Friday, December 30, 2016

No, Mr. 2016, I expect you to die

I'm definitely staying up past midnight on New Years' Eve, and recommend all my friends do the same. If James Bond movies taught us anything, it's this: you can not merely walk out of a room and assume your arch-enemy will die during your absence; you must personally see to this death yourself.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Today's Trump Sawyer, Mean Mean Pride

Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone recently admitted to what many Trump critics had already suspected: the only reason Trump pretended to consider Mitt Romney for the Secretary of State position was so Trump could "torture" Romney for his former criticism of Trump.

Trump's behavior since winning the election reminds me in many ways of Tom Sawyer (the Twain book, not the Rush song). Twain's Sawyer was arguably the first "realistic" literary portrayal of a child, especially regarding Tom's childish fantasies which, like all childish fantasies, were simultaneously grandiose and incredibly petty.

Remember when Tom fantasized about running away and becoming a rich and famous pirate -- the dreaded Black Avenger of the Spanish Main? He and his crew would terrify the world (and have lots and lots of "orgies," even though they had no idea what "orgies" were, but the pirates in their storybooks sure seemed to like 'em), respectable men and women would all tremble in fear at the sound of his name ... and then (Tom imagined), at the height of his piratical glory, he and his crew would return to Tom's small-town schoolyard at recess, so all his former classmates could see how cool and piratical he was. (And wouldn't Becky Thatcher be extra-upset that she didn't hook up with this super-awesome pirate king when she had the chance!)

Now we have Trump, who managed to become a rich and famous president-elect of the United States ... and he's doing the equivalent of strutting around the schoolyard at recess. "Won't Mitt Romney feel extra-upset for criticizing me? He should've been nice when he had the chance."

At least when Tom Sawyer had his childish fantasies, he had the excuse of being a literal child -- and his Aunt Polly could reasonably hope "Wait a couple years and he'll outgrow it." But that doesn't work for a man of Trump's age.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Trump's Intellectual Confusion

Great was the face-palming in my household this morning when I read that President-elect Trump says he doesn't need to attend intelligence briefings because, quote, "I'm, like, a smart person."

I wonder if on some level, Trump is genuinely confusing the two meanings of "intelligence" -- the intellectual capacity to learn new knowledge or skills, versus the collection of information?

Depending on context, the statement "You lack intelligence" could be an insult meaning "You're stupid," but it could also mean "You have not been given certain information." An "intelligence briefing" is meant to take care of definition number two, but perhaps Trump is somehow viewing it as definition number one, and thus an insult? "I don't need to be given 'intelligence,' which I already have because I'm, like, a smart person?"

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Partisan Politics: Is He A Scumsucker Or A Twitwaffle?

I've been a full-fledged adult for the entirety of this millennium plus a few years to spare, old enough to notice and be disgusted by certain recurring patterns. Specifically, I'm sick of seeing the exact same partisan sports-bar realignments happen every time the White House switches from D to R or back again.

When Bush was president and started grabbing gobs of executive power after 9/11, the right wing made excuses while the left wing righteously decried his assault on the constitution. 

Then Obama got elected and the right wing needed approximately three nanoseconds to rediscover its "pro-liberty, small government" principles. Unfortunately, the right's renewed commitment to individual freedom and protection from out-of-control government power was offset by the left-wing civil liberty fans who suddenly decided constitutional violations were no big deal, so long as St. Obama the Trustworthy was behind them.

Then Trump got elected and the left-wingers immediately re-embraced their Bush-era love of constitutional freedoms, at the same time the right wing re-embraces its Bush-era belief that we really ought to trust the president and government to keep our best interests at heart. Because Zod forbid such ideas as "Be loyal to principles, not personalities or political parties" and "Don't grant power to a politico you like unless you're willing to see that same power wielded by a politico you don't" ever gain mainstream acceptance in 21st-century America.

It reminds me of sports-team fandom -- I say this as someone who's never had the slightest interest in watching team sports, and plain doesn't "get" the appeal of sports-team loyalty (unless you or a loved one are an actual playing member of that team) -- the loyalty is solely to the team name, and has nothing to do with the person who wears it or that person's behavior. To the point where a hardcore fan of the Washington Scumsuckers footbase team thinks Joe Blow is, like, the greatest guy in history while he's the Scumsuckers' lead home run quarterback, especially admired for his selfless charity work with sick children -- then Joe gets traded to the New Jersey Twitwaffles and suddenly he's the worst man since Hitler (and his charity work an obvious ploy to make dumbasses think he's a nice guy). The only thing that matters is the team name: is he a Scumsucker, or a Twitwaffle? 

But at least sports-team brand-name loyalty doesn't have actual real-world consequences. Political team brand-name loyalty does.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Too Cool For School (or to worry about Donald Trump)

How quickly do narratives change. Last week, those of us worried about Trump's election were told “Don't worry; Trump didn't mean all those racist things he said while campaigning!” Now, we're hearing “Don't worry; Trump won't listen to the white nationalist whom he named White House chief strategist!”

Meanwhile I've been noticing some odd false equivalencies lately – not necessarily from Trumpsters, but from “above the fray/too cool for school” types – the seeming belief that ALL concerns over politics are the same.

For example: those people who freaked out over Obama's election on the grounds that he'd impose Sharia law on the country were no less and no more nutty than the people now freaking out over Trump's election on the grounds that he might actually do some of the things he specifically said he'd do. Worrying that Trump will try to round up and deport a couple million people his first year  – as he said on 60 Minutes last night – is no different from worrying that Obama the Kenyan Illegal Immigrant will impose a Muslim dictatorship and round up all the Christians into concentration camps (which he never said he'd do, though a lot of conspiracy-theory types claimed otherwise).

Last week Hugo Schwyzer, a blogger for the Times of Israel, published a piece titled “Alarmism saved my family from Hitler: Why I won't tell anyone to calm down about Trump.”
In 1938, when Hitler took over Austria, Georg was a successful Viennese family physician, a father of two, a devoted and mild-mannered husband to my gloriously temperamental grandmother, Elsa. Georg was Jewish. Elsa was half-Jewish. The family was not religious in the slightest; they were fully assimilated to the cultural life of the glittering Austrian capital.
When Hitler came in, my grandfather shook his head. “There have always been anti-Semites,” he said. “We’ll stay quiet, and things will get better.” ….  Georg was an optimist. Hitler was just another colorful rabble-rousing politician. Things would settle down.

Elsa knew better. She knew what was coming, even if she couldn’t fully name it. Within a few weeks of Hitler’s takeover she was working to get the family out of the country. … Georg didn’t want to go. Elsa told him she was taking my father (then 3) and my aunt (then 6) and going, and he could stay behind and look for another wife if he liked. My grandfather, protesting all the way that my grandmother was overreacting and having delusions, reluctantly sold his practice.

My family settled in England, first near Manchester and later in rural Oxfordshire. As you might guess, nearly all the rest of my father’s extended family perished in the Holocaust.

My grandmother’s fear saved the family. My grandfather’s sweet confidence and optimism would have killed them.
So when you tell me, a noted soother and calmer of others, that I should tell Muslims and women and people of color that they have nothing to fear from Trump, I think that perhaps you want me to be like my grandfather....
Anecdotally speaking, the “don't worry about Trump” soothers I've seen all have one thing in common: none of them belong to any of Trump's stated target groups. It's always “Judeo-Christians telling Muslims not to worry about Trump's anti-Muslim statements” or “white Americans assuring black ones there's nothing problematic about Trump's debate-question answer that the problem of police violence against minorities is best solved by more 'law and order' plus expanded stop and frisk” or “heteros handwaving away LGBT concerns about the implications of a homophobic vice-president Pence influencing our soon-to-be president.”

The suggestion “Don't freak out about the election; life goes on” is good and valid advice for many millions of Americans today ... but for other Americans, those likely to be the targets of Trump and the Trumpsters, it's a horribly callous thing to say.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Presidential Post-Mortem

Well, I called that election more wrongly than anything I've written in the decade-long history of this blog! Back in May I argued that Trump would lose the presidential election because of demographics:

Remember the 2012 election campaign, when Romney supporters were convinced their candidate would win by a comfortable margin? Although I can't find the link now, at the time I recall a Romney adviser who admitted his boss' campaign strategy was to focus on winning a super-majority of white voters, and ignoring everyone else. Even so, the adviser admitted that due to changing American demographics (the percentage of white voters relative to others drops about 3 percent with each succeeding presidential election), 2012 would be the last time a "white votes only" strategy had any chance of winning the American presidency.

Of course, it did not work. And Romney's campaign merely ignored non-white Americans, whereas  Trump has actively insulted and/or threatened the bulk of them, in addition to polling far worse among women of all colors than Romney ever did.

The one possible silver lining to Trump's election is this: maybe now the American left will rediscover its Bush-era opposition to war and support for civil liberties, and even remember why it's a bad idea to put too much power into the hands of the president -- because even if you like how the current guy wields that power, there's no guarantee you'll trust his successor to do the same.
On the downside, with the GOP controlling all three branches of the government, and nothing to stop them from turning their voter-suppression activities up to 11, even if the left DOES rediscover these principles, it may not be possible for them to do anything about it.

Also this morning, I'm worried about the state of some of my friends' marriages -- not that they'll divorce over election disagreements, but that their unions will be forcibly dissolved by the government if Trumpence appoints Supreme Court judges who overturn the Obergefell decision.  And that's the only prediction I feel comfortable making right now -- all the other scenarios which spring to mind come dangerously close to breaking Godwin's law.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Bard Went Down To Georgia

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Which really art not such a much to say,
As Georgia heat maketh sane insensate.
Each day too hot the eye of heaven shines
And glareth down on wilting mortal Man
Only bugs do this climate find sublime
Plus creepy kudzu choking all the land.
And this eternal summer shall not fade:
EIGHTY-FOUR DEGREES on Halloween's eve*.
With little comfort found within the shade
where snakes and beetles live and thrive and breed.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see
The heat's compounded by humidity.

*Seriously -- Halloween is tomorrow and it's 84 right now, with the hottest part of the day still to come.
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