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.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Overwhelming Whiteguyness of Clinton/Trump Equivalency

I just got back from casting my early vote – and despite my longstanding loathing for her war hawkishness, her punitive opposition to drug legalization, her support for the surveillance state and sundry other things, I metaphorically held my nose and literally voted for Hillary Clinton. Which in turn inspired some outraged outbursts from some of my online acquaintances: how can you vote to maintain the corrupt status quo? Support the two-party duopoly? Continue a Clinton dynasty? Back the continuation of America's endless drone warfare? And other things which a President Hillary Clinton would undoubtedly do.

Granted, my own political leanings are softcore libertarian, so what I see and read on social media are somewhat outside the norm. With that outlier status in mind – and also remembering that “the plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data'” – here's an interesting anecdote I've noticed this presidential election: of the many people who say “Trump and Clinton are equally bad, and thus the only moral voting options this year are to either vote third party or not vote at all,” they're all white and overwhelmingly male -- i.e., NOT members of any ethnic, racial, religious or gender group whom a President Trump would seek to legally discriminate against.

There are many, MANY things I dislike about Hillary Clinton -- none of the conspiratorial whargarble, but I greatly dislike her war hawkishness, her punitive views on drug legalization, and many other things -- but there's zero evidence Trump would be any improvement there. And there's one way HRC is hands-down better than Trump: she does NOT want to, for example, deport all Muslims from the country, she has NOT said that American-born citizens of Mexican ancestry are too untrustworthy to be federal judges, and so forth.

If the bigot with the bad Oompa-Loompa spray-tan were to win, and I had to say good-bye to certain dear friends (and naturalized American citizens) who are being deported because they pray to the wrong version of the Abrahamic God, I don't think those friends of mine would be much comforted by the reassurance “See this hand I'm using to wave good-bye? You'll be glad to know it's a CLEAN hand, unsullied by pulling the lever for any corrupt establishment-type.”

And that — combined with my first-time status of “voter in a battleground state” — is why I did not vote for Gary Johnson this year, as I did in 2012.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Clinton Voters in Georgia: An Anecdote

I went to a meetup today--officially it was an atheists' meetup, but any eavesdroppers who overheard the majority of the conversation would think the meetup was actually "People who don't particularly like Clinton, but are voting for her because Georgia is now a battleground state, and she's neither Trump nor the Christian Right."

Eventually the conversation got around to various bizarre things Trump, Pence or their alt-right followers said and believed, which led to bizarre conspiracy theories in general, and at one point I mentioned the "Obama caused the Fukushima tsunami with his HAARP weather machine" conspiracy, which none of them had heard of before. So one guy took out his phone, and I told him "Seriously -- Google the words Obama, harp with two a's, and Fukushima," and his eyes bugged out when he saw the results. He even said "Oh my God, look at this," even though we're all atheists there.

I destroyed four people's innocence today.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Childhood vs. Adulthood, Explained

Here's one of the main differences 'twixt childhood and adulthood: as a child, during those relatively rare occasions I found myself in a "buffet/all you can eat" situation, I'd eat the bare minimum amount of "real" food I could get away with, to save room for all those scrumptious desserts. Now, I'm likely to skip dessert to leave room for all that scrumptious "real" food.

Last night Jeff and I went to a very nice sushi/Japanese seafood buffet, where I ate rather more than I should've in one meal. Then, I spent the rest of the evening hearing strange noises. Maybe it was the sound of my digestive system struggling to process a larger payload than usual -- or maybe it was the child I used to be screaming at my adult self from across the gulf of years: "You had the chance to eat chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, chocolate cream puffs and chocolate dessert crepes ... and you gave all that up to eat raw fish? What the hell is wrong with you!!??"
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