i like the idea, now repeated like a nursery rhyme by pundits, that hillary 'has to articulate why she wants to be president'. that is, she has to make up some shit, or simulate some commitments. everyone understands what this means, but no one says it: her actual reasons amount to personal grandiosity (she's not alone in that motivation, of course); now she has to work out how to pretend to have other reasons = whatever excruciatingly empty commonplaces focus-group well this week. everyone obviously understands this completely. now you are not going to vote for someone like that, are you? that would be mere capitulation to a meaningless person or a monster of self-aggrandizement. that's pretty close to the essence of contempo american politics.
or the other little media chant is 'she has to show that she's authentic'. what they mean by this is that she has to simulate honesty or conviction. this is what we want, i guess, and the pundits need to think about this: their whole approach entails this: there is no difference between expressing yourself authentically and convincing people that you are, even if you are a person who couldn't even understand a concept like authenticity. so, if that's who you want telling you what to do, knock yourself out. you could roofy yourself if you want, though the difference before and after will be difficult to detect.
yes, on her hundredth, i'm incredibly grateful that billie holiday was born and recorded music.
and yes, i will be switching the party affiliation on my voter registration from independent to republican so i can vote for rand in the pa primary. i know, i know.
alright alright, i'll hit the religious conscience laws. as you may know, i've defended such laws many times, but let me try to describe why i regard the current situation as ridiculous. so, first off, the laws are mere provocations, or responses to getting swamped by gay marriage all of a sudden. they are an attempt to carve out a little zone of legit homophobia (and yet they trap me, for example, because i cannot not affirm the actual text of the law.) it's a manufactured issue. but then the insane outrage about it, which i've heard from a lot of people, is very silly, and i could not possibly oppose such laws until you show me that they will create great actual burdens on actual people. that someone had to switch florists one time for their wedding is not going to get it. and if that's what you're outraged about: shelve it.
charles blow appears to think a situation in which there's one pizzeria in indianapolis that won't cater a gay wedding is similar to one where people are systematically excluded from education, or voting, or basic social recognition. really it makes it a bit hard to take you seriously on other matters. if no actual significant burdens are imposed on anyone, then there can be no argument against permitting people to act according to their religious convictions. i do want to point out that, though it's easy to sort of make all oppressed groups equivalent in their oppressedness, many gay people are, for example, bourgeois white men. the chances that no one will cater the wedding of, or in general leap to provide the widest range of services to, bourgeois white people are slim and none.
capitalism might not have cured jim crow, but it's doing fine with this. the basic thing is that people want to sell you stuff, ok? the chamber of commerce and wal-mart and apple show you that this is not really going to be an actual problem. but andrew cuomo etc is grandstanding to the max, and i'm telling you that all anyone i know wants is to be enraged by the right in a self-congratulatory ecstasy. try to find an actual reason though, ok?
anyway, i'm irritated that the right is using a principle which i do regard as sacred - the right of individual conscience to secede from the demands of the state or to refrain from activities which violate it - to get me nodding along with an underlying bigotry. i'm irritated at the left for relentlessly blowing this small thing up and using it as a club. really, i'm just sick of our politics, which never asks what's true or false or good or evil, but only how people can be manipulated to join up by defining and hating an enemy. in that situation, there's no difference between symbolic and substantive issues.
i think ted cruz can be a pretty formidable politician, and will have a primary run, but he's quite off today at his announcement speech at liberty u. he's off rhythm, vague, badly written, cliche-ridden. this thing where you make your family into inspiring american exemplars - even across some pretty idiosyncratic stories - seems particularly half-hearted in this case. he emotes poorly. i do get a slimy vibe from cruz, but maybe that's unfair. he's by far the most rock-ribbed conservative in the race, and is at his best (even here at liberty), throwing that down polemically. it's a collage of libertarian/constitutional and religious-right themes, though, which has never been a coherent position.
a few more nasty cracks about hillary. first of all, do not become confused as between her political gifts and her husband's. right? he is an extraordinary politician with a common touch. she is, at her best, pretty good. but one thing she has in common with her husband: she is in the clinton marriage. i would say we are being entertained by versions of the clinton marriage right now on scandal and house of cards. now, obviously a union of convenience between monsters of ambition is pretty entertaining. but looking squarely at the grants or the underwoods, i don't think most people would actually want to be governed by them. now there's why no one's ever going to see her private emails.
bill is gifted, but he's unbelievably gross. i do remember hillary in 1992 as bimbos erupted everywhere: 'i'm not some tammy wynette stand by your man dolt staying home baking cookies'. but tammy divorced george jones at least twice, while hillary was cuckolded hundreds of times and stood there and took it and defended her husband. how feminist is that? how strong? how right?
here's one of the many things that could bring the whole disgusting operation to a screeching halt: jeffrey epstein. another approach i'd take if i were on oppo research: try to construct schedules for bill clinton and dominique strauss-kahn over the last twenty years and see where they coincide. when were they in davos together or dubai or whatever and who has the pics? what guys like this should teach you is why men want power (oh, it's to do public service and give back) and what they do with it once they get it. go ahead if you are rational and draw anarchist conclusions, please.
i think it's obvious that the liberal establishment actually does not want clinton. try the washpost today: gene robinson, dana milbank, and dan balz are not even tepid. people are talking 'buyer's remorse' nine months before the iowa caucuses. who bought hillary clinton when? when did she win without playing? this is you, killing your own cause. if hillary clinton does not have gene robinson, who the hell can she possibly have? her only positive attribute, other than the gonads she shares with half the world's pop, is that there are no alternatives. that there aren't is extraordinarily irresponsible of the democratic party, yes? where's the goddamn bench? you have someone who could blow up like the world trade at any moment and whom no one actually wants to be president - indeed whom no one could possibly have positive reasons to support because she has no principles or even positions and merely serves the same old billionaires - and you are going to nominate her...why? because your vast pitiful party has no one else? after that, you're going to lose the election. so, time to ditch the unanimity and the mere resignation and try to say something more like what you actually think, gene.
so far the hillary email thing isn't a serious crimp in the campaign. but that or a dozen other things could rise to the level of damage at any time. now i don't know whether elizabeth warren wants to be president. there would be a sudden surge of actual energy, as opposed to mere capitulation, among libs were she to make it evident that she does. and if she does, i think she should take into consideration that there's a 50/50 chance or so that hillary's campaign falls apart before the nomination. if that starts occurring to people, it will also occur to people that they better have some alternative to turn to in april 2016, or be in a terrible problem.
i do think that if hillary is nominated, she is likely to lose to, say, walker or rubio; i like warren's chances better there. on the other hand, perhaps hillary, if she rides out all possible scandals, does ok against jeb, from whom she cannot be distinguished except by gender. she really is an empty soul, though: there just isn't anything there.
here's a bad sign: james carville is hysterically defensive on the email thing, throwing out random partisan red herrings, etc. the paranoia phase has already kicked in fully. try to remember what this was like and then really try to want it again.
there is nothing sadder than american progressivism. first of all, it was never coherent: the only plan was to help people by subordinating them. all day every day for what's coming up on centuries now, the left gets a bunch of experts together to tell us how to fix...black people. it has not changed in decades; there are no ideas, no imagination, just autistic repetition. de blasio is going back to the high-rise housing project. the first time around, it was a straight-up reservation system, and the indian reservation was also a progressive program for the uplifting of a backward race riddled with pathologies. the basic model of the 'great' 'society' was the internment camp, built by demolishing actual streets, houses and communities. in this case it was the imposition of a completely state-dominated concrete environment designed by evil cretins, i.e. experts: just the sort of people who rise in our meritocracy. then you wondered why the residents tore the place up. let's see...it must be their pathologies! we need professors to tell us how to fix them again. and again. and...
or how about some forced residential integration? in both these cases, allow me to point out that community cannot be imposed on people through sheer prescription, backed by force or even incentive. perhaps there is a bit of energy on the left just now. i am just begging y'all not to use this energy to run backwards to the same old disasters. also i am saying this to you straight up: you don't know how people do live, and you don't know how people ought to live, and the only decent situation is one in which people decide that for themselves, not where harvard professors decide it for them. the first datum for any actual movement toward social justice has just got to be this: people's autonomy must be respected. it's their account to themselves of themselves that matters; to think anything else is just to perpetuate the privilege to which you purport to be opposed: your own privilege, bill de blasio; your own, rahm emanuel.
daniel patrick moynihan, let's say, was what we might term an internal colonialist, bwana in a pith helmet on safari to uplift the dark continent within and bring to it the blessings of civilization.
probably folks like those think that they have devoted their careers to remediating the hierarchy they are themselves perched atop, and they propose to remove it specifically by its ever-more thorough exercise. they are enjoying it, claiming it, and imposing it. and simultaneously they are identifying it as the problem they're trying to fix. spend the next few generations in withering self-examination instead of other-examination, alright?
black people and poor people or trailer trash or whomever you're thinking of: they are far more qualified than robert reich to decide how they should live, and unlike robert reich they have a right to. i'm serious: there is no ph.d. that will help you know how people should live; there are no ethical qualifications, no certifications, no expertise except living your life with other people in your place. for example, cass sunstein prescribes the nudge, but the whole thing just effortlessly assumes that people like cass sunstein understand what each of us should be nudged toward. there are no experts on that but each of us. and you should contemplate the extreme arrogance of people who simply take it as a given that they know how everyone should live. that's an ethical failure, a golden rule violation. but it also just shows the breathtaking incomprehension, self-regard, and unconscious evil of the privileged, and helps reproduce the structure of that privilege generation after generation. and the program is supposed to be egalitarian. no doubt they're off rocking davos on behalf of the oppressed.
people like reich and sunstein exemplify the ways class and race are articulated or actually made now: they move back and forth from academia to think-tank to state, through the archipelago of social-science expertise, epistemic prestige, and real power. (and i am telling you that even rahm and bill are future distinguished professors at the kennedy school of government or whatever as they wait to cycle into the cabinet.) but reich and sunstein, for example, take on the neutral voice of the social scientist and they are chock full of statistics. this voice is an extremely central example of the 'unmarked' position of privilege: they do not implicate themselves in their advocacy. but the social sciences - overlapping with a medical model of pathologies and also a criminal-justice discourse - have been the nexus of racial and class construction since the early twentieth century. (before that they measured your skull and tried to fit your people into the sequence of evolution: somewhere between slug slime and nature's crowning achievement rutherford b. hayes.)
all the state-implemented racial transformations, each layer of new welfare and housing programs, each new war on poverty and discrimination, has been justified by the social sciences. many have been unalloyed disasters, but expertise always gets it right this time, by its own account.
the thing about expertise, especially the (pseudo-)scientific variety: you ought to be silent before it: you have to bow to the facts; the claim is to a special power to declare what is real. and yet the categories of the statistical tables just recirculate and reinforce the wretchedly problematic race and class taxonomies, and the whole thing presupposes that we have a right to gather information on them so we can address their problems: their problems as named by us. the power dynamics are completely inbuilt, the numbers a kind of spectral emanation of the a priori stance and categories. and a long century of this has left us fundamentally untransformed. these hierarchies are more extreme and intransigent than when y'all started. how have democratic administrations done at ameliorating income inequalities, for example? i will say again: that's because the solutions and their rhetorics are imposed by direct exercises of domination by the very people who are the problem, from the very top of the power hierarchy. that just is not going to have liberating effects: not last time or the time before that and not next time.
[note to post-marxists: guess what? political hierarchies and hierarchies of knowledge are as real as economic hierarchies, and in general they coincide. it is not necessary for robert reich to be the richest man in the bay area for him to be a person of tremendous privilege in more or less every dimension.]
how are we going to get better on race and class and so on? start by giving up. you have no status that entitles you to re-locate people or re-educate them, to watch or cure or name them. until it's their own voices, not the experts and political authorities speaking on their behalf, it's all sheer cultural domination or even annihilation. let go. let people make their own lives.
here's how i think dylan got to be a god. his whole persona, all the scraggly clothes and the roughened-up voice and stuff, was a critique of bourgeois white culture by a bourgeois white person (conveying that is one reason for replacing 'zimmerman' with 'dylan'). it was an attack on the smooth, processed, false suburban white northern 50s or whatever. hence it was extremely compelling to northern white bourgeois kids at that moment: it was an expression of their own discontent with their world. that is sort of important. that's the experience people had when they heard it as so super-authentic, even though it was a self-conscious pose: it was authentic as a critique of the inauthenticity of the lives of the parents of its audience. that's why, despite the fact that dylan never delivered any sort of coherent political message (unlike woody guthrie, pete seeger, or to take actually great artists, john prine or bob marley), he was immediately heard as politically transformative.
but it took the excruciatingly problematic form of romanticizing the primitive, and romanticizing blues and country music as naive folk arts, and hence completely misunderstood and falsified the music it venerated. indeed, i say folk music of this variety is actually racist and classist, like orientalism or...colonialism: it just romanticizes these cultures on the very same grounds that the white power structures condemned them or regarded them as pathological and tried disastrously to remediate them (oh, housing projects, e.g.). it displays a complete incomprehension of its sources, which were actually the work of professional musicians and virtuosi. so, in its incomprehension, it tried to simulate what it took to be their direct, immediate, primitive, authentic expressions: it is simulated primitivism and incompetence as authenticity.
it's not surprising that as those kids grew up and assumed their racial destiny of power, the rhetoric of race and class changed completely, while the realities changed very little. also, it's not surprising in the midst of all that confusion that the music sucks: it's only being used as some sort of badge or device: bob dylan is an actor playing hank williams or blind willie mctell or something. but he sure as hell can't write a song like hank williams or blind willie mctell, can he? or sing one. guess what? you could be listening to the real shit.
the genius of dylan had nothing to do with dylan's abilities, if any. it had to do with this big swirl of cultural critique and abject confusion.
i've taken to skipping states of the union - which i know is not unusual overall, but which might be an unusual for a news junkie. it's the pageantry of state that annoys me: the state is everyone's little religion - just chock full of superstitious mumbo-jumbo and immune to rationality - and i am an atheist. but say you think the non-stop assertion of conservatives that the msm is leftist is ridiculous. how about nytimes headlines this morning: 'obama defiantly pushes his agenda', 'a bold call to action'. in the washpost: 'obama offers a helping hand to families', 'the remarkable confidence of barack obama', 'obama barrels into final act of presidency unbowed', etc. these are not opinion pieces, but news and analysis.
were we to survive the state for awhile, which seems unlikely, this period will be remembered as the dark ages: dominated utterly by an institutionalized irrational indefensible ideology seemingly accepted by everyone. everyone shares the same quasi-sane assumptions, which articulate our forms of universal oppression. i doubt we'll ever emerge, but so did all those poor secret atheists in 1120, so you never know. but, like us looking back on the medievals, future historians - if any - will find it hard to believe people actually believed this sort of stuff; they'll have difficulty reconstructing it as a possible human belief system, or penetrating its clotted or contentless rhetoric and the arbitrary or bizarre conclusions that people of this period used it to reach. they will know, as we know about the year 1120, that everyone just wanted a hierarchy of the most extreme variety, and would believe anything - anything - that would keep it in place. some wanted to subordinate others, some wanted to be subordinated by others - but nobody even sort of wanted people to be free or to think.
that everyone thought that some form of the semi-comprehensible theology just had to be right and that there were no decent or rational possibilities outside it does not mean that the stuff was sensible, or that any given person at any given moment couldn't have realized that and hopped off, at least in their heads. that everyone thought, or said, that it was self-evident that they should subordinate their bodies and minds to the catholic church did not make it self-evident. to what i think of as the right sort of person, those things just made it obvious, all day every day in your face, that the crap made no sense at all.
like medieval peasants, we're supposed to be bewildered by the costumes, the insignia, the architecture, the dead language, into thinking that these people are better and smarter than us, and that everyone should do what they say. (in this case, it should be obvious to the most superficial reflection that the people who attend the state of the union are no better and no smarter than the average peasant or felon. have you watched these people work? really, it was the same with the medieval papacy: corrupt, venal, in it for the sex and booze. but, like north korean generals, they had huge funky hats. i propose that we can assess the intelligence of these people by noting that on each side they just say all the same sentences over and over. they haven't had an idea in a half century. their intelligence, such as it is, is mechanical and their only ethic is manipulation.) in that stuff - the frippery, we might say - lurks the state's only actual legitmacy. it's what they have in place of any sort of moral justification for the sheer coercion on which their power in fact rests.
francis bacon: "if men went all mad after the same fashion, they might agree with one another well enough."
boy they are crucifying chris hughes on this tnr thing. i don't doubt that he is annoying, and you might understand that no writerly person can listen to phrases like 'vertically integrated' without wanting to poke someone in the eye. but i want to speculate that chris hughes may also be tired of the ideology that the staff represented, albeit ably considering what they had to work with. the new republic has had a number of phases of real controversy and wild debate, but i would say that over the last decade it has sunk into a basically uniform, unbelievably tired, american liberalism. this has gotten so repetitive; it so lacks any sort of imagination; it answers every problem with a bureaucracy; it basically hasn't changed since about 1932.
i hope someone like chris hughes quickly reached the point where he was just, 'am i reading that again in my own magazine? oh man that is some tired shit. why would anyone want to click on that?' the left has just got to re-think. there just can't be more more more paul krugman and hedrik hertzberg and michael tomasky, e.g.: miserable elitists and hyper-enthusiastic oppressors in the name of human liberation. there are so many things a left could be besides state state state, so many people it could encompass besides people who are simultaneously proponents of equality and extreme hierarchy, and who express their position with rigid self-righteousness and really unbelievable repetitiveness. it can't inspire anyone anymore to do anything.
and the new republic sank into the opinion-journalism mode of the moment. they present stuff as though it was propaganda: emphasizing all facts that help and none that don't, along with a constant rhetorical pounding of the same sentences and ideas. but however, their audience is 100% people who already agree with them, so whose responses are they trying to control? obviously rush limbaugh or glenn beck do the same: it's like they are desperate to persuade people who are already persuaded, desperate for the manipulated agreement of people who already agree. it's as though they are trying to utterly expunge their opponents in a debate, but their opponents aren't even there, and the only effect is to make their audience ever-more self-righteous and less self-reflective. on both sides, killing the other side is just a performance for themselves, designed so that everyone can feel superior together. why is that a worthwhile project?
here's a very typical human mistake: thinking that reality is going to make your argument for you, and force your opponents to agree. so, as oil prices collapse, one might recall the idea of 'peak oil', in which environmentalists proved with data that a fossil fuel economy would definitely implode by 1993 or whatever it was. the reason to be suspicious even of the numbers was that the people who put this forward desperately wished for the collapse of the fossil fuel economy and were in the typical human state of extreme credulity with regard to anything that would confirm their worldview, and also totaly committed to a propaganda presentation of it to everyone else. i have to say that the whole climate change thing reeks of this. naomi klein wishes for nothing as much as the collapse of the capitalist order. so far, so good. but i think people infer facts from commitments like that, which is not so good. it's like people are trying to enlist nature or god to make their point for them and force their opponents into agreement. pretty soon you're wishing for the apocalypse. pretty soon you're providing data proving it nigh. usually you don't live long enough to really be forced to withdraw your claims, so you just sort of peter out as reality refuses to take the shape of your disastrous wishes.
It's not that nothing happened; it's just that everything that happened pissed me off more. However, I saw an article today in Foreign Affairs that as Kant said of David Hume, awakened me from my doctrinal slumbers. Actually, it just pissed me off some more, but...
Here's the article posted over at Veterans Today. Topic is about weasels, varmints and government staffers.
Ever listen to one of these dweebs as they talk about stuff that they have no experience with but took a seminar from someone who had no experience with it either but had talked to someone about it, so...really made me think of this one...
dc is my home town, as you may know, and i grew up there during the emergence of the formerly alive marion barry. i recall him even as a young pseudo-blackpower leader. i wish i could say something other than that marion barry was a charlatan, a buffoon, and an embarrassment.
now, statistics show that 86.4% of the men who rose to political power during the golden era of patriarchy were in public service for the poontang and blow, so he was not alone in that, and definitely not alone in that in dc. and i can forgive someone for being an addict; i do it all the time. but what i won't forgive marion barry for is coming out of rehab, using the rhetoric of recovery as a way into the terrible problems of dc in, say, the early 90s, and just continuing with the crank and trim all the while. once it became clear that this was the situation, it also became clear that this was about the most repulsive imaginable reflection on barry the person and on my native city: in my world, recovery is sacred, and dc as a whole was in a terrible addiction spiral from the early-70s heroin epidemic to being one of the world centers of crack and hence murder in the barry administration and beyond. for so many people, that recovery thing was obviously life and death on any given day. and yet barry just fed it into his hypocrisy machine and rode it back to some semblance of political power. he really was a metaphor for dc like that, in every dimension from congressional and cabinet and defense contractor to back-alley ghetto: the marble edifice. the seething corruption within.
in 1991, the year his first 8-year run as mayor ended, "the murder capital" hit its top end with 479 homicides in a city of about 800k residents. this was due to the drug industry that was also supplying marion barry. as barry rolled through the district's sex workers, dc generatesd one of the world's worst rates of hiv transmission. you can't blame mb for all this, but you sure can't exonerate him either; he was the problem he portrayed himself as trying to solve.
throughout the barry mayoralty - and before and since, to be fair - the district of columbia had an entirely dysfunctional, useless school system: a famous intractable laughingstock. for example, neither the superintendant nor the mayor knew how many people the school system employed, nor could they generate a plausible number even with years to do so, or a list of employees. don't get me started; i was raised up in the very bowels of the unbelievable idiocy. barry famously created a 'black middle class' in dc and started cleaning up the u-street corridor etc. he created this class by creating tens of thousands of city jobs, and there were thousands of people who owed their jobs to him, which is one reason that he could not be kept away from power. many of these people moved to prince george's county, which is part of why inner-city neighborhoods collapsed in his era. yet even with this mass of employees, or in many cases because of it, the barry administration could not deliver basic city services effectively in any part of the city.
i have been hearing tributes to marion barry's charisma. i never met the man; apparently it was a religio-sexual experience. and yet as marion barry mumbled his way through a speech or a press conference at any stage of his career, his ineluctable personal magneticsm was likewise indetectable. he was briefly inspiring in the early 70s as an alternative to the uncle-tommy-seeming old commissioners who ran the place on behalf of congressional segregationists, such as barry's predecessor walter washington. but man alive other than that it was all drawbacks.
this here shows why we need a big old dose of elizabeth warren. also i think she is running for president. also i think she can beat hillary clinton. it strikes me that no one outside the top 1% of the 1% has any reason to vote for hillary other than her gender, and in this respect elizabeth warren is her equal. forecasting the hillary campaign: it will be boring and empty to a point that is euthanizing. believe it or not, i think that it might become so evident so early that hillary is going to get smacked again like she did in 2008 that she never actually announces. obama will be a millstone. hillary has no convincing way or reason to run away from him. warren, as that huffpost piece shows, already is, and already is doing it effectively and for principled reasons. hillary is hauling so much baggage from every period of her life and career that it is almost absurd.
also a million things have to unfold but it is not impossible that elizabeth warren could be elected president.
to my way of thinking, a randpaul/lizzy campaign would be a renaissance of american political discourse. both of them say something, which has to be the starting point. hillary clinton says nothing and means nothing and, in public space, is nothing. and obviously warren could beat rand on a given november day, though rand is a surprisingly good politician and on another november day might beat her. (rand i think, has a less plausible road to the rep nomination than warren to the dem.) i like her against christie too, though i don't think christie will be the nominee. she makes a good contrast in a number of ways to jeb bush, whereas jeb and hillary are indistinguishable.
harvard prof is a problem. but she has been campaigning like mad and she is getting better and better on the stump and in putting across her common touch. i think the populist/egalitarian thing translates to some pretty concrete economic proposals, and i think you might be surprised how well such a program might play even in parts of the south. she could stage some interesting red-state invasions, as rand the other way round.
i think people may be overestimating money as a factor just because the entire system is swamped in infinite cash: any given ad means nothing; even the mid-term just sank into interminable incredibly stupid slop that no one could possibly pay attention to. warren or paul or whomever will have plenty of money and plenty of wealthy supporters; there just will be billions of money in this campaign no matter who the nominees are. but rand and liz could also raise a lot in small amounts from everywhere, which would be some little victory in itself.
the jonathan gruber/obamacare scandal is devastating. in this era of incredibly stupid partisanship, the fact that it more or less unfolded on fox news makes it invisible to half the population, while making nothing else visible to the other half. the coverage by msm outlets other than fox has been unbelievably pathetic, discrediting to them, quite substantiating 'left-wing media' as a phrase encompassing, say, the new york times or the atlantic. i am telling you that you must watch some fox during a democratic administration, or you are just getting barraged with propaganda and nothing else, as this scandal shows. but it is truly as though most of the people i know are physically incapable of watching fox even for a moment.
really what emerges is a portrayal of the way washington works now. so, gruber - mit prof/white house consultant/important source of the plan itself - starts the ball rolling by saying they'd never have got the thing through if the american people knew what was in it, that they depended on our stupidity. then it turns out that he was functioning simultaneously as an extremely well-paid consultant, and an independent authority. they took his advice on policy and on pr, then appealed to his material specifically as independent academic analysis of the aca's effects. he was writing op-eds presenting himself precisely as an independent authority, with bio squibs that did not identify his inside role. then he went out and made perhaps millions helping states with their exchanges, as pelosi and many others routinely appealed to his 'independent' research and 'mit' as evidence for the costs and benefits of the program. there were many utter disasters among the state exchanges, of course. simultaneously with this whole process, gruber was, according to himself, thinking to himself 'we've got to pull the wool over the eyes of the american public to get this thing passed and implemented'.
he was enriching himself and certainly compromising his own academic integrity and that of mit continuously. it is a very disturbing portrait of interlocked political parties/operations and academic institutions/experts, where the professors give the political positions credibility or an air of objectivity or even science, while also cashing in and moving back and forth between government and academia, one way or another. i think this should make any rational person doubt the credibility of mit professors. if you looked at the intersection of harvard, wall street, and the obama admin, you'd see the function of expertise in squishy totalitarianism, and the disturbing way that money and power flow through academic institutions, controlling every aspect of the way they are administered, who they hire, what sort of research they fund and pursue and tenure, and so on.
what you'd want to look at are things like contributions and expenditures in the endowment; uses of the research output by partisan politicians; migration of faculty into the state and migration of officials to the faculty and thence to the investment banking industry or lobbying; the ideological diversity or the reverse of the faculty; direct federal grants for research and the backgrounds of the faculty funded and the uses of research in justifying federal programs or partisan hobbyhorses, including the funding of the grants themselves; where they send their graduates.
maybe you think that, since all harvard profs are liberals and vote democratic, they are egalitarians. well, it is time to stop listening to their yap and start attending to their actual effect: who they are and whom they hang out with and whom they are funded by and whom they serve and what they really want, which is only an ever-ascending prestige and the ascendency of their like in the various hierarchies. that the harvard or stanford administration or faculty are enemies of privilege: surely no one can possibly think something like that? withering skepticism of the research is appropriate in this situation. (ladies and gentlemen, the vast faculty of the kennedy school of government.) and i'm telling you that even humanities professors at these institutions are interlocked with the admin and political parties, and of course with the ways their own positions are funded and ways to enhance their salaries or collect the junkets or get that pic with michelle obama.
but it's the depravity of the sales strategies by the white house and the democratic party that really sticks: the condescension, the contempt for us and for the truth and for democracy, the routine miserable lack of integrity or decency in our political process, the total dedication to manipulation, the underlying incompetence.
when i figure out how to get it and embed it, i'll post the special report panel from tonight with goldberg, fournier, and krauthammer, with a report that gives a very clear account of events. obviously it's a report produced by an organization that wants to focus scepticism on the administration. but that's what we need, with regard to every administration. it's reaching the point where the nytimes is going to have to cover it, and not just cover the fact that fox is covering it as a way to discredit the story itself. to do that, the only relevant thing is to throw specific doubts on specific parts of the reporting, correct?
frank luntz among many others, argues that the election was an expression not of enthusiasm for republicans, but of extreme disaffection with the way we are governed. "People say Washington is broken and on the decline, that government no longer works for them — only for the rich and powerful." in order to express that, they voted republican. it's like you expressed your happiness through extreme despair. next time around, you'll be able to express your continued alienation by voting democrat. you can show how much you hate power and privilege by voting for hillary clinton.
this situation is entirely absurd. we're completely trapped. there's no way to express our disgust, apparently, but to redouble and encourage all that disgusts us. so: the two-party system must be destroyed. i would like to see the democratic party die by asphyxiating on its own vomit. no hope for even vague democracy until the republican party bleeds out. start by abandoning and ridiculing your own party. the platform is bullshit anyway, i can tell you that, and the people you are voting for are dedicated primarily to their own privilege and that of their little group.
say you vote democratic because you are concerned about income inequality. how has that gone during the obama administration? if you think the situation would improve under hillary, you are quite immune to the empirical. now, in the voting booth, i could only express my disgust for the way democrats concertedly advocate equality and pursue economic inequality on behalf of their billionaire donors and friends by voting for jeb bush or mitt romney. in this situation, you're going to try to persuade me that it's my civic duty to vote. you have lost my mind.
that's the political problem, but the substantive problem is this: economic inequality is simply going to continue to get more extreme, and there is no way to ameliorate it through the mechanisms of our democracy. that's a reductio ad absurdum either of democracy in general or of the claim that this is a democracy.
watching all the election analysis, last night and this morning, i am struck above all by the racialism of american politics. every polling expert, consultant, and even politician, on both sides, basically conceives the american population in racial terms. so, people always win or lose because of the black vote, or the latino vote, or the white vote. every demographic analysis starts with that, and every campaign everywhere works a racial strategy. indeed, the dem party's long-term hope is entirely cast in racial terms, as we become 'majority-minority' etc. congressional districts are basically articulated in racial terms, which ends up being the content of gerrymandering. when push comes to shove and it's get-out-the-vote time, people are scouring the streets for racial types; it's all profiling; we've got to get out the black vote, or we've got to get out the older whiteguy vote. then, those are the constituencies you represent; that's your base. it is a racial base, and it begins to look like the inkatha freedom party vs the national party in apartheid south africa.
there are many ways that the population might be split or conceived, and in my opinion any demographic segment of similar size could be represented as decisive in any election no matter how they vote. if our whole political system conceives the racial categories to be the most important categories, racial differences the most important differences, that shows who we still are, what we still obsess about. and operating politically under the assumption that racial differences are the most important differences has its role in freezing all the categories and segregations in place. i really do think dems and reps do this equally.
simplified scenario: take a situation in which the black vote is 13%, which goes 90% dem, and the republican loses by 5%. a pundit will draw the obvious conclusion: the black vote was decisive. had the rep gotten half the black vote, he would have won, for example. but let's say white men ages 55-74 also form 13% and vote 90% rep. had half of them voted dem, the dem would have been elected. they are decisive in just the same sense and to the same degree. now say left-handed people form 13% and split their vote. had they voted 90% republican, the republican would have won. that is, the left-handers were decisive in just the same sense as the black vote. no one group is ever decisive, or all always are, but the question is: who can we break off and appeal to as an integral audience, with their own media, etc. then your whole strategy both mirrors and redoubles a basically segregated social and political terrain.
you might want to pause for a moment in your project of getting elected and ponder the devastating question of who you are.
here is a good and typical example: the diane rehm's show election debrief this morning, with nia-malika henderson, doyle mcmanus, and ron elving. you would really think that the election was primarily about race. it's both the way people conduct the campaigns and the way pundits or experts analyze them. in neither case is this a forced move, or even plausible as a primary explanation. but the conduct of the campaigns and the analyses are mutually reinforcing.
nothing could be easier than for any politician to stop muttering a string of focus-grouped phrases, or mumbling sentences in unison with members of his own party, or taking positions based on the advice of pollsters and consultants. all he has to do is decide, and try to say something true. there's no one to blame but yourself if you yap like that. except under very rare circumstances, we are responsible for what comes out of our own mouths. for example, polling never forced anyone to do anything in a sense that would relieve someone of responsibility for talking nonsense. we should resolve to pay no attention whatever to anyone who does not make the decision every day to speak for herself and say what she believes. really, no resolution is needed, since paying attention to the other sort is physically and intellectually impossible. if there is no one to vote for who doesn't take this approach, there's surely no reason to vote; i will not be voting today. if you want to represent the people, you might start by becoming a person.
it really is too bad about the left, and the phrase 'neoliberal capitalism' is always a symptom of the fact that someone has, on principle, repudiated intellection. here's anthony alofsin, reviewing the international architecture biennale in venice fot the times literary supplement (oct 24). i think he's representing the views of rem koolhaas, who put the show together (this would be ironic given koolhaas's client list). 'Neo-liberalism has eroded the moral mission of architecture, sending the art from the public to the private sector.' sentences like that are so uncontroversial to alofsin's audience that they almost don't hear them as they slide by. 'public' obviously always just means 'state'. the assertion would be that architecture built for governments has been so much better than that built for other sorts of entities. could rem koolhaas or anthony alofsin really stare squarely at the utterly repulsive oppressive brutalism characteristic of more or less every government through the 20th century, and think that the state is the only legit client? nice pentagon, man, and auschwitz was a masterpiece. the greatest art is a concrete bunker, with a concrete plaza outside bestridden by a colossus of the mighty leader. the 'public' architecture of the twentieth century, i assert, was by a good long way the worst architecture ever built anywhere by anybody, with the very worst reasons to exist, good as nothing but a target, improved aesthetically by every act of vandalism. i think the implication of this approach is that not only should the state build more and more, it should be the only builder. i do not understand how you would stroll down this road without realizing that what you're advocating is ugly, evil and the complete destruction of your own profession. really it's as though you have never looked at anything, replacing your eyes with a set of slogans chanted in unison. maybe that's not what's best for art, overall.
so, leftish people. why are you leftish? because you believe in justice. because you believe in equality. because people shouldn't own people, and stuff. absolutely. exactly. alright, now you've got to start generating programs to pursue such goals which aren't obviously destructive of them. that is really how bad the mistake has been: the practical measures advocated to solve these problems have made them much worse, over and over again, obviously. to free people you advocate generating the most thorough mechanisms of oppression and elitism the world has ever known. so, stop placing quite so much emphasis on epistemic solidarity, on all saying the same things together, and start thinking independently about what you really want to achieve and what might realistically be expected to help bring that about. the first move cannot be to constitute a power capable of achieving justice and equality, for such a power has the opposite effect, always, every single time it has been tried, and by definition. it starts on the road to equality by imposing irresistible hierarchy. there is no reason to make this mistake, no excuse for making this mistake, even when everyone around you is making it together. the first step in helping people and stuff will be to dedelusion yourself.
as you may know, i think most leftists who are left of, say, obama, are post-marxists, whatever they may say: they are still trying to make marx's predictions come true, still trying to read history through his lens. no empirical data can budge or change this at all: it has nothing to do with reality, but with the emotional momentum of a century-and-a-half old quasi-relgion started by a prophet/messiah with the power to foretell the future (admittedly, he asserted that it was scientific, but so did many eschatological preachers of the 19th century).
so here are some aspects of the content. first of all, since we haven't flown as predicted into the commmunist ecstasy at the end of history, we must still be in the phase of capitalism. so we don't even notice that capitalism and socialism have merged: that it's state/corporate economic/political/military power that's the problem. but, it has to be odd for any marxist to think that capitalism has avoided the terminal crisis as the prophet predicted. starting as long as a hundred years ago, marxists referred to the contemporary phase - whatever it was at the time - as late capitalism, a lovely expression of wishful thinking. seems like you'd get embarrassed about that as the decades tick by, and i would have suggested a number of other dialiectical phases: "late late capitalism," "extremely late capitalism", "unbelievably late late capitalism" and so on.
maybe they got too embarrassed by this approach, though they are not folks who are easily embarassed. so now we're in "neoliberal capitalism" or perhaps since we're thirty years past reagan and thatcher, we're in "late neoliberal capitalism." well the power of capital and political/miltary systems connected with it just keeps consolidating, shows no sign whatever of disintegrating: quite the reverse. so this is where climate change comes in: it will provide the terminal crisis of capitalism: it is the realization of prophecy. people, i must say, are sitting home wanting it to be as bad and imminent as possible, and asserting - while brooking absolutely no dissent - that it is as bad and imminent as possible. it's still science, too.
anyway, i have no idea why you'd want to enter into this line of thought, or even how you'd go about making yourself believe stuff like that, but it is very pitiful. the left has just got to got to got to grab something else, or worship a new messiah or something, cause this shit is boring and ridiculous and interminable.
i have no idea what arthur c. brooks thinks he's doing in this piece, but the attempts to naturalize or biologize the left-right spectrum are just pitiful. some folks want to imprint it on your amygdala, while others go olfactory. folks have wound themselves into such partisan tizzies that they cannot think their way outside at all; they have lost even a rudimentary power of self-reflection. they are trying to say: everyone in the whole world, insofar as they are human, is trapped in the democratic/republican, or socialist/laissez-faire dynamic forever. this would be surprising, since the whole thing is at most a couple of hundred of years old, and both sides are miserably incoherent authoritarianisms. of course brooks also goes for the jonathan haidt chestnut defining liberals as those who oppose authority and conservatives as those who enthuse about it. this too is surprising since every single liberal solution to every single thing is the state the state the state, which is just coercive authority, whatever people may have convinced themselves it is (our collective identity etc). and one thing i want to say about questionnaire research of the haidt variety: it shows either that liberals are anti-authoritarians, or that they are skull-crushingly self-deluded. seriously, i say the data supports either hypothesis equally, which might make one reflect on the methodology just a bit. fortunately we have an external reality - the actual solutions advocated and the actual political system as it stands - by which to measure the truth of this answer.
anyway, at least start grappling with this: people in dallas are more conservative than people in chicago. men are more conservative than women. rich people are more conservative than poor people. white people are more conservative than black people. now, wouldn't this tend to entail that this is at least partly to be explained by, or that it is correlated, with a set of smell facts? we would expect, if this line of research is right, that people from dallas tend to smell different than those from chicago. and of course there is a long traditional history of the claim that poor people smell different than rich people, or black people than white people. or indeed, that their brains are different or that they have different bumps, etc. even y'all can do better than this.
meanwhile matt bai is everywhere with his book about 'when american politics went tabloid': the gary hart sex scandal during the 1988 presidential campaign. so one thing's obvious in the radio interviews etc: hart is bai's hero and he thinks that's where everything went terribly wrong. i can see the argument that who one may be fucking is not really the most relevant piece of info with regard to political leaders. but what i like about this era of examining leaders' private lives is that it continually punctures the mystique in which power enshrouds itself. it shows people wearing suits or uniforms who emerged from yale law school to run our nation are at least as gross and stupid as anyone else. it reveals over and over and over why people want power and what they do with it when they get it. when you get to the point where there just is no mystique, no possible cult, of state power, when all glamour has been scrubbed clean, then everyone is a de facto anarchist,.
i'm hoping that the forces conducting the war on women and the forces conducting the war on whites can transcend their partisan bickering, find their common ground, and join together in a war on white women. jihad jihad jihad!
empathy varies inversely with power. i'd say that's something we all know by experience, though it's nice to have some evidence. perhaps you have actually dealt with high school principals, policepersons, judges, irs officials, very rich persons, or senators, for example. i'd explain it as follows: people who seek power are morally worse, on average, than those who do not (this is true more or less by definition, as though i said: people who try to accomplish evil are worse on average...), and sometimes people who seek power get it, while people who do not rarely do. and second, power makes you a worse person, which is actually the conclusion of the piece. now, if you do not draw anti-authoritarian, anti-hierarchical - indeed anarchist - conclusions from this, you should try. and what i would really recommend is that people stop lionizing the powerful, worshipping barack a la 2008 or clinton or gore or bill gates or whatever it may be. powerful people should be under continuous suspicion, should be regarded with continuous skepticism. the only real point has to be to hem them in, mitigate their disastrous effects, or tear them down. the human desire to be subordinated just puts us in the hands of the worst among us. that we want the exploitation, poverty, and rape that we receive from authorities, however, does not entail that the authorities aren't evil.
on the other hand, the piece does that silly brain thing, where they say that, though some people think that powerful people need others less and hence attend to their feelings less, the authors have a different hypothesis: 'we contend that when people experience power, their brains fundamentally change how sensitive they are to the actions of others.' now first of all, why aren't those alternative descriptions of the very same thing? and second, what the heck do you gain by retreating into the brain? it's just doing no work. 'my brain is making me less sensitive' or 'my brain is changing me': how much sense or content is there in claims like that? or maybe i am making my brain less sensitive. when my brain affects me (how surprising!), what is affecting what? this same let's say casual line of thought might identify my self with my brain, which would make it very strange indeed to say that my brain is changing me. is it supposed to be explanatory to say the x is the cause of x? but it does suggest that power and interactions with others in general can be reduced to internal brain states, which is just counter-productive. actual interactions of your brain and the rest of you with other people and the outside world are actually occuring. the problem is interpersonal, not intracranial. but if it were in your brain, power and its effects could possibly be treated with drugs or psycho-surgery, which would be good, and might keep us from having to open internment/re-education/labor camps for assistant principals after the revolution.
there's been a lot of criticism directed at obama for invariably attending fundraisers galore as the world dissolves. but i think that it is very important that he do so, in order to take direction from the people who are running the country. obviously, the pres needs to maintain close ties to the super-rich who govern us. barack and hillary and other members of the billionaires' staffs are going to devote the next few years to addressing economic inequality, by enjoying it immensely every day.
the idea, currently bruited by palin and hinted at by many others, that obama should be impeached for things like granting waivers to the aca, is just ridiculous. but i say again that nothing in the history of the republic has been as impeachable as nsa. the extreme abuse of power, the global violation of the constitution, the performance of billions of acts that would be criminal if not done by officials: those are the sort of abuses of citizens that impeachment was designed to redress. if not, as jefferson said, insurrection is the only possibility. that's going to be hard when they have all our communications, however.
i think there are three ways to try to make the left-right spectrum coherent, or to say what it means: (1) state vs capital, (2) future vs past, (3) collectivist vs individualist. obviously one's positions on these dimensions need not coincide, so any particular person's positions can well be both left and right if we're using all three. that is, obviously these are not 3 ways of saying the same thing, though you might wish they were. (2) is just a bunch of wacky propaganda bullshit. people purporting to speak for or as or from the future need to chill. i dealt with the first in the atlantic piece, or really it needs a lot more than that. the third is the grossest thing ever. just make your mind up to this: collective consciousness or decision-making is compromised by coercion. however, when the left goes 'what about the collective?' they actually do mean precisely and usually exclusively coercion. it is really the most repulsive, most disingenuous reversal one could readily imagine.
individualism and collectivism really can't be opposed. if you and i unite, it is precisely you and i who are uniting. but still, you and i might always disagree. that could be good too.