Friday, November 11, 2016


Armistice day is on us again. 98 years since the war to end all wars ended, and the world immediately began preparations for the next war. It's a hard week to find anything good to say. World War I isn't the central event of American history the way it is in modern European history - the Civil War is. But we're still fighting the Civil War - Trump ran and won as much against the results of the Civil War as anything else. When both the Civil War and WWI ended, the losers set about instantly to try to undo the results, and refight the wars if they need to. This country still hasn't accepted the results of the Civil War...

All right. This is about Armistice Day - Veteran's day in the US - we can, should, honor veterans today, but we should also keep the spirit of early remembrances of the day, and the hope that somehow, this horrible cataclysm might move people to work against wars. Remember the sacrifices, remember the sheer horror of The Great War, and try to do something to stop it from happening, over and over again.

And, today - remember Leonard Cohen. This year - it's parade of good and great people dying (as well as a few monsters) just never seems to stop. Cohen was another of those musicians with a long, deep career and a massive body of work that I dipped into almost at random, never quite embracing the whole thing - but loving the parts I knew. So - we're heavy on the early stuff below, because I had them going obsessively there for a while... He's also someone who's songs could absolutely transform a movie: McCabe & Mrs. Miller is the most obvious, but everybody knows in Exotica was a jolt as well... He will be missed; and reading this new, this week, is a fucking stab in the gut...

So: video - start with Cohen doing his part for Remembrance day, from last year - reciting In Flanders Fields:

And songs - the ones that got me, and kept me the longest. Suzanne:

Bird on a Wire:

The Stranger, from McCabe and Mrs Miller (the title sequence):

And the Partisan:

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

What Now?

I don't know how this happened. You could see it was close, there were plenty of reasons to panic, but generally speaking, the polls still favored Clinton coming into yesterday, and everything I could see that might not show up in the polling seemed to favor her even more. Turnout - her GOTV operation, and general campaign competence - early voting - the increased numbers of blacks and hispanics voting, the gender gap - all things that might not be obvious, but should nudge the numbers a little bit her way.

But none of them paid off. What happened? I don't know - all I have are that white people really are evil, and more of them are evil than I thought... and decades of making politics seem meaningless have paid off in an electorate that places identity politics and weird talk about "change" or whatever the fuck Trump people voted for ahead of self-interest. That core of poorer, less educated white people that voted for Trump are hard to take - they will suffer and suffer badly in the next four years, and they will probably still find ways to blame the Democrats. I think the core of this problem is that Trump convinced people it was more important to make the other guy suffer than to benefit yourself. That and working very hard through the years to obscure the policies that do benefit people, and how they benefit them. Well - they will have to live with their votes now - though I'm sure the GOP will continue to work very hard to make them blame someone else, while the people in charge clean out the till.

As for the results: good god this is terrifying. The markets are already plunging. I don't know if it would have helped Hillary Clinton all that much to run on the fact that Wall Street wanted her to be elected - but - the economic and financial professionals obviously did want her elected. She did promise as much stability as a government is able to give to the economic world - easy as it is to demonize capitalists, money is going to change hands - keeping that system functioning is a good part of what governments do. What will happen now? It's hard to see any good coming of it: the GOP is likely to gut many of the safeguards against economic collapse, they will certainly stop the progress being made toward a real economic recovery (like movements to raise the minimum wage). The recovery is decent, but it's always been fragile, making do without the kind of help governments should be providing - now, the government will begin actively working against it - it bodes ill. I think the question is not will there be a recession, but when will the recession start? and will it turn into a depression? Republicans have no idea how to handle economic collapse - they turn to "austerity" and make them worse, almost by instinct.

Or maybe worse. Maybe Trump isn't as stupid as he acts - maybe he (like more conservatives than are willing to admit it) knows perfectly well that Keynsian economics works, that you spend your way out of a depression. But the right wing method of spending your way out of a depression is to start a war - at least, ramp up your military. They are as Keynsian as any liberal, when push comes to shove, but they have to wrap their spending in the prospect of killing foreigners. This is not a recipe for long term success as a country. Who will we invade? Mexico? Syria? Iran? Jesus Christ....

That is that. Let's attempt something optimistic: how does this not end in the apocalypse? (I guess people were right about the Cubs and the world series, huh?) Well - this is certainly going to heighten those contradictions - 4 years of Trump and the GOP could bring out Democratic voters in droves. It's happened before - Hoover led to FDR, Bush led to Obama - that, plus the natural tendency of politics to oscillate could have the Dems back in charge of the Senate by 2018, and might bring another Democratic landslide in 2020. It's possible... Or - being forced to govern might change the GOP, or more likely, break it. It's one thing to obstruct and resist and manipulate voter anxieties for your own electoral gains: it's another entirely to make the decisions and have to face the consequences. If they repeal Obamacare, and people see just how much good it did for them - they might find out you don't always want what you think you want. Or even before - it's not as easy as they think to go after social programs - Bush couldn't do it after 2004, even with all three branches of government - being in charge again might start breaking up some of the party discipline the GOP has maintained in the last few years. Could happen. Add in the fact that Trump is incompetent, lazy and likely to wish he'd lost before the week is out, and things might not degenerate as much as they could.

But those are thin threads to hang on. And looking at this election, the lesson the GOP might take is that they can do absolutely anything, cause any amount of suffering, and be able to blame it on Moslems or Mexicans of blacks or Jews, and keep their core voters voting for them.

That is terrifying.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Election 2016

Well, election season is down to the end. I vote tomorrow. I'm voting for Hillary Clinton, which should be obvious. It's easy to get caught up in how bad Donald Trump is - and he is very very bad - but this is a positive vote too. Clinton was never my first choice, but she was always a solid pick. Most of what she will do I support whole heartedly - even when she doesn't go as far as I'd like, she'd move policy in the right direction. (Sure I'd prefer a real, universal, public health insurance system - but I'll happily take a better hybrid system...) Even where I don't like her policies (She is far too bellicose for me - she was dead wrong on the most important vote of her life, the vote for the Iraq war, and still seems more inclined to favor war than other Democrats...) she is almost unimaginably better than any Republican she could run against. The personal stuff against her is almost all bullshit - people have been trying to find something against her for decades,a nd never manage to find anything more than some carelessness with email - a problem almost everyone else in Washington shares. At her worst, she's still better than any Republican, and plenty of Democrats.

So I'm with her. And yes - I'd be with her even if she were far worse than she is. Parties matter more than people - that's always been true, and party politics have become hard as a rock in the last 20 years or so. But I'd be with her even if the parties were a lot less rigid than they are - she's better in every way than anyone else in this race from day one except Bernie Sanders, and maybe Bill Weld. (Though she'd get my vote over Weld on politics.) One of the effects of the Republicans doulbing down every 2 years on their neo-confederate authoritarian robber baron core is that almost all the serious political disagreement and policy debate occurs inside the Democratic party. The race between Sanders and Clinton raised interesting choices - policies vs. experience, incremental vs. drastic changes, which economic issues to address first - all those are real choices. None of the Republicans offered useful policies in the least. Tax cuts and threatening minorities and women is pretty much the sum total of their platform. That and refusing to govern, unless they are completely in charge.

(I have to expand on that a bit: when they hold the presidency, they work very hard to concentrate power in the hands of the president. They did so all during Bush's years, giving the presidency more and more power all the time. When Obama won, they carried this on, through the simple expediency of refusing to participate in government. They obstruct what Obama and the Democrats tried to do - and they continue to concentrate power in the presidency. f they win it back, things will not go well for the Republic. It's not just the horror of Donald Trump that would make it so - it's their theory of government. They are, genuinely, neo-cofederate authoritarian robber barons - they want a strong, single source of power; that is their model. That has to change, as much as their commitment to racism, xenophobia and misogyny, is they are to be worthy of holding power again...)

So I guess this is an easy one. Vote for Hillary Clinton; elect a woman president, and make history; be proud of your country; and give us a fighting chance to actually be a country worth living in.