinence Only education.

Nothing in your c.v. to date would have suggested to me that taking a principled stand based on fact and reality would bother you.  Was I wrong?

As to the gun stuff.  Please.  Reasonable measures to keep weapons from easy access to people who clearly should not have them would not, in any sane world, constitute an infringement on anyone’s rights.

But a lot of people are having their rights infringed by the thoughtless support of public policies that see birth control as somehow worse than murder or suicide.

So what happened?  Did someone talk to you and explain that if you wanted to be governor you would have to tow the party line?  Did someone point out that if you took reasonable stands on these things, the party would not back you?  Did someone show you how all this requires money and those who have it don’t like politicians who think for themselves?  Was there such a conversation?

Because I am very disappointed.  The GOP has been pushing the same set of policies now since Reagan inaugurated the age of fear-based religious-driven right-wing powermongering and we have seen, repeatedly, how they do not work.  Every time the GOP gets its hands on enough power and authority, the average person suffers.  Wages go down because of the anti-union assaults.  Teen pregnancy goes up because money dries up for education and clinics.  Jobs vanish because deals are brokered with WalMarts and their ilk.  Tax revenues disappear and infrastructure decays.

Oh, sure, these things happen under Democrats, too.  But we just see them as bad at their jobs and eventually vote them out.  Republicans seem to have embraced this stuff as if it had been handed down on tablets from the mountain.

Even as strategy, this makes no sense.  You are appealing to a shrinking demographic.  A frightened, shrinking demographic that responds to the charge that our president is the worst ever based on nothing but confirmation bias.

It’s a cheap strategy.  I would have thought you above that kind of thing.

I guess not.

Yours truly,

 

The Campaign

Hillary Kaine.

Trump Pence.

Part of me—a large part—sees this as a no-brainer.  Who, with any claim to sense or logic, would vote for Donald Trump?

But voting is as much, often more, emotional than rational, so one cannot depend on that for preferred outcomes. A lot of people are emotionally committed to Trump. Their reasons are, from what I have seen and heard, based on nothing tangible about Trump.  It is all about their own discontent with things-as-they-are.

The problem is—for all of us—that such assessments are based on what we see.  And a lot of what we see is scary.  It is extremely difficult to take comfort from logical conclusions based on impersonal data when we are deluged with images of pain, death, and imminent catastrophe.  Humans are visually-oriented.  We panic.  If someone with presumed credibility and/or authority goes “Boo!” there is a small, slippery, worm-like core of our inner Id that vibrates in terror and drives our emotional responses.

Trump has been saying “Boo!” very well and he is aided by the news cycle that thrives on ratings bumps from mass shootings, political insanity, scandal, and predictions of collapse from around the world.  Saying to yourself, “Now, calm down, this is not a true picture,” is very difficult in the face of events like the Dallas shootings, predictions of lost jobs, the Munich massacre, the continuing struggle in the Middle East.

Even though what we see is based on reality, the conclusions to be drawn are difficult with the lack of detail and the conflicting arguments over what these things mean.

“Why don’t our leaders do something!

It does little to mollify that worm to be told “They are, they are, you just don’t see everything that’s going on.”

And of course sometimes they aren’t, at least not what we think they should be doing.

Because it is all those unseen machinations which you know are going on that serve to undermine your faith.  Because we have been told for decades now that those “back room” goings-on are to our detriment.  Powerful people doing things out of sight of the public for their own ends.  Nothing good can come of it.

Well, I am prey to the same misgivings.  I won’t lie.  When it seems so obvious what The Problem is, the demand to know why nothing seems to be happening to solve it is perfectly reasonable.  Patience frays.  And you know—you know—deals are being done of which you would not approve.  And clearly not all those deals work the way the people who made them intended.  That only stands to reason.

So you have to ask, “What were they thinking?”

NAFTA is held up as one of the great deals that backfired.  What were they thinking?

Well, I don’t think many of them did it with the intent to undermine the American labor force and cost us jobs.  Some did, the CEOs and business industry moguls who stood to profit, I’m sure they were looking at the way their expenditures would evolve in that new environment, but even among them I doubt it was with the kind of cynicism one might find in a Darth Vader.  They, like most of us, are as susceptible to myth as you or I.  They probably “believed” what losses occurred in one sector would be made up for in another.  The great American job creation machinery would fill the gap.  As well, the immigration problem drove some of that, and we all know that the major driving force in most of that immigration had to do with the lopsided economies of Mexico and the United States.  All those people were coming here because at home they could not find work and what work they could find did not pay enough.  NAFTA might have brought the economy of Mexico up to as viable level to provide jobs at home and thus curtail the flow of illegal immigration.

I don’t think anyone expected the drug war to reach the heights it did.

But even without that, the machine logic of cost-benefit analysis ultimately swept away any “higher purpose” behind NAFTA and it became what it is, a horrible construct that has gutted a lot of American industry.  To my mind, the crime was not that it failed but that in the face of that failure it wasn’t scrapped.

That almost never happens, though.  Does it?  We put these huge and complex things into place and, oh my, they don’t work the way we thought they would.  But do we ever go back and say, “Enough, shut it down, this won’t work.”  Rarely.  Very rarely.  Because of their complexity, because of the ancillary deals made to put them in place to begin with, because of the evolving dependencies they create, they become Rube-Goldberg structures impossible to undo without bringing destruction down upon even more people.  So they have to be modified, amended, something over here has to change before we change this thing over there, otherwise…

Otherwise chaos.

Whether we like it or not—and for the most part we don’t—this is how the world works.  It is all a huge, complicated Rube-Goldberg Thing that works inefficiently but is kept in place because otherwise chaos follows.

Trump is telling people he can tear it all down and we can start over—without killing anyone.

Or at least without killing anyone here.  On some days he talks blithely about bombing the shit out of people who are not here.

Either way, he is telling people that huge, vast machine can be removed and things will get better.

It is flat out untrue.

Those mechanisms have evolved over time to do one basic thing—prevent chaos.

Granted, chaos happens anyway.  Here and there, now and then, in relatively small pockets and doses.  Because the mechanism changes—on its own or by intent—and that is one of the consequences.

Ronald Reagan gutted our national healthcare system which provided succor to the mentally ill.  The consequence of that single act was to shut down facilities that had been caring for those suffering a variety of mental illnesses.  They ended up on the street.  We have the homeless problem today as a direct result.  People died.  He broke a system and probably, naively, expected the slack to be taken up by private institutions, and instead people died.  Did he intend that?  Certainly not.  But he believed in certain myths and falsehoods and acted without regard to realities.  He thought he was doing something correct, if not necessarily  good.

So when Trump promises to undo, repeal, destroy, etc in order to make the impatient and the poorly-informed and the uncomfortable vote for him, he is lying about it being a good thing.  People will die.  Chaos will follow.

He’s lying willfully, because he understands “deals.”  He knows about unintended consequences and he knows the pernicious tenacity of such constructs.  He knows very well that if he does half of what he’s promised you and I will be in a world of hurt.*

Which brings me to Hillary.

I’ve been listening for years as people on the Right—and even in her own party—have vilified her.  No doubt, some of the complaints have bases in fact.  She is a technocrat.  She understands those Rube-Goldberg systems of which I spoke.  And for better or worse, she seems to understand that they must be managed.  Destroying them leads down rabbit holes from which escape may be problematic at best.  So she has spent her career engaged in the unglamorous, often unexamined job of maintaining systems which many regard as horrible.  Here and there, from time to time, change can be worked on them, but never quickly, never in sweeping gestures, and rarely in terms that are easily explicable to those determined to not understand.

This is one of the reasons we see president-elects, almost always, change at least the priorities of their promised policies upon taking office.  The difference between desire and the achievable, between the ideal and the possible.  Sometimes that difference is not so great that the perceived “abandonment” of principle is very obvious.  Sometimes it is.  But it is, I believe, the responsible acceptance of the realities that creates the discontent for a president who seems to back off from campaign promises.  You cannot just displace or destroy what you don’t like—unless you’re willing to see people die.  Change has to come slowly.

It is the logic of our interconnectedness.

I believe Hillary Clinton understands this.  Probably better than most.  During the primary season, comparisons showed consistently that she and Sanders were mere degrees apart in terms of policy.  Bernie was, in his own way, promising what Trump is promising—tear it all down and put up something that “works.”  Hillary is more cautious.

I’m not going to rehearse her presumed “crimes” here.  As I’ve said before, anyone who has moved in the circles she has for as long as she has will have made deals and done things that can easily be construed as criminal, depending on how they’re spun.  The fact remains that the Republicans have spent millions and millions to find something that would put her out of the running if not in jail and have flat out failed.  Hillary’s reputation as untrustworthy is perfectly understandable, because we go to that simplistic metric at all levels—the guy arrested and jailed, despite the Constitution, is always presumed guilty, otherwise why would he have been arrested and accused?  Whether we like it or not, that’s just where we go.  Hillary has been accused and accused and accused and found not guilty so many times that now, even if she did do something wrong, likely the accusation would have no greater force than all the false ones.  But it has backfired by proving her to be one of the more honest candidates.  Of course, those who already don’t like her won’t ever believe that.

No matter.

Her choice of vice presidential running mate has caused further consternation among those who want to see sweeping reform.  The desire was for Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.  Two thoughts on that.  One, I have almost never seen a presidential ticket—at least, not a successful one—with two firebrands on the same ballot.  A president doesn’t need a co-president, and frankly I would like to see a return to the days before Cheney in terms of the personality of VPs.  Elizabeth Warren or Sanders both would be constant critics and because of their reputations and status it would be impossible for them not be in the limelight.  Someone like Kaine is a smart choice.

But the other thing about both of them is their power in the Senate.  I want them both there.  We need a congressional overhaul and you don’t make positive change by sidelining your best people.  I would have been disappointed had Hillary picked either of them.  It would not have bode well for the Senate in the long run and would have gained Hillary only short term benefit.  As I said, she understands how these systems work and this was a clear demonstration of that savvy.

To all the Bernie fans who claim they won’t vote for her.  Don’t shoot the rest of us in the foot.  Bernie needs to be in the Senate where he can be both effective critic and strong ally for a president who will be inclined to work with him.  Refusal to support Hillary this time around is petulance on par with Trump’s die-hard acolytes.  Think long term.  The system needs change, but you don’t do that by wrecking it first.  I know you don’t like Hillary, but so what?  It may well be that she’s your best hope of getting some of what you want—and what we need—done.  Saddle her with the same GOP congress, minus either Warren or Sanders, and that likelihood goes down.  View Sanders and Warren as the anchors of a new congress, we could see some good stuff happen.

My two bits, adjusted for inflation.

_____________________________________________________________________

*The Gold Standard for the idea that sweeping change can happen is FDR.  And yes, he did a LOT.  But consider—the system was already cracked and dysfunctional and nearly broken, globally, when he did that.  And then WWII happened.  The situation provided the opportunity by itself scrapping huge parts of that apparatus.  His job was less changing the mechanism as it was creating new machinery to do the job no longer being done.  We do not have that situation now and we had better hoe we don’t see such a situation.  2008 was bad but things still functioned.  As bad as it was it was still not historically on par with the Great Depression.

Unqualified

The clown car rolled into the station, the occupants decamped, and the frollicks began in earnest.  Lots of shouting, foot-stamping, and low-grade denunciations from the podium of this or that.

Trump is almost universally seen by all but the most ardent supporters as unqualified for the office of the president.  We keep hearing that, squeezed in between all the other verbiage being spewed about him. That in fact the only reason for some to vote for Hillary is because Trump is so thoroughly unqualified.

And yet, it would seem that most people who support him have a “Yeah? So?” reaction.

Consider:  that very accusation, leveled by people despised by Trump supporters, makes him all the more appealing.  For many, the very fact that he is unqualified to fill an office which they have believed filled primarily by ideologues of the “wrong” stripe for decades is a bonus.  His very unsuitability in comparison to all others is the whole point.  So hammering on the “unqualified to be president” charge is counterproductive.  You’re only reinforcing what they already know—and approve.

What Trump has successfully managed is to project as counternarrative an image of the ideal outsider. Not only is he outside the mainstream of political circles but he is outside the traditional bounds of informed citizen.  The people to which this appeals most strongly are those who no longer believe in any kind of constructive dialogue.  In their bones, they seem to believe that because they either don’t understand the system or the language of cooperative discourse, they are always shut out of any major public dialogue.  They’re tired of the ongoing discussions because, for them, nothing ever goes their way.

This is not Trump’s doing but he has tapped into it very well.  He knows his audience.  Tell them you’ll put up a gigantic wall to keep foreigners out, any attempt at examining the merits of that proposal will be met with impatience and derision. “We don’t care about your ethics or even your cost-benefit analyses, we like the idea of a wall, so stop telling me it won’t work or shouldn’t work or—more to the point—that I have no right to feel that way!”

Trump won the GOP nomination very simply, by appealing to those who are fed up trying to understand “processes” or “paradigms” or “dynamics” or the intricacies of a system they feel—often correctly—is bent on screwing them, by telling them that he will be their John Wayne and clean up the town.  Which usually means gunplay and some form of segregation.

Yes, it does come directly from the implicit “Make America White Again” which is the essential motor in his campaign car.

The reason this never works and only succeeds in making a lot of other people extremely angry is that it is a fantasy.

And Trump knows how to play this. His wife’s speech at the convention, clearly cribbed from Michele Obama, is a seriously twisted example of cultural appropriation that compares well with anything George Orwell might have come up with.  An anti-immigrant candidate’s Eastern European wife steals a speech from an educated native born black woman and represents it as a model of what the GOP should strive for.  This is done without the least hint of irony and the floor erupted with glee at the profundities they heard.  Which they had heard before and, as with just about everything else attached to Obama, rejected.  Rejected without any consideration as to content only with regard to who was saying it.

Of course, if Trump’s presumed policies actually went into effect, his wife might have trouble staying here.  He’d have to give her a special pardon.

But his base doesn’t care.  Melania will be fine, she can stay, because what they want more than anything is the power to say who fits and who doesn’t.

Hence the comparisons to Nazism.  The Green Card will become the new Yellow Star.  What’s in your wallet?

Shifting to the other side, the lukewarm support for Hillary is in some ways based on the exact same set of criteria.  Qualifications.  She may well be the most qualified candidate for president we have ever seen.  On paper, I cannot think of any presidential candidate ever who brings more preparedness to the office.

And that very thing is making a lot of people very uncomfortable.  Because America has developed, over many decades, a culture that exudes contempt for professionalism, especially in politics and especially in someone who is the wrong kind of person.

The reason Melania Trump’s plagiarism (and let me stress, I don’t for a second believe Melania did that, her speech was written for her, but someone knew exactly what they were doing) will pass through the Trump base without stirring a leaf of indignation is because Michele Obama should never have been able to make it in the first place.  She’s the “wrong” kind of person to be smart and powerful.

So, in similar fashion, is Hillary Clinton.

Now, if she were a man…

How can I suggest that?  Because the kind of subterfuge, oligarchism, and political insider creds for which she is being criticized is shared by just about any career politician who has moved for any length of time at those levels of power.  Dig deep enough, you can find exactly the kinds of shenanigans of which Hillary is suspected, but in the main none of it ever gets before a Senate committee, because in the main all of them are men and the overwhelming majority are white.  It only becomes actionable when the status quo is threatened, and here the threat is to the gender bias that should have gone away in the Seventies.

At it’s simplest, the choice is this: we have a candidate who will effectively execute the office of president and run the country; and we have a candidate who will run the country into the ground.  The funny thing is, both of them are in equal measure cheered and reviled over the exact same question of qualifications.  One is amply qualified, the other is profoundly unqualified.

As for the direction of the country, I suggest that the important elections this year are not for the presidency.  If Hillary wins—and I suspect she will—she will be overseeing a political landscape that will either be in chaos or will be in the early stages of serious reform.  Her job will be to keep it together in either case.  Because it will be in congress that the real changes need to be made.  If we send the same congress back, Hillary will simply be there to be blamed for the same stagnant nonsense Obama has been putting up with.  If, however, we see record voter turnout and a massive overhaul in the Senate and the House, then a great deal of repair work will start, and that will be messy in a different way.  I’d still rather see Hillary there that Trump.

One thing, though, that has to change—our indifference to education and our suspicion of ability.

Oh, one other thing—we need to vote.

A Couple of Scenes From Dallas, On the Occasion of Our Recent Visit

I may talk about the tragedy later.  I had a couple of conversations, saw a few things, felt a great deal, but I need to process it.  In the meantime, since we went there for something entirely joyful, let me stick with that for now.

Daniel Kost is Donna’s nephew, the youngest of two brothers.  He’s an engineer, an artist, a good guy and a fine human.  He’s been living in Dallas practically since he got his degree, so we don’t get to see him much.  So when it transpired that he was getting married, naturally we had to attend.

The ceremony, though modified because of a sudden rainstorm, was beautiful.

Here they are, Dan and Ana:

Dan & Ana dance, 2016 Oh, and yes, Dan is tall. Six eleven and a skosh.  Which makes Ana…well, taller than me.

The wedding was held in the Texas Discovery Gardens, which boasts a marvelous butterfly house.  Of course I had to take a walk through it, and…

Butterfly, Dallas, 2016No, it’s not the only picture I shot, but give me time.  (I have no idea what kind of winged beauty that is, but…)

Earlier in the day, we went to the Dallas Museum of Art, which is in (wait for it!) the Art District.  They had an Irving Penn retrospective on.  I’d never seen any of Penn’s work “in the flesh” before and it did not disappoint.  While going through it, we came on a class. The instructor was giving the kids a primer in photography and she was very good.  “When was the last time you took a picture? What did you take it with?” (Unsurprisingly, most of them had taken one with their phones.) She then showed them a range of different cameras.

Class at Museum, Dallas 2016The day after we arrived in Dallas, which was Thursday evening, we took a trip to Garland and the Stetson outlet store.  So I am newly be-hatted as well.

IMG_20160708_120953064IMG_20160708_120353058

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, to end with where I began, another photograph of the newly-wed couple.  Clearly they seem merely tolerant of each other and who knows how long this will last.

Dan & Ana, July 2016

Pot, Kettle, Emails

I just have a couple of thoughts on the whole Hillary email thing.

The FBI has recommended no charges be filed.  Which boils down to, “She did something perhaps stupid, but given all the circumstances, this isn’t worth pursuing.”  Obviously this is going to scratch the craw of a lot of people who were hoping for a body in the landfill moment.

This seems to be the case throughout the Clinton’s public life.  Allegations, something’s there, oh never mind, not what we thought or hoped for, but wait there this other thing!  It has backfired this time in the embarrassing assessment that Hillary is, by a few points at least, the most honest of the candidates running.  (I know, I was a bit shocked, too.  Career politician, etc.  But remember, Bernie is also a career politician, he’s just figured out how to not let the label stick.)  With all the resources available to the Right, you would think by now that if there were anything—anything—to any of the longed-for malfeasances, misdemeanors, and mistakes, something would have stuck.

I’m sorry, but no one—no one—is that capable of dodging that many bullets.  I have concluded that, regarding that landfill, there are no bodies.  Not buried by Hillary.  Or even Bill, for that matter.  The only thing they managed to come close on with him was lying about a blow job.  After how many millions spent trying to indict him on something else?  (And then only to find that Mr. Starr has his own problems with sexual misconduct.  Isn’t that just special?)

So here is what I think happened.

The FBI found that she was violation of the principle of certain rules.  Nothing harmful came of it.  They couldn’t even link it to Benghazi, which has turned out—several times now—to be its own kind of hellish nothing.  So the best they can do is wag a stern finger at her and say naughty naughty.

Why not prosecute on the principle?  Because in testimony the defense would reveal dozens upon dozens of others who have done exactly the same thing.  Colin Powell has already alluded to that fact and apparently Condi Rice did the same thing.  A door to endless review and the subsequent tarnishment (?) of reputations those who want to Get Hillary would rather not tarnish.

Secondly, given Edward Snowden, if I had been Hillary—or any of them—damn right I’d have my own private server.  Something a bit more reliable than a digital colander.  That way any mishap would be entirely on me (or her) and not the unfortunate consequence of a poorly protected government server.

Thirdly, someone, somewhere, must have realized that as this question has never come up before, it is primarily a Get Hillary mission and were she anyone else it would not have been raised.  Putting her on trial would risk putting a system on trial certain people still hope can be salvaged to their benefit.

Hillary is (a) a Clinton, (b) a Democrat, (c) a feminist, and (d) a woman.  She’s about to be president.  Everything certain folks on the other side of the aisle cannot abide just because it does not conform to their preferred view of the world.

Will she be a good president?  How should I know?  She’s qualified.  She’s demonstrably competent.  She leans in directions I rather approve.  But everyone thought Obama, for good or ill, was going to completely overturn and transform everything.  He didn’t.  Like any president, he will leave office with a mixed legacy.

But you know what, it doesn’t matter.  Not to me.  As I’ve said before, if the make-up of Congress is not changed, a reincarnated Abraham Lincoln couldn’t do much.  Given that, I would rather have her there than just about anybody else who has a glimmer of a chance of winning.

As for all the Hillary Haters, you may have grounds.  But they’re the kind of grounds you could dig up on any candidate, some more than others.  That doesn’t explain the hate.  Maybe you ought to ask yourselves why this particular candidate is on your shit list.  Some of you may have good answers, but I’d bet most of you just don’t like her and have no idea what she’s accomplished.

That’s my opinion, anyway.

Have a pleasant election cycle.

New Toy

A pause in the somewhat draining labor of watching the global political landscape turn itself into a Cubist exercise in sharp lines the never quite match up.  I bit the bullet and got the new Photoshop.  I have a lot of learning to do, but as is my wont I dove right in.  Sample of first efforts.

Classic Blue (1)

Embracing Stupid

I’m hearing from some folks about Brexit and by and large what I’m hearing says this is a calamity.  The idiots “broke the U.K.”

There were plenty of people explaining what would likely happen if they did this, but hey, what do experts know?

Well, quite a lot, actually, but that fact alone makes them unpalatable to the voters who actually cast a Leave vote.  We see precisely that kind of—what would we call it?—“learning fatigue” here.  Who do you think supports Trump?  People who know little or all the most useless things when it comes to politics and economics and quite adamantly do not want to know, because knowing would contradict the fantasy world in which they stand forth at weekend keggers loudly proclaiming positions that might hold some value in a Game of Thrones episode, but since the folks they’re holding forth to know just as little or less, no one challenges them and they feel justified in clinging to their ignorance.

This is the same crowd whose collective eyes glaze over when you start talking about the mechanisms of trade deals, the dynamics of boom-and-bust cycles, or the pathology of bigotry.  People who can’t seem to think outside of very broad categories (i.e. Radical Islamists are Muslims therefore all Muslims want to kill us) and feel empowered whenever someone gets up on a podium and tells them they’re right to be terrified of boogeymen.

So a lot of people, and by the demographics a majority of older British voters, decided that leaving the EU is the same as getting rid of the immigration problem (and somehow they’ll be safer, even though they ought to know better because of past history, namely the IRA, but they at least were white) and that all their money, which will now disappear at an even greater rate because of the catch-up homegrown institutions will have to do to replace EU systems (either that or just let people die, which may happen anyway), will magically reappear in their private bank accounts, and anyway they didn’t understand a lot about what was going in Greece much less down in the Levant and they’d rather not know, as if removing themselves from a source of information somehow eliminates the problem.

Look, knowing things is hard.  Not only is it a bit of work to find out in the first place, but it can be difficult to know what to do with what you’ve learned, and often enough knowledge has the consequence of making you feel responsible.

And that, I think, is where much of the problem is.  People are past exhausted being told to give a damn.  And the less they know, the easier it is to be confident in dismissing problems that don’t seem to have anything to do with them.

But of course, problems always have something to do with you.  Maybe not directly or even tomorrow, but somewhat and eventually, and left ignored will grow.

Isolation is a guarantee of eventual extinction.

I’ll let that sit out there for a while.  More later.  But think about it.

Isolation is a guarantee of eventual extinction.

Come Again?

The evangelical embrace of Donald Trump is, to my mind, one of the most bizarre aspects of this election cycle.  The pretzel logic by which these endorsements come defies Oedipus.   If there had been any doubt before that the Christian Right (which is in substance neither) is dedicated to any program that will see the established order overturned to make room for their brand of idiocracy, this would be it.

Because the only way this makes sense is to see Trump as the prophesied  Anti-christ who will bring about the Apocalypse and prepare the way for His return.  Back when Bush was in the oval office, it came out that a umber of “advisors” were pushing his Middle East campaigns because it comported with their view of biblical fate.  Whether Bush himself bought into this is a matter of conjecture, but some of the people whispering in his ear did.

So whatever the evangelical right claims to believe about Trump, on its face  they can only hope to gain one thing—the demise of the secular state, either through mismanagement, revolution, or the intervention of heavenly hosts.  Trump, if his rhetoric is to be believed, will bring a wrecking ball to the office of president and, lo, chaos shall follow.

Jerry Falwell must be grinning in his grave.

I listened this morning to such a booster on NPR describe in glowing terms how he “knows” Trump and sees a man ready for repentance.  Wouldn’t that be a feather in their cap, to convert a man like this?  And his serious ineptitude is a bonus.  This is a flawed, fallen soul who will fail and in failing come to the lord and all these sycophants will be waiting with prayers and possibly militias behind them to move into the gap left behind by broken institutions.  Trump, they must imagine, will preside over the end of the secular United States, thus bringing on the Last Days and the salvation of the world!

Because such people say “Jesus” every third or fourth sentence, people are loathe to see them for the empty suits they are.  Well, some people.  I suspect most people find them…odious.  But it’s hard sometimes to condemn the mouthpiece without being seen to condemn the apparent message.

On the other hand, if, as might be possible, Trump has been playing the part of the Big Guy in the ultimate reality show, and is doing all this in order to bring the vermin out of the woodwork and completely disrupt the Fundie poison that has been sickening our republic since Reagan brought the Moral Majority into mainstream politics, then these fatuous rubes are playing into his hands with the wide-eyed fecklessness of a kid at Christmas, participating in what could be their ultimate loss of any political credibility.  Trump is making them all look like the fools they seem unable to understand.

Moderate Republicans, if any actually remain in the Party, have been scratching themselves, trying to get the funk off, seeing what is nothing less than the distillation of everything the GOP has been moving toward, supporting, and embracing since 1979 rise up out the swamp and shamble toward the convention.  Because of the Tea Party, because of the Christian Right, because of the supposed constitution fundamentalists—because, really, all these elements have been bought and paid for by the moneyed interests who would love to see the federal government either completely emasculated or safely conjoined to Wall Street—and the unholy growth of the thing Eisenhower warned us about back in 1960, the GOP is a caricature of what it once was.  It has become a haven for the intolerant, the small-minded, the regressive, the xenophobic.  Perversely, I think, not because they actually hate but because protecting the rights of the marginalized, the other, the outgroup requires a strong government dedicated to civil rights.  And they have set themselves in opposition to a strong government purely because it is strong.

And the Religious Right has cheered them on because they see, whether admitted or not, a strong government as a barrier to their preferred template for the country.  If the government says you may not discriminate against anyone based on their religion—or lack thereof—then they have no real power to aggressively convert.  When you let people make up their own minds, many, maybe most, will do things you just don’t like.

It’s been a close-run thing for them all this time.  They had to couch their intentions in rhetoric that played well to an audience not wholly sympathetic.  They couldn’t just come right out and say what they wanted.

Till now.  They think they have their shot.  Trump’s their guy.  So the gloves are coming off.

I think they’re in for a serious shock.