Powered by Blogger

Saturday, January 27, 2018

We need to stop hating Trump

More and more, I agree with what, for example, Matt Taibbi, is saying - I think we are missing the opportunity to craft a positive vision rather than just being appalled all the time. That's so easy, to just push the outrage button. I have tons of friends who are just rabid about Trump, but how does that help? On the other hand, I'm less and less convinced that the really red state voters would vote for Democrats if we would just "listen" to their concerns. Hillary spoke to many issues that affected them, including the opioid crisis, which Donald Trump's policies is making worse. Many of those voters are not ever ever EVER going to vote for a Democrat. And they fricking love "the way Trump talks," which they pretend has to do with his being off the cuff and "real," but has a LOT more to do with his being racist as fuck. They are not ever ever EVER going to vote for a candidate they think cares about black and brown people. Dems and progressives need to inspire our natural constituencies to come out and vote. That's why Roy Moore lost. Not because Dems successfully appealed to "white working class" voters.

Here's excerpts from Matt:

. . . Despising Trump and his followers is easy. What's hard is imagining how we put Humpty Dumpty together again. This country is broken. It is devastated by hate and distrust. What is needed is a massive effort at national reconciliation. It will have to be inspired, delicate and ingenious to work. Someone needs to come up with a positive vision for the entire country, one that is more about love and community than blame.

. . . Division isn't an accident. It's not even just a by-product of a commercial scheme, though the pioneering work of Roger Ailes and Fox News played a crucial role in our current mess, by showing media companies they could make easy money through the politics of bifurcation and demonization.

Division does make money, but beyond that, it's highly political. It's an ancient technique of elites, dividing populations into frightened and furious camps so as to more easily control them. When people are scared enough and full enough of hate, they will surrender their rights more quickly.

It's not an accident that as the right-left divide has grown in this country, we've gradually given up on almost every principle that used to define us, collectively, as Americans. We surrendered our rights to privacy, failed to protest vast expansions of federal power (including to classify the inner workings of our own government – our government), stopped requiring due process to jail people and closed our eyes to torture and assassination and all sorts of other atrocities.

. . .If we were serious thinkers, and not obvious or malleable ones, we'd have spent this last year coming up with ways to improve this country, or make it more just, or more beautiful, or less violent, instead of obsessing constantly about Trump.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Republican authoritarianism

Still, as the conservative movement has completed its conquest of the Republican Party, it has never resolved the dilemma that haunted it from the beginning. Conservative opposition to policies like business regulation, social insurance, and progressive taxation has never taken hold among anything resembling a majority of the public. The party has grown increasingly reliant upon white identity politics to supply its votes, which has left an indelible imprint on not only the Republican Party’s function but also its form.

. . . 

Here is a sitting governor in the United States, not some post-Soviet kleptocrat, actually calling for “authoritarian power.” To be sure, LePage lies along the edge of his party rather than at its center. But the nature of party coalitions is that they cluster around common principles, and the mainstream of Republican thought is closer to LePage than anybody could have imagined possible a few decades ago. In a September National Review cover story, co-authors Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru, two of the right’s most erudite intellectuals, acknowledged that Trump has made some questionable statements that “certainly do not sound like the views of a person with a deep esteem for the constitutionally limited role of the president or for the delicate balance of our system of government.” But, they quickly insisted, Hillary Clinton’s support for executive actions, laws that create more bureaucracy, and liberal judges poses “a more concrete and specific threat than Trump.” Indeed, “mainstream liberalism now subverts and threatens our democracy,” and so they concluded that the safer choice, from the standpoint of the republic’s stability, would be to hand control of the Executive branch to Trump. This is how a party consensus forms. The more strident wing openly endorses authoritarianism, and the “moderate” wing refrains while agreeing that authoritarianism is still preferable to liberalism.


Friday, November 24, 2017

What has happened to you America?

Every time Trump says some moronic thing and people who actually know something about the economy or the government or international relations say it doesn't work like that. And his supporters say, we love him, he speaks for us. But what he says is stupid. And then his supporters cry and say "Don't call us stupid!" and I just think then stop applauding that stupidity. They aren't alternative facts. Most "illegal" immigrants are not actually Mexican rapists and it never actually trickles-down Insisting that it's not an apple doesn't make you misunderstood it makes you misinformed.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Kingsmen: Golden Circle really sucks

I only went to this movie because my kids were excited to see it. Wow, just too dumb for words.

So retro, but not in a good way. Every female character either sits behind a computer or is there for window dressing. (And one is actually murdered for having sex, like a 1970s horror film, or the third installment of Indiana Jones [that's obviously another commentary altogether].) My point, and I do have one, is: where is the ass kicking which we have come to expect from female good guys in today's film?

And such a waste of the monumental talents of Julianne Moore as the strangely passive drug king pin who frolics around a 1950s themed compound surrounded by the world's most ineffectual henchmen. She schemes, she cooks (!), and she watches events unfold on the screen of her laptop.

It very much has the feel of the Bond movies of the past, and I don't mean that as a compliment: the men race around (we're in London, we're in Kentucky, we're in Italy, we're in Cambodia), dodging bullets as if by magic, while the women wear sexy clothing and make goo-goo eyes at the big strong men. WTH? I have to rewatch Wonder Woman just to get the bad taste out of my mouth.

I appreciate a well placed F bomb as much as the next person, but this movie takes gratuitous swearing to unheard of levels. It's distracting, the way they shoehorn the F word into every scene. (Darling daughter tells me it's the hero's catch phrase . . . fer crying out loud, if that's not the laziest writing in movie history).

And the laws of physics do not apply to this universe, wherever it is. In the obligatory car chase that opens the film, a car smashes into a concrete barrier, but then pulls away without a scratch on the hood. A gondola spins and careens down a snowy slope, the trapped heroes walk away immediately after without any adverse reaction. Etc, etc, etc, etc.

I know it's escapism, but it's the worst possible kind. I really thought that we had entered a new era of action movies, with a more nuanced take on plots, character development, and relationships. This movie is a dinosaur. Bleh.

I gave the movie 2 stars (out of 10) - one for the weird but delightful presence of Elton John (HE gets to kick some bad guy ass!), and one for the weird anti anti-drug message and the mocking of a foolish, small-minded president.


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Tom Price is out.
Ryan Zinke is in the cross hairs.
Trump looks like a dolt most days.
His approval ratings are continuing to slip.
Paul Ryan shelved that fucking silencer bill.
Tax reform bill is facing opposition.
Trump does nothing to push Congress on his agenda.

House passed a bill to outlaw abortion after 20 weeks.
Roy Moore is probably going to be a US Senator.
Some of the Supremes are fucking old.

Congress let CHIP funding expire.
Trump administration is undermining ACA.
Crazy white guy shot 58 people (a record!) for no apparent reason.
Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands are wrecked.
Trump has 39 more months as president.

The left is doomed

I attended a "teach-in" about Charlottesville at SU tonight. Great speakers - a religion professor talked about refusing to compromise, a white woman talked about growing up in segregated Gainesville FL, a Jewish professor talked about the neo-Nazi resurgence in the US after Trump's election, a black "activist" professor talked about the "religon" of whiteness in America, and a gay professor talked about confronting fascists in NC. It was very inspirational. Then came the Q&A. It was all Jews suck because of Zionism and white people suck because they only hate Trump and they don't understand that black people have been fighting these issues for years and blacks should just go off on their own and fight since whites suck so badly. I ended up in complete despair. If only I had left when the original presentation ended. No wonder the Repugs are kicking our asses - we are too busy stabbing each other in the back while they roll over us and watch us recede in their rear view mirror.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Tom's predictions were right

My friend Tom:

How I knew Trump would Win
By Tom Limoncelli

I’ve been predicting that HRC would lose since 2008. I felt that she her negatives were too high to win. In 2008 she ran a sloppy campaign. I could see she learned a lot from that, and adopted a much more thoughtful strategy in 2016, which made me optimistic. I supported Bernie in the primaries and Hilary in the national… but I kept saying that I didn’t think she could win. I became optimistic in the last weeks because of FiveThirtyEight and other sites, but I still felt that she would lose because:

1. HRC’s negatives were too high. Little else matters. The radical right had invested in damaging her reputation for 24 years. The constant mudslinging at her is pretty amazing… they figured out a way to make it profitable and therefore self-sustaining. See the documentary The Hunting of the President http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0391225/ (available on Netflix and elsewhere… it is based on the book by the same title). What makes matters worse: For HRC to create a campaign organization, she had to hire people that had developed the ability to ignore all the mud and conspiracy theories people have made up about HRC (because the conspiracy theories aren’t true) BUT to win the election they had to pay attention to all the shit people say about HRC. It is impossible to find people that both have become immune to something and fight it. Another way to say that is: If you build a team of people who all have a “core skill” of being oblivious to a bunch of BS, they aren’t going to be the people that can create a strategy that defends against that bunch of BS. You need to be in a bubble for self-preservation, but you need to know that the bubble exists.

2. Trump was playing a new game. DNC operatives are bad at fighting against new techniques. Trump was all about new campaign tactics. In fact, I would say this election was proof that “marketing beats campaigning”. Marketing tells people what they already know and like, and shows that the product meets a need that they want fulfilled. Campaigning explains why your policies are better. Before Trump entered the race, he had a staff person watch Fox News for months and catalog what topics were talked about the most. In the primary, he only talked about those topics. In other words, he talked about the things that Fox News had already invested millions of dollars and countless hours telling people “this is true”. So, Trump was telling people “this thing you know? I know it too and it’s true and that’s why you should vote for me.” Clinton was telling people “Here’s my policies… don’t you think they’d work well for you?”

3. HRC ignores Right Wing Radio. Right Wing Radio has spent 3 decades creating their own mythology about how the world works. It’s a false mythology, but once you start listening to it, you eventually buy into it. This mythology is all conspiracy theories and right-wing lies, but it if you listen enough it tells a complete story that explains everything… even if the reasons are “because I said so” or “because…. black people!” As a result, during the debates HRC said things that were 100% true and Trump said things that were the vocabulary and mythology from right-wing radio. Liberals walked away saying, “HRC had great answers!” but everyone else walked away saying, “Trump was speaking my language!” She didn’t win the debates… she said the things that the pundit class would understand but the rest of the country heart Trump.

People keep saying, “I like Trump because he says the things that other politicians don’t say.” Of course! Politicians are too smart to repeat crazy conspiracy theories in public, even if they believe those things. When Trump said those crazy things, they weren’t new ideas to people. Those people were responding, “Wow! Finally someone that says the truth that RWR has been telling me! I like him!” In fact, when Trump says those things it makes Republican politicians look like liars. That’s very powerful.

When I say “marketing beats campaigning” I also mean this: When I asked Trump supporters why they support Trump, they’d say things like “HRC is so negative. She just complains. Trump has actual solutions.” If you look at what HRC was saying, it was policies that would (for example) bring back manufacturing jobs to the U.S. However you have to understand the policy and draw that conclusion. Trumpw as just saying, “We’re going to bring back manufacturing!” and if someone asked “how?” he said, “BY BRINGING BACK MANUFACTURING.” Yes, that’s an empty promise with no policy to back it, but compared to what HRC was saying, she sounded negative and Trump had a solution: Bring back manufacturing! (Oh, if only it was that easy.)

Those are the reasons I’ve been spouting for a while. In the last 4-5 months I realized some new things:

(a) Trump is addressing a lot of new voters, and pollsters don’t poll those people. The number of Americans that vote is so tiny, than if you can get a few percent of non-voters to start voting (i.e. give them a reason), then that will be enough people to change an election. How do you get non-voters to start voting? You give them something exciting to vote for… a TV personality. Obama did this but addressed a different crowd.

(b) New battleground states: Pollsters weren’t experienced at polling those new states, so their info was invalid.

(c) FiveThirtyEight is a sum of other polls. Polls are only part of the picture. It misses new voters, people that lie to pollsters, and it misses things like the fact that there was a 50-to-1 ratio of Trump signs along the highway. That means something.

(d) The Koch brothers were silent. The pundits thought this meant they were staying out of this one. What it really mean is that they adopted a strategy of staying out of the spotlight. They were probably just as active in influencing things.

I felt like I’ve been saying these things, for years, but obviously I’m not someone that the campaigns listen to. I hate that I was right about Trump. I hate that “marketing beat campaigning”. I hate that the 49.9% of the U.S. that believes Fox News’s lie that “Obama has achieved nothing” have elected someone that is going to un-do all the advancements he has made.

What should we do in the future? We should pay more attention to the conspiracy theories spouting from right wing radio. We should also find ways to defund and disrupt it. Stop talking about the "media filters". Right-wing radio isn't a filter... it is a bull-horn. What's brilliant about it is that it is self-funding. The advertisements make it self-sustaining. We need to find out own bull-horn that is as effective and self-funding. Without doing that, the right-wing will always rule U.S. politics.


P.S. Disclaimer: I realized a lot of this during Trump’s primary run. Early in the primaries I had written that I thought Trump would pull out after a month or two because he was doing it as a PR stunt. However, once I saw what he was winning, I realized a lot of the things I’ve written about here. I was surprised that HRC and other pundits didn’t see it too.

Post election inspiration

And some inspiration:

Post election analysis

John Strout's photo.

Some of the best analysis that I read after the election:

5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win

Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy is the talk of the political world right now. I didn't read the book, but I read an essay (or excerpt) from the author and my takeaway is that working class whites refuse to get an education and refuse to move away from towns with no economic viability and denigrate anyone who tries to improve their situation as getting "too big for their britches." So I feel like it's not Obama's fault or my fault (as an educated "elite") that these people's prospects aren't better!

Friday, March 08, 2013

Book trouble

I'm having a terrible time finding a book to love this year.  I've started and discarded at least 3 books since January. Part of the problem is YA novels that sound great, but disappoint.  (At this rate, I'm never going to meet my reading goal of 50 books this year - I think I've finished 4 books in the first 2 months of 2013.)

I put these dystopian/fantasy YA novels into 2 distinct categories.  The ones written pretty much exclusively for teenagers, with lots of angst, and teenager elements like mean girls and cafeteria pow wows, including The Predicteds, Die for Me (blatant Twilight knockoff), A Great and Terrible Beauty (strong title, weak book), and the one I'm struggling through right now, Adaptation (should be excellent, just based on the title).

Then there are the ones that appeal to a wider audience (in other words, adults), like The Hunger Games, Pure, Enclave, and Divergent. The latter category tend to hit the ground running and maintain that pace, while the former tend to be more meandering (coincidence, I don't think so).

SIDE NOTE: I would put books (series) like Uglies, Matched, Shatter Me, and Delirium somewhere in the middle of these two categories because they appeal to adults but the lean towards the teenagery in their character development and plot lines.