An important and scathing article

January 21, 2020 at 8:37 pm (By Amba) ()

about doing politics vs. just talking about it. Point taken. Shut up and deal.

In reality, political hobbyists have harmed American democracy and would do better by redirecting their political energy toward serving the material and emotional needs of their neighbors. . . .

[C]ollege-educated people, especially college-educated white people, do politics as hobbyists because they can. On the political left, they may say they fear President Donald Trump. They may lament polarization. But they are pretty comfortable with the status quo. . . .

Our . . . treatment of politics as a sport incentivizes politicians to behave badly. We reward them with attention and money for any red meat they throw us…Rather than practic[e] patience and empathy [as organizers must], hobbyists cultivate outrage & seek instant gratification. . . .

[The Democratic Party harbors] “a tension between those who…seek empowerment and those who have enough power that politics is more about self-gratification than fighting for anything. Only if you don’t need more power . . . could you possibly consider politics a form of consumption from the couch.”

Of course many of us political couch potatoes are riveted to the news not for entertainment and outrage, but out of anxiety. But the remedy for anxiety is action—on behalf of the people we purport to care about who will be hurt worse than us.

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A rant about the phrase “most Americans”

January 21, 2020 at 7:40 pm (By Amba) (, , )

is live on The Compulsive Copyeditor:

“A new CNN poll shows that most Americans want the Senate to remove Trump from office (51 to 45 percent), most want to hear from the witnesses that Trump blocked from testifying in the House (69 percent), and most believe that he abused the power of the presidency (58 percent) and obstructed Congress (57 percent).”

~ Teresa Hanafin, “Fast Forward” (Boston Globe newsletter)

I’m sorry, but no matter where you stand on Trump, the Senate, impeachment, or CNN, 51 percent is NOT “MOST” Americans. It is, for all practical purposes, half.

Read the whole thing.

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I wrote about gender and 2020

January 20, 2020 at 6:22 pm (By Amba) (, , )

on Cloven Not Crested.

The picture is chaotic and infuriating, ruled by a nasty mix of timidity and calculation. Progressives think a centrist is not electable; centrists think a progressive is not electable. Significant numbers of each group seem prepared to make their prophecy self-fulfilling by staying home or casting a protest vote if a candidate from the other group wins the nomination. Many women who say they would welcome a female president are so sure that the majority of their fellow Americans wouldn’t that they are hedging their bets by supporting a (white) man. . . .

(Whether or not Bernie Sanders [shares that view] I will leave to your speculation. I am quite sure he believes a woman would be capable of serving as president. I am not so sure he is immune to the widespread worry that America is not capable of electing one. But that’s a subtle distinction long since trampled by the wildebeests of propaganda.) 

Read the whole thing.

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Default: Dread

January 19, 2020 at 11:47 pm (By Amba) (, )

What watching the news is like in 2020.

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Alexander Hamilton’s Prophecy

January 18, 2020 at 6:29 pm (By Amba) ()

He foresaw our moment with chilling precision. Ticked off every particular.

When I flagged only one questionable item—”having the advantage of military habits”—my brother said, “Well, he did go to military school.”

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Political tensions and doubts…

January 15, 2020 at 10:13 am (By Amba) (, , )

. . . in rural Wisconsin, one of the swing areas that are crucial to Trump’s chances of reelection. It’s not a simple or monolithic picture. And it’s embodied in the falling-out of two women friends, who previously worked together for Trump’s campaign. One has changed her mind, and has had the guts to go public about it, though she’s fearful of the consequences:

“I’m worried about retribution. My barn is made of wood. People have matches. Do two plus two,”

The other expressed the pragmatic, goal-directed point of view of many evangelicals:

“I’m not voting for him to be my pastor, my father, my role model. I’m voting for him to get some things done in Washington DC that have never been done before. We forgive him because of other things.”

As a single parent in mid-divorce, she had once temporarily needed public assistance, but sees no contradiction with Trump’s cuts in food stamps:

She agrees with the move, she said, because the restrictions do not apply to families with children or those with disabilities.

“Of course, we want to make sure the children are taken care of,” she said. “But single adults, you need to get out there and work. Life is hard. Sorry. Life was hard for me too.”

She’s not against some version of public health insurance, though (“I think that’s good. Who wouldn’t?”) . . . as long as it doesn’t raise taxes too much:

If somebody told me my taxes would go up $500 a year for Medicare for All, I might do it. That’s pretty good. But if somebody told me my taxes would go up $10,000 a year, oh no.”

The two women no longer speaking to each other. Meanwhile, a pastor worries about “an unquestioning and even aggressive adulation for Trump” among some congregants who have crossed a line between pragmatism and idolatry:

“It seems like there are many evangelical Christians that are willing to die on the hill of supporting the Republican president, supporting Donald J Trump. And to me, that hill is not worth dying on. No matter who the candidate is, no matter who the individual is,” he said. “To put all your hope into that individual is a dangerous road. Scripture would warn us against that.”

I consider this a must read, especially for us city kids.

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Berlinski Burrows into Iran

January 14, 2020 at 7:40 pm (By Amba) (, , , )

in its full complexity, which is less about us than we would like (and, insofar as it is about us, in ways we don’t like).

if the Iranian regime falls, it will not be because of Trump. It will be because it is a regime that’s capable of shooting a civilian airliner out of the sky and then trying to bulldoze the evidence. It will be because that regime is rotten to the core. 

If the regime survives, it will not be because of Trump, either. It will be because it is a regime capable of killing as many of its own citizens as it needs to quell these protests. 

As I write this, the news that the Iranian regime has opened fire on the protesters has come across the transom. That is not Trump’s fault—but this point does seem very hard for some to grasp. . . .

Unless we invade and occupy Iran, the future of that regime is in Iranian hands, not ours. 

Read to the end if you have some notion of how to apportion the “blame” for Iran’s enlargement of power between Obama and Trump. Clue: Berlinski says “If you deplore one but not the other, partisanship has taken over your frontal lobe.” But what has ultimately empowered Iran is the wars in Iraq and Syria.

The bottom line:

The issue is not Obama versus Trump, Democrats versus Republicans. It is that we wish for things that cannot both be true. We don’t want to be at war, but we don’t want the world to be overrun by hostile and despotic regimes. We don’t want to go to war to prevent Iran from acquiring the Bomb, but we don’t want Iran to acquire the Bomb. We want to scare Iran. But we don’t want to be scared.

We busily project half of our incompatible desires onto the other political party, rather than acknowledging that our own desires are in conflict. Meanwhile, no one mentions that we have no recognizable strategy for anything and haven’t had one since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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I don’t have the heart

January 14, 2020 at 11:17 am (By Amba) ()

to write a post this morning, so, here are last night’s/this morning’s tweeties and emails.

And in response to a friend who said the Democrats have now effectively destroyed each other, leaving only old white men standing and women and unwhite people less psyched to go to the polls:

I’m sure the Dems had all manner of behind-the-scenes help destroying each other. Not that they needed it. But the general run of people, even as they may be (misplacedly) paranoid, are sincere, naive, and almost effortlessly manipulated. No one can keep their eye on the ball in a hurricane of distraction, incitement, and misinformation.

I’m as duped as everyone else, by definition, but it must be obvious by now that I thought Warren, with all her flaws, was probably the best candidate, in that she was the only one “impure” enough on every dimension to almost stretch across the Great Divide. The operative words are “almost” and “was.” All kinds of powerful forces don’t want any of that to happen.

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The imminent threat is theocracy.

January 13, 2020 at 2:59 pm (By Amba) ()

Separation of church and state may be the first casualty of a Trump reelection. (Completely destroying the environment could take a little longer than trashing the Constitution. Scissors, paper, rock.)

Pious fraud
(Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP)

Rank-and-file evangelicals have also embraced the imperfect vessel concept [that Trump is like the biblical King Cyrus, another sonovabitch who was nonetheless “good for the Jews”] . . .

“If you’re a faith community and you make a political deal with the president, and sell your soul, you stretch to come up with a theological justification, and this seems to be the go-to, this idea,” [said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United, a non-partisan organization dedicated to the separation of church and state].

The concept has since gone international, with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, making the comparison in March 2018.

Cheered on by these, and other, prominent figures . . . who claim Trump has been “raised up by God” . . . white evangelical Christians have continued to support Trump.

In return, they have been rewarded with attacks on reproductive rights and the freedoms of LGBTQ people, and the appointment of scores of conservative judges.

They have also watched people with the same evangelical beliefs appointed to key government positions, as Trump has stacked his cabinet with devout Christians, some of whom have been explicit about how their faith influences their approach to government. [emphasis mine]

“Many of Trump’s political appointees have, as their primary qualification, the fact that they are committed to a very distinct, conservative religious agenda,” said Katherine Stewart, author of an upcoming book The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.

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In the Trumpire,

January 13, 2020 at 1:39 pm (By Amba) ()

the condition for citizenship will be swearing a loyalty oath to Dear Leader.

That’s my fantasy after pondering the fresh Irany that the trigger for Soleimani’s assassination, approved seven months ago, was to be the first death attributable to Iran of an American . . . who turned out to be a recently naturalized Iraqi-American, Nawres Hamid.

The face of America. (Family photo)

This achieves Irany in light of Trump’s slur that four American citizens in Congress, only one of whom is even naturalized, should go back where they came from.

UPDATE: The obvious occurs to me belatedly: that ethnicity and birthplace are less of an impediment to Americanness when the bearer is dead.

Maybe another requirement will be to laugh hysterically at Dear Leader’s non-jokes. If this tweet is what passes for “hilarious” in the Trumpire, that alone will be grounds for emigration if not secession.

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