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The “messiah” syndrome

Perhaps the most depressing part of this last campaign season is not the outcome, but the final confirmation of just how pointless political discourse really is. Maybe in the end it has value in the “throw enough pebbles in the river and it may change course” sense, but for all the fretting and strutting, all the incontrovertible evidence one way or another, the dial simply does not nudge for most people, not even myself.

As my friend says, “politics is religion”. Which is not to say it is aligned with religious values, which in some cases it is, but rather that political views are faith based rather than reality based. In other times we might have been forgiven, because evidence was unavailable or hard to come by, but today one only has to Google to find literal transcripts if not video. If you want to find how odious either candidate was, it’s not a case of needing to trust your friends or even the news. With a modicum of effort, you can find the original evidence, unfiltered. In that regards, both Hillary and Trump looked massively awful in incontrovertible ways. There is no need to trust the word of the apparatchiks, it was all there to find for yourself.

And, yet, on both sides there was a remarkable ability to whitewash their candidates to the point that many claimed literal innocence when again, it took no effort to see innocence and guilt imbibed in stone in uncut YouTube video, or emails, or in the words of the candidates own Twitter feeds. There should have been no room for ambivalence or question, and yet, many were able to convert their candidates from at best highly compromised, to complete messiahs, practically with halos above their heads.

I had no issue with anyone saying, “Yes, (s)he has issues, but it’s the least of the two evils,” (though as a liberal I find it harder to say the same about Trump, who literally advocated torture)(go see the fucking videos!). However, on both sides with amazing examples of self-delusion, partisans described all claims against their candidates as lies made up by the other side, even where some of those so called “lies” could come only from internal dissent. That’s not to say there weren’t lies and distortions on both sides, but again, the truth of much could be found carved in the stone of verifiable recorded evidence.

But we must have our messiahs. I know not why, other than our amazing ability to take one flaw and convert it into an indictment (a favorite of the “debate school” crowd in the comment sections of many blogs – make the tiniest error, even in spelling, and your whole argument is moot).

Perhaps the only positive thing about Trump is as much as we say we want humans, we really want infallible gods, messiahs as it were. The tiniest flaw can be gleaned onto, and thus we end up with candidates like Hillary where you can literally calculate the time between any responsive thought she has and the necessary politically correct filtering prior to it leaving her mouth. Trump broke that mold and for all of his horrible flaws, at least was human, albeit all too human (which brings to mind a statement of mine – “Hillary was inhuman, Trump is too human.”).

And yet, as I note above, those like Scott Adams and even family members of mine were able to make him more than he was (or less, depending on your view). But of course as I note, my side cannot claim innocence here – those like Amanda Marcotte were able to convert Hillary from a self-interested consummate compromised politician to a kindly grandmother with only our best interests at heart.

Am I better? Perhaps some in that I can at least see the problem, but my filters exist too, which is why I feel the hopelessness of it all. As much as we delude ourselves, we are not well thought out creatures of logic, but animals with enough computational logic strapped to our heads to make arguments that sound cogent, but are ultimately just reflections of our animal instincts and biases. We use our intellect not to actually find the truth, but to simply create what looks like the truth to try to convince others (usually failing because they are doing the exact same thing!).

If it were simply a game, a matter of entertainment like some TV series it would be ok, but the result is real failure and real suffering. We create great senses of meaning, but the outcome is ultimately the arbitrary combination of the pseudo-intellect and pseudo-logic we each spew coming together. Chaos theory, with real pain. It is enough to make me wonder that my Wiccan friend is right – that in some universe our true souls are perfect, but perfection is boring, and we have decided to subject ourselves to this “entertainment” of imperfection where there is pleasure, but also suffering, and in some twisted way we enjoy both. If so, all one has to do is watch the news to see we are created in those Gods’ images. As I say, “News is what happens to you, entertainment is what happens to others.”

I can only hope someday I am proven wrong about this, and when I am it doesn’t involve lakes of fire.

The morning after

I too am surprised at a President Trump, however more really because the polls were so heavily biased toward Clinton.

Still, I can’t help feeling that mainstream Democrats just didn’t get it. Hillary, for right or wrong, was really, really, disliked and not just on the right. It didn’t matter if every controversy was bullshit or not – the reality is she was incredibly unpopular to the point of being hated in many circles. She might have been the best qualified, but tactically she was a bad choice – literally the only person who could lose to Donald Trump.

It didn’t help either that not only were Sanders supporters sold out by the DNC, but once Hillary was nominated the Sanders camp was basically shunned. I don’t know how many times I saw on sites I respected where people who didn’t tow the line perfectly being described as a “disgruntled Sanders supporter”, rather than realizing and/or addressing any of their concerns. Alienation is the word really.

That’s not to say it justifies voting Trump or not voting Clinton, but no one should be surprised that it happened.

Now one response I suppose is to hippie-bash all the Sanders supporters who didn’t come through, or another might be to take it to heart and say, “Maybe we need to do something different.”

That is, if we get a chance again.

Best response to the Democratic DNC response ever…

Understanding racism

If you are a raging liberal like myself and want to understand how it feels to be a racist, there is an easy way. In fact, I would argue you, like the rest of us, are likely to do it regularly yourself.

Here’s what I want you to do. Imagine yourself hearing someone use the N-word toward someone who’s black.

What is your instinct here? What have you decided about them? Do you see them as human like you are? Would you listen to anything they might have to say about race issues, much less practically anything at all? Have you created an entire narrative about who they are and what they are worth?

Now stop and think about this again – isn’t the fundamental issue of racism the idea of unfairly putting people in boxes, of stereotyping them, of writing them off as not being human?

Racism is wrong, but how do we expect to end racism when we approve of dehumanization when it’s convenient to our worldview? How is labelling someone a racist more constructive than labeling someone with the N-word?

Same applies to “sexist”, “homophobe”, “fascist” etc.

They label and it is wrong, however if we label them and that’s ok, how do we ever hope to end the cycle of labeling?

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nuance to be had here and I’m not suggesting that we accept racism, or sexism, or homophobia. However I truly believe it’s something to think about, if nothing else in how we approach working to end these “isms”. Maybe labeling is part of the problem, maybe we need to see them as human too and think of more constructive ways to actually engage the sources of the “isms”.

God knows, that’s how we want them to engage the targets of the “isms”.

Look in the mirror liberals

It sucks because at a time when we should be questioning the whole path that the “liberal” party has taken, one cannot really argue that the choice this time is really that stark. However, it is the neoliberal status-quo and our inability, or rather refusal, to offer a real solution to the suffering middle class that is fueling the fire that is Trump.

Trump is what happens when the country turns in on itself, or rather is manipulated to. However part of that blame is that we liberals haven’t been offering a viable alternative. While we have been focusing on the, yes, genuinely important issues around racism, prejudice, sexism, environment — we’ve largely held the line and followed suit when it comes to the police state, war, and, most importantly, economic policies.

We passed NAFTA and our president, if not president to be, supported TPP. We facilitated trading millions of middle class union jobs for the false dream of replacing them with cheap goods and upper class “technology” jobs, as if miraculously everyone could become a Mark Zuckerberg with a little training (or that everyone could simultaneously be Mark Zuckerberg at all).

We were the ones that repealed Glass-Steagall that nuked the financial system, leaving what is still for most the “great recession”. Our president turned the other way to all the crimes involved, choosing to look forward instead of back, while offering nary a crumb to the suffering victims of those same crimes — the lower and middle classes.

And even now we’re ready to claim that things are better than they really are, because the alternative doesn’t support the narrative that Democrats have made it better and that Hillary provides continuity to those gains. Meanwhile we ignore the fact that yes, while on paper the numbers show better, and for those of us in the elite, intelligentsia, and credentialed classes things are better, but for the vast majority of the un-hip, NPR rejecting, masses, things suck and Trump seems like he couldn’t make it worse.

We’ve been so above the very people we claim to care most about, that we are unable to see that while yes they have made an ugly turn, they aren’t bad people, and they wouldn’t be turning ugly if they weren’t desperate and we had offered them a real economic alternative prior to it getting this bad. Worse — doubled down this very election on that status quo.

To top this off, we’ve labelled them “racists”, “homophobes”, “sexists”, and “neanderthals”, not seeing the irony that our labels and stereotypes are just as toxic as theirs. We forget that people don’t change their opinions and mores on a dime. Our social agenda is the right agenda, but we demand immediate and complete ideological purity, ignoring that it takes time for people to adjust. Just as we are unlikely to “see the light” and turn to Jesus tomorrow, they who in most cases were raised in different circumstances, aren’t going to turn to suddenly embrace every aspect of our social agenda. Instead we tell good but misguided people they are bad and oddly enough instead of embracing us, they turn more strongly away than ever. At least Trump isn’t telling them they are neanderthals for not being instantly comfortable with the raging, albeit absolutely positive, social revolution going on around them.

Meanwhile we ask, “How could it have turned so bad?” while refusing to look in the mirror and realize as in any dysfunctional relationship, we are part of the damn problem.

“trickle down”, Bugle style…

In regards to “trickle down economics”:

“What is trickling down and what is it trickling down? That is one trowser leg you don’t want to be at the bottom of.”

Andy Zaltzman, The Bugle

What Clinton people don’t get…

Many people I respect greatly support Hillary. This leads to conversations (arguments?) as to why I think Bernie is a better choice than Hillary. Often these conversations are frustrating because I do in fact respect these people, but also because despite saying over and over again that I really don’t care how realistic Hillary’s policies are over Bernie’s, it keeps coming round to how realistic Hillary’s policies are over Bernie’s.

So let me repeat, I don’t care how realistic Hillary’s policies are over Bernie’s. I don’t.

Why?

The way I see it we can elect Hillary who might make minor changes, but nothing meaningful and worse, not even set a meaningful narrative or we can elect Bernie who might try to get meaningful changes, only get minor or no changes, but at least start the path toward a meaningful narrative.

Is Bernie going to break up the banks? No. Is Hillary even going to champion breaking up the banks? No. Is Bernie going to end the revolving door corruption of Washington? No. Is Hillary going to even champion  ending the revolving door corruption of Washington? No. Is Bernie going to end the influence of big money in Washington? No. Is Hillary going to even champion ending the influence of big money in Washington? No. Is Bernie going to enact “single payer”? No. Is Hillary going to even champion “single payer”? No. Finally, is Bernie going to end our endless war? Actually maybe. Is Hillary going to even champion ending our endless war? Hell no.

So when their presidency is done and over, what message will the public be left with? Will “liberal” be any less of a dirty word?

To that end, to me at least, Bernie is more realistic – because the only way we can make real change is to change minds and the only way to change minds is to get a different message out. Hillary is not going to change the message. It will still be just as “unrealistic” to aim for these ends after she leaves as it is when she gets in. We have effectively gotten nowhere.

I also think this may be a basic difference in how we look at the current state of the nation. If you think the fundamental direction of the nation is basically “ok” but needs a few tweaks, then by all means I see your vote for Hillary. However, if you feel that the country is heading in an ugly direction with greater and greater inequality, where the average American lives in uncertainty and fears to meet the basic necessities, where war is endless, where democracy looks increasingly like a sham, then it’s time to aim higher. “Better than the Republicans” is not good enough.

To me at the moment the Republicans and the Democrats are two buses going to the same station, the only difference being the Democratic bus is going slower and smells better. It may be that Bernie isn’t going to change the direction of the bus any more than Hillary, but he’ll at least get the passengers to think about trying to.

Worse than every war before?

Matt Lauer on NBC to Hillary Clinton:

“It seems, Secretary Clinton, that information is so vital when it comes to combatting terrorism, and that is why perhaps—perhaps—you hear some people say when you get a key suspect like the one who was taken into custody in Brussels last Friday, maybe you should use some enhanced techniques to get information out of that person. It also may be why, if you look at this country in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings that you just brought up, a lot of people say, ‘wait a minute, Apple, you’ve got to unlock that phone that was left behind by one of the shooters because it’s crucial that we get that information.’ Is that simply just a logical step that people take after events like this, and do you agree with it?”

Wouldn’t that kind of information have been useful in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and the Cold War? And yet not only did they not use torture for any of it, no one had the lack of moral character to even suggest it?

Are you saying that these guys are more dangerous than the Nazis? More dangerous than the combined might of the Soviet Union with its world ending nuclear arsenal pointed at us?

Or maybe we have just lost our way?

Why we find terrorists after they terrorize…

If you want to know, despite all the dollars spent, why we seem to only find terrorists after they’ve finished terrorizing, this entry from the Homeland Security Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report might give a clue:

Ferrrari recalls 185 California T vehicles for fuel leak risk.

This is why the idea of sweeping as much data into the NSA databases as possible can be counter productive – if you can’t separate the real information from the noise, too much information can be as bad as too little information. This Homeland Security report shows exactly that – it would be hard to pull out relevant concerns from the noise of items that have little to do with security at all.

A fitting follow up…

I truly find what Trump is saying is execrable, though I have to admit I find those who agree with him far more scary, even if I count some of them my friends.

Still, have we really come to the point where we find it necessary to censor ideas that we find objectionable?:

MoveOn call to censorship

Isn’t one of the great hallmarks of fascism and totalitarianism the inability to tolerate alternative ideas lest they “infect” the  masses with their beliefs? That somehow those who behave badly have to be “radicalized” rather than radicalizing themselves?

Adolf Hitler was terrifying in his rhetoric, but it is convenient to blame his oratory skills and propaganda rather than give agency to those who chose to follow him, “chose” being the operative word. Hitler was not a sorcerer, those who followed him were not bewitched into their actions. It was their personal moral failings not his that led them to the crimes they supported, or worse, committed. Figures like Hitler and Trump don’t make the people evil, they just expose the latent evil within.

Yes, we must speak out, but we need to speak out with the strength of our arguments, not by using the same tools of those we object. If nothing else we should be cautious for we provide the very tools by which we too may be censored in the future.

If anything Trump shows is that “what goes around, comes around”. We see the the tools populists have used for centuries turned on themselves. Let’s not hand him another.