Friday, April 1, 2016

Many Great Changes At the Last Possible Minute

SO: I'm going to Social Work School for my Masters.  It seems like I'm going backwards since I already have a Ph.D. But I could not be more excited. Yesterday I walked six miles in to town to my new future school, and by dint of wandering walked the rest of the way home for a grand total of 11.5.  I've been drivin in and out taking my daughters to events at Aimai's New Future Alma Mater (ANFAM) for years but as I walked the extremely windy streets yesterday I saw everything with new eyes.  Imagine! Soon I'll be one of these scurrying hordes!  I'm very, very, excited.  I feel like I'm coming out of a period of hibernation.  At the same time today I had baby group and I realized that I might have to give it up. It will probably conflict with my internship next year.  I've been doing this group for four years and, increasingly, the work has gotten more intense and more meaningful as the women in the group (especially those on their second child) have really come to rely on the group and on my co-facilitator and myself for advice and comfort.  I am having a hard time figuring out how to write about the issues that come up in group, since they are quite private.  I think I'll have to take all that offline.  But today a parent came in who had disclosed to the group a few weeks ago just how hard a time she'd been having with her child, just how frustrated she was. We--well, I because I was soloing--gave her the best counsel I could. Everyone pitched in and really kicked the issues around with her.   This week she came back alone, since her mother-in-law was looking after her children--just to embrace me, sit next to me, and give back to the group some of her experiences since she had broken so many barriers and taboos and confessed her problems to them. She told us that she had been afraid that she had crossed a line and told us too much.  But that our response to her had enabled her to really talk to her husband and start to advocate for herself to get the help she needed.  And though she'd been afraid even to come back to group after being so exposed she knew she could trust us to welcome her back.  I was really surprised and touched because she walked into the room as group had already started and I waved to her and she came all the way around and just threw her arms around me, passionately, and told me how much it meant to her to be in group with us.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Where Hillary is Really Going With All This Loving Kindness Stuff

So, its going to be Trump (angry white people spoiling for a fight and desperate for security) and Hillary (a mixed group of Obama voters and depressed/angry/selfish self proclaimed leftist purity trolls and Sander's voters).* Trump is going to be wildly successful. His patented combination of fascist seduction and prosperity gospel makes him very, very, hard to beat.  He's not only promising to "make America Great Again" but to bring back jobs galore. I've heard him exhorting his fans to "get greedy!" because he's "going to make them all rich."  
This, needless to say, is not so much a political argument so much as it is a double helping of cake and ice-cream, laced with quaaludes and coke, and the promise that there will be no headache or vomiting tomorrow. Because its all promise and no policy it can't really be rebutted by another political figure. It doesn't resolve itself into an argument such as I will/will not build a wall at Mexico's expense. Or I will/will not raise taxes to pay for my policies. 
Trump doesn't have to say anything specific, or at any rate his voters don't want him to and will instantly forget anything he does promise.  The thing is that Trump, like Disney, is a <i>destination event</i>.  Being a Trump voter <i>is</i> the achievement. What Trump himself does or promises to do isn't relevant. Its how he makes his voters feel about their future and the future of the country.  
Steve M. made this argument with reference to anti Trump advertising and I think he is absolutely correct. You can't undermine Trump by referring to him or discussing him. His voters adore him, and they feel good just looking at things that remind them of him. His name, his hats, his ridiculous hair.  You have to expect that, like any addict, his voters are very well defended against anything that undercuts their addiction. That even the shabby opium dens and crack filled streets where they get their fix is, in its own way, a triggering and pleasurable memory for them.  They will wallow in their own vomit while congratulating themselves on having the time of their lives.  I have no doubt that in the long run people will remember the way they felt at Trump rallies very happily, whether he wins or not. Its a peak experience for his voters--finally a feeling of being spoken of, being spoken for, after what feels like a lifetime of being ignored and silenced. Trump's voters are like the miserable kids who got beat up every day at school when the jock finally adopts them as a pet.  They will put up with any amount of bad treatment from Trump or whoever Trump appoints as a surrogate, and they will protect Trump with everything they have.  
I think that HRC can beat Trump with the Obama coalition, and she seems to me to be on track to hold it together. After all, as I have to keep explaining to people who are not keeping up, Clinton and Obama both lost the white male vote (or the white vote entirely I keep forgetting).  HRC can win just with the Obama coalition even if she loses most of the white vote again. But she can't lose it all. And she probably still has to play for some portion of the Republican vote--those mythical people who are supposedly repulsed by Donald's racism, jingoism, intemperate behavior, boorishness, and recklessness. Of course for the most part they don't actually have a problem with the racism, jingoism, militarism or even the anti elitism.  But Trump is going to ratchet tension up until there is literal blood in the streets between his supporters and any minority person out there. And then he is going to gin up a race war to be the retroactive excuse for his racist pandering. Its going to be all “see what you made us do” all the time. He's got nothing to lose with this strategy.  Trumps voters will never abandon him--they will rationalize away whatever they have to in order to keep getting their fix from Trump.  Accusations that his campaign or his voters attacked some Black Students? It will all be seen as a lie or just Hillary's brand of bare knuckles partisanship.  These people are skilled at ignoring any reality they don't like. And they don't want to be unsold from the Donald experience.  
But there are probably a few Republicans who are not going to be able to stomach that. Some of them are old line Republicans, actual conservatives, or people with a stake in the system. Still others might be those recently flipped Democrats in MA who might end up coming back to the fold after the fever passes.  The thing about Trump is he's an acquired taste. He's like a virus you catch if your immune system is already weak.  If you've been powerless so long that this looks like success to you, you are a gonner. But if you come from slightly higher up the social scale, or you are not so scared, you never fall for this stuff at all. So for those on the fence, or possibly in recovery from the Trump fever, what do we need to do? They need a reason and a socially acceptable method to refuse to vote for him. 
Our only hope is if HRC can hold on to the Obama coalition, and ride a wave of specifically anti trump fervor, while also assuaging the fears of the sliver of Republican voters who will sit out the election even if they don’t cross over. In other words regardless of the provocation or the cries from the most left fringe that she become abusive to Trump or his voters she has to take the position (which, btw,she is already taking) of welcoming defectors and promising good treatment to everyone.
Trumpers are in the throes of a self justifying fury–every single thing that rebuts their love affair or attacks their love object is going to just harden their determination to crawl over broken glass to defend him and vote for him.  Trump is like some mythic monster who only grows stronger the more you throw at him.  Only by lowering the tension and fear for (some) of them can we overcome them.  And this, of course, is exactly what Hillary is doing with her "make America whole" and a return to purpose and kindness. This is not an argument from weakness--its extending an olive branch to Trump voters in the same way that promising not to torture and kill captured soldiers encourages them to surrender. 

*Which, to the extent they post furiously over at dkos about how Kissinger or the TPP or her imminent arrest by the FBI will doom Hillary, probably will still be typing furiously on election day and not bother to get out to vote anyway. Hillary is going to have to go after the disaffected Republican voters, those for whom the open racism and jingoism of Trump is kind of too much, even though they probably agree with a lot of what he is saying (the racism and the jingoism and the anti elite stuff). 

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Clockwise Solution

When my groundbreaking, best selling, future masterpiece "The One Secret of Extremely Successful Aimais" hits the stand I want you all to know I've shared it with you here, first.  I am experimenting with what you might call a Clockwise solution to a linear life. Here's the method.  When you get up from whatever you are doing (writing, lunching, doing laundry, answering email) simply proceed in a clockwise direction.  After lunch I pick up my bowl and go to the kitchen, rinse the bowl and pick up something that needs to go upstairs, take it upstairs and throw in a load of laundry, pick up the thing upstairs that needs to do downstairs, bring it downstairs and move something from the front room to the dining room where I'm working, sit down and do twenty minutes of work before getting back up and wandering on to the next thing, repeat until I've circumnavigated the house and completed all my tasks.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Better To Reign In Hell

 Recently someone sent me one of those articles that circulates on each side of the divide Sanders/Clinton meant to show that one candidate is full on evil, or has no chance of winning the general election.  These, of course, are two different arguments although they can begin to blend together.  Will Hillary lose the general election because she is so evil and stupid that she took money for speeches from Goldman Sachs?*  Will she be a terrible President because she, like Obama, was in the position of trying to clean up the uncleanable mess that the Bush regime left us in the Middle East? The person who sent me the article is really on the fence about the two candidates, seeking insight into both who they are, in an existential sense, and how other respected people view them. The article in question was Sachs' attack on Hillary for failing to do the obviously right thing in Syria.  Apparently there was no one else involved in our decisions about Syria, no Obama, no France, no Turkey or everyone else who was involved was already lined up along an obvious cline from evil to good and we should have known better than to work with X country because they were more malevolent than Y country.

Syria is not my beat and I'm not interested in refighting this fight or even discussing the ins and outs. I want to talk about what is behind the forwarding of these emails and this kind of information.  The person who forwarded this email to my friend is virulently opposed to HRC.  Reading this kind of article is meant to tell us that HRC is irremediably evil, that she made the wrong decision in Syria because she is malevolently disposed to be pro Israel, pro Saudi, and anti Iran.  Therefore, she can't run the US.  Because: evil.

I must be the most evil person in the world--and I quite possibly am--because I don't think that anyone who gets elected to be President of this country isn't, on some level, going to be evil to someone.  The whole fucking country is evil.  We are an empire and every decision we make--whether opening our borders or closing them, shipping jobs overseas or keeping them here, zoning laws no zoning laws, amnesty or no amnesty, will end up harming some non negligible number of people.  Every decision has its downside.  I'm not making a reactionary argument against progress a la A. O. Hirschman-that is that every progressive action brings about the potential for a perverse, futile, or dangerous backlash.  I'm simply observing that even an apparently benign decision or choice, when it affects 300 million people, has enormous costs and knock on effects that can, because of sheer quantity, have some deleterious results.  The overproduction of Greek Yogurt, for fuck's sake, has resulted in metric tons of whey being thrown into a sewer system that can't handle it.  There are basically no innocent actions in an overpopulated world.

Every election cycle, for some number of people (however tiny) there is some savior figure who offers us the chance, supposedly, to set the world aright, to fix what is broken, to move forward in a way that fundamentally changes things for the better. On the Republican side, right now, that's Trump.  On our side right now that is popularly supposed to be Sanders.  I think Trump has a better shot at it than Sanders because Trump's America is pretty much the one we've got: a dangerous, imperialistic, globe spanning, Gargantua of a state with limited empathy for it own citizens, and almost none for people who are non citizens.  A state riven with racism, sexism, ageism, contempt for the weak and for the ill.  A state run by oligarchs for the benefit of the wealthiest while the lower class struggle for scraps and crumbs from the table and fight each other using race, religion, sexual orientation, and personal history.  Trump has an excellent shot at giving his voters something of what he promises them--bread, circuses, and lots of people thrown to the lions.  I less certain about Sanders' chances.

 I suppose I sound like Sanders speaks for me, don't I?  Absolutely. I agree with Sander's assumptions about the US.  But I don't agree that the presidency is the place where decisions that can change that get made.  I don't think that Sanders is the guy to make any kind of successful change in the composition of the State.  At best he can stand athwart it and shout "stop" but its not designed for the President to be able to do much more than let his own moral impulses speak on things under his executive control.  And, perhaps, if he's very skillful and very persuasive and plays well with others he can influence enough down ticket races to have a chance to make some bigger, more long term, changes.

We've actually had one of the most moral people in our history as a people as President for the last seven years. In year eight how is that working out for him and for us?  He's done enormously important things--things for which I regard him as a second FDR.  He's been enormously patient with his attackers, and he has fought them strategically to get whatever he can get done, done.  He has brought thousands of good people into government through his appointments (when they weren't blocked), and he has inspired millions to vote and to engage with government at every level.  Is Sanders going to do that?  Is he going to do it more effectively than Obama?  I doubt it. Because neither Sanders nor his supporters grasps that in between all that inspiring and executive actioning falls the shadow of just keeping this enormous, craptacular, imperium, running.

OK, sez my emailing friend of a friend, by why take dirty, worn out old Hillary who has had a finger in the evil empire pie all these years?  Will she do any better? Well, yes, I think she will.  Syria won't stop blowing up because Sanders gets into power and I don't think he has any better ideas of what to do next than she does.  In fact I think he has less.  I don't share my friend's Manichean thinking on foreign policy--there are many wrong things to do that seem right, or seem necessary, at the moment.  And decisions have to be made in the moment.  Will she do better for our citizens (and non citizens) here at home?  I am pretty sure she will.  She has already advanced concrete plans on both health care and crises like Flint that are achievable, measurable, doable.  Call me a small bore person but I'll take small steps to a better world over large pratfalls.

 When I look at the choice between HRC and Sanders I'm actually agnostic.  I'd be happy with either. But I'm not unhappy with HRC because she's been to this rodeo before and she isn't promising to wave a magic wand and make America something it has never been: just, fair, and running on renewable energy.  I see the person who takes the presidency as someone who is agreeing to run Hell for a term that shall not exceed 8 years.  Perhaps I should leave it at that.

*Campos,  Booman and John Cole all seem to believe this was some kind of screaming fatal flaw because "she should have known" that working with the power elite in this country for the period between being Secretary of State and running again for President would be used against her.  I think this is the dumbest argument I've ever seen advanced against a major political actor--one who has famously used the money raised at these things to back the Clinton Foundation and to support down ticket races.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

8 Years Ago Tomorrow. It Still Seems Relevant.

Your Mumia sweatshirt won’t get you into heaven anymore
A comment left over at digg regarding Ralph Nader:
The Democrats really hate Nader because he points out the fact that they are asking those of us on the left to vote for them but they aren’t doing anything for us. Did they end funding for the Republican’s crime spree in Iraq? No. Have they moved for UHC? No. Have they tried to stop corporate crimes? No. Have they tried to reform the tax code to be progressive? No. Have they tried to protect homeowners from predatory lenders? No. Have they defended our constitutional rights? No. Take back the FDA from the corporations? No. The FCC? No.
The Democrats don’t deserve my vote. They aren’t helping the left, why should the left help them?
Let me see if I can explain it this way: 
Every year in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land all of the sprites and elves and woodland creatures gather together to pick the Rainbow Sunshine Queen. Everyone is there: the Lollipop Guild, the Star-Twinkle Toddlers, the Sparkly Unicorns, the Cookie Baking Apple-cheeked Grandmothers, the Fluffy Bunny Bund, the Rumbly-Tumbly Pupperoos, the Snowflake Princesses, the Baby Duckies All-In-A-Row, the Laughing Babies, and the Dykes on Bikes. They have a big picnic with cupcakes and gumdrops and pudding pops, stopping only to cast their votes by throwing Magic Wishing Rocks into the Well of Laughter, Comity, and Good Intentions. Afterward they spend the rest of the night dancing and singing and waving glow sticks until dawn when they tumble sleepy-eyed into beds made of the purest and whitest goose down where they dream of angels and clouds of spun sugar. 
You don’t live there. 
Grow the fuck up.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Why I'm Voting For the Nominee

Why I'm Voting For the Nominee

Before its too late I thought I'd get my licks in.

Why I'm voting for the Nominee. I am avoiding watching any TV, or attending any rallies for any of our candidates, because I really don't care which of them gets the nomination. I will vote for the nominee, donate to the nominee, work my heart out for the nominee. I'm actually agnostic as to which I prefer because I don't think either of them is as good as they say, or as bad as their critics pretend they are. But having said that, because I'm voting for the nominee, I'm also, in essence, voting for the Democratic party as it is currently consistuted. Not as I wish it were consituted. Not as a perfect liberal dream of a Democratic Party, but also not as an obstacle to be overcome. You go to an election with the party you have, not the party you wish you had. I need my future President to share my values and goals, and to promise to work hard for women's rights, minority rights, climate change, and a whole lot of things. But I also need a savvy infighter, someone who knows the ropes and knows where some of the bodies are buried. Because in the best case scenario, the one where we manage as a party to retake the House and Senate, or just the Senate, even a holding action is going to require some incredible negotiating skill, parliamentary maneuvering, and ability to lay off the slagging and trash talking. Is that too small bore? Too merely “liberal” and not progressive enough for you? Sorry to be so practical and down to earth. Sorry to talk in prose when some want poetry. Sorry to be an incrementalist. No doubt these are all dirty words. But the reality of our political system is that no savior from outside of the party, no holy fool* with excited rallies but no tolerance for minutiae is going to be able to wring anything from the choked sewer that is our political system. You need a forensic plumber (hat tip Miles Vorkosigan) not a hand grenade. I'm reminded of something some commenter said to Ralph Nader during his run for the Presidency. “Ralph,” she said (and I'm paraphrasing here) “You are like a great pair of shoes that I really want, but which are too expensive and I know they are going to pinch if I buy them. I want them, but I can't afford them.” If I imagine that the Presidency is like being King for four years, I'm excited for Bernie. When I remember that a far more skillful political actor, a deeper political thinker, and a younger and stronger person named Barack Obama just tried to run the actual office of President for 7 years, and what happened to his attempts, I despair for the Bernie victory. I think he can win. But I don't think we can afford him. But I don't think he has the temperament or the skill to work with the party apparatus, state by state, congressional district by congressional district, to get anything done. Not a few limited things. Anything.

Cross Posted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

Friday, January 29, 2016

What I'm Reading

I'm still in process with a few things that I pick up and put down.  On the side of more serious reading on race, history, and ethnicity I'm also reading some kinds of pop psych books on the brain or the emotions.  I'm having a hard time reading some books in public, in the age of Trump, because I feel like anyone seeing me will think I'm reading things like "The Rise and Fall of the White Republic" or "Whiteness of a Different Color" because I'm a proponent of white supremacism.  On the other hand the pop psych books I've been buying have caused Amazon (the only artificial intelligence that actually knows what I'm buying and reading) to think that I'm an abused child who needs a divorce.  Right now I'm reading In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People which is surprisingly thought provoking, Lundy's Why Does He Do That which is a really famous book about abusive relationships, and He Wins/She Wins which is a thin, shallow, book about negotiations within marriage.  These are all issues which come up in the baby group or when you are talking to new parents or even when you are talking to your teenagers and thinking about how to help them understand other people's motivations.  Oh, I'm also reading a book "Difficult Conversations" by the Harvard Negotiating Project, the people who brought us "Getting To Yes."  I don't have much to say about that right now except that I think the very premise that discussions between business or contract partners can be understood in the same terms as discussions between family members is absurd.  They just don't belong in the same book because the moral terms that apply between the parties are so very different.