Tag Archives: America

Garbage Time

I have thought a time or two, recently, of the “first they ignore you…” bit, and how failing systems of authority may experience it in reverse. First people respect and feel part of the system, then people bump up against unworkable features of the system, then people laugh at its continued pretense of authority, then people just ignore it.

This is as close as I can get to a theme for what’s going on now.

Steady rot, maddening slowness of even attempts at constructive response, and more opting out.

Of the steady rot, well, good grief. This post’s featured image is of a protester in February 2017, and I suspect her sign could actually be more true now, not less. I wrote this post almost 29 months ago, and could just about repeat every word of it today. The big picture is dismal, and while one may find bright spots in the darkness here and there, from a perch next to Cleveland, Ohio, it’s just awful.

Yet leaders and institutions mostly seem, perhaps inevitably, deeply attached to accepting the system’s limits no matter how ridiculous they become. Pick an example. Congress is almost too obvious, yet it’s perhaps worth pointing out that it should be obviously unthinkable that about 50% of a legislature with vast responsibilities is permanently committed to blockade any and everything, even policies which are genuinely very good as well as wildly popular with the public. Yet this is just normalized. Working around the bad sectors and “out-organizing” them, accepting that impossibly bad rules and what they are, aw just try harder, is broadly accepted by leaders and institutions.

Liberal democracy, certainly in America, just seems to have no idea whatsoever what to do about an organized enemy which is inter-weaved with a traditional political party. It is just not done, apparently, for liberalism to actually fight to shut down a political party no matter how toxic it becomes. Instead liberal leaders and institutions just endlessly monitor the bad behavior and point at it, waiting for some other authority to take responsibility. The courts, which are too slow at best, or the voters, who pour votes into systems which just throw them out because those systems are already corrupted. Liberalism is forever determined to win the argument; even if it conclusively wins the argument and systems don’t respond, the answer is always to try winning it even more.

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Redistricting Minority Reports

I had an idea this week, which I’m sketching out just for whatever. Please note, this is not a recommendation, just a thought-experiment. The best approach for redistricting, short of reconsidering the whole concept of geography-based democracy, is probably still very independent commissions kept as far away from politicians as possible.

But, what if the backstop for legislative district maps supported by only the party in power was a kind of “official minority report” along these lines:

In Ohio, for example, current redistricting rules call for maps to be supported by at least half of the second-largest party in government (i.e. Democrats), but allow the party in power (i.e. Republicans) to enact four-year maps on a party-line basis, subject to antigerrymandering rules. In practice, Ohio Republicans are just ramming more gerrymandering right through the rules, and it seems to me like any real solution must involve taking the map-drawing pen away from the gerrymanderers at some point.

So how about, instead, if (when) Ohio Republicans ram through gerrymandered districts on a party-line vote, Ohio Democrats get to re-draw part of the map, say 40%.

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The Republican Party is pro-COVID

I have been thinking about the substantial and, apparently, still growing pro-COVID energy among Republicans.

For one thing, I don’t think any other term is really adequate. When Republicans are simultaneously “antilockdown,” “antimask,” “antivaccine,” “antimandates,” etc., etc., the big picture is effectively pro-COVID. Republicans are pandemic accelerationists.

Masks make a difference. Republicans gleefully want to discourage them, with both policy and stigma. Vaccine mandates have been working really well! Republicans are busily working to thwart them, through preemption or riddling them with exemptions.

Above all, vaccines work, yet the Republican Party is letting crackpot antivaxxers pull it their way rather than making any attempt to celebrate vaccines as a triumph of the Trump administration.

None of this is shocking, it’s just of some interest, if only as a reference point within the stampede of daily events.

I recall, with some effort, a few fleeting days in July when Republican elites were supposedly attempting a new, pro-vaccination message; that went basically nowhere. Among other things, it’s quite obvious that neither Republicans’ voting base nor the party’s middle ranks support that message.

What strikes me is that the overall pro-COVID energy among Republicans seems like a boundary marker between rational sabotage, and irrational self-destruction.

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Getting a grip when nothing works

I was mentally drafting a post this morning about how nothing seems to work, then this afternoon the irrepressibly optimistic Amy Hanauer shared this Prospect article with a different perspective. Robert Kuttner makes enough good points, therein, that for now I feel like examining them instead.

In general, I consider “Get a Grip: There Will Be a Budget Resolution” a very sound response to two, related, current problems:

  1. I have refused to pay attention to regular updates from the budget standoff in Congress. I think the whole thing is not only a fiasco which was practically manufactured by Democratic leadership—as I wrote months ago, dumb schemes like the “two-track approach” always do the opposite of defusing brinkmanship—it’s also a perfect example of how I just can’t take all this shit literally. Kuttner writes a good explanation of why there’s no reason to make an exception here.
  2. Although I still go through the motions of sending messages to Congress and the White House, what do I even say? So many things are crisis-level all at once and I do not want to get swept up in “this is what’s heating up this week so direct your comments there.” Kuttner writes a shortlist which I think addresses the biggest big-picture issues with as few items as possible.

I’m not really convinced of various details, though, or of the conclusion that we have the enemies of democracy and justice on the ropes, so “Enough defeatism! We can do this.”

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Coups, procedure, & cultural senescence

Picking up from “Systems are living forms… They, too, are born and die,” I want to make a few notes related to the recent “reveal” that Trump sought to overturn the presidential election.

Where even to begin, though:

  • Uh, we know that Trump sought to overturn the presidential election; how many times can this be “BREAKING” news?
  • In any meaningful sense, Trump already did use arcane procedural mumbo jumbo to overturn the presidential election in 2016, when he lost by nearly 3 million votes.
  • George W. Bush used arcane procedural mumbo jumbo to overturn a presidential election even 16 years before that, and even if you’re determined to look for sinister scheming, that’s where to look, since after that point America just normalized using arcane procedural mumbo jumbo to overturn presidential elections.

Seriously this is just ridiculous that even “experts” in these matters won’t see past the obsession with Trump to recognize that everything alarming in the Pence/memo/coup story is long-established and accepted.

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Inverse Secession

America is experiencing a kind of inverse secession.

Republicans have, over 30+ years, mentally expelled the rest of us from the citizenry of “their” country, which is a white patriarchy. We’re still here, physically, but it should not be surprising that Republicans are constantly enraged about alien people in America, and totally intolerant of all non-Republican authority. Anything besides Republican control is, for this enclave, the equivalent of “foreign rule.”

This is or should be important because it means so much of our conceptual infrastructure is obsolete and needs to be replaced, if the rest of us are to organize any kind of effective response, or even to understand what’s going on.

When baffled liberals explode at news of a school district banning a Rosa Parks children’s book, there is actually an explanation for this and so much of what constantly prompts ineffective online-outrage. Rosa Parks is an entirely reasonable hero for a multicultural liberal democracy. But Rosa Parks is not any kind of hero for a white patriarchy. For such a nation, lionizing Rosa Parks amounts to foreign propaganda undermining fundamental pillars of the culture. Of course such a nation’s patriots want to ban a book promoting Rosa Parks—to children no less—especially at a time when statues of that nation’s own heroes are being removed after generations.

This perspective also helps explain not only the Republican assault on democracy, but the aggression and brazen lawlessness which would sometimes seem excessive from any kind of purely “political” perspective. Even if one considers Republicans entirely rotten, it seems needlessly bloody-minded that they insisted this week on muscling through Ohio legislative districts which 1) have been consistently condemned by the public, 2) even they have trouble asserting with conviction are compatible with the state constitution, and 3) will only last two election cycles even if permitted by the state supreme court. All this seems needlessly bloody-minded given that this is Ohio and even the Democrats’ idea of fair maps would leave Republicans secure in state house and senate majorities.

But if you are at war against a foreign enemy, for control of your own land, you tend not to accept compromise. In the First World War, e.g., the French sacrificed lives attacking the German invaders’ positions, and defending their own lines, even when their own strategic interest was obviously better served by other choices. Accepting the alien occupying even a square inch of their country was simply intolerable. (As an aside, I have come to think of gerrymandering and secession as varieties of one thing: both are ultimately about redrawing borders to reject the whole possibility of an Other having authority over your kind of people.)

The concept of inverse secession also has implications which desperately need to be appreciated.

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The Crisis of Confidence

When the rigged high court, this week, ignored the precedent of Roe v. Wade, I realized that a blog post I wrote exactly two months earlier seemed word-perfect. Post-Democracy America is taking shape right in front of us.

As with a lot of events, now, I’m still making some attempt to analyze and process, yet I also keep finding that a lot of what happens is compatible with conclusions I reached and wrote about previously, some times years ago. It was right around three years ago that I went through intense anguish at the corrupt, evil takeover of America’s high court. Watching it play out, now, is sad and bad, but can I say that I really expected anything else?

I have been writing explicitly for some time that I think America is beyond repair, certainly in terms of a representative democracy. The proposition that the system can be repaired within the system is beyond farfetched, at this point.

Yet I still expect that zombie systems and concepts will shamble along, because that’s human behavior.

I am again re-reading Stokesbury’s Short History of World War I, and again the book and current events provide fascinating perspective on one another. Particularly how absolutely unprepared European leaders were for what war of that era was going to be like, even though there were warnings. The Russo-Japanese War was a warning, but they ignored it. “…early in 1915, Allied intelligence heard rumors that the Germans might conceivably be going to use gas. Not knowing exactly what to do about it, the Allied commanders decided to do nothing.” By later on in 1915, the war had ground up lives for an entire year, and still the nations of Europe continued to feed more lives into the same meat-grinder battles for multiple additional years before some new ideas managed to force themselves into use, often through some degree of accident.

America has had warnings, plenty of warnings, and we have even been living through plenty of nightmarish consequences of our culture becoming badly unsuited to new challenges. But most of those in authority (who are not actively part of the destruction) don’t know exactly what to do about it, and are instead doing nothing, at least nothing besides the same ineffective things which they have been doing.

I think this might be thought of as a Crisis of Confidence, partly at least a disastrous surplus of confidence as was very much the case in World War I.

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Afghanistan, America, and Rot

It has been about a week since the eruption of what my own notes summarize as “clueless, pointless national shoutfest about Afghanistan falling back to Taliban control almost instantly, and with basically no local resistance, even as US is still completing retreat.”

I feel like some kind of commentary is warranted, here, although I’m not sure how much I can say which is more important than the basic facts:

  • When I was 23 years old, the United States invaded Afghanistan—after a terrorist attack carried out mostly by Saudis and plotted by a leader eventually found holed-up in Pakistan.
  • I’m now 43 years old, and two decades’ sacrifice of lives and immense treasure have achieved absolutely no durable result in Afghanistan.

The setting of this extended fraud against basically my whole adult life kind of colors my perspective, and I completely support President Biden making the correct bad choice of pulling the plug on the occupation.

Beyond this I feel like the rest of what I can say mostly amounts to notes.

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System design matters

Early this morning I came across a twitter thread summarizing the “theory of now” of Professor Jason Stanley, who endorses the summary. While not exactly my own phrasing or choice emphases, it seems generally accurate to me also.

The main difference in my own “theory of now” may be that I think system design—omitted from Stanley’s theory or at least from a 20-tweet summary he just promoted—plays a critical role.

My own “theory of now” might in fact be summarized in six words that I scribbled down earlier this year:

  • rabid right
  • flabby left
  • bad rules

The summarized Stanley addresses effectively the first two, which are both important. I believe that the third is also essential to understanding the sabotage of America.

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Post-democracy America

As I watch corrupt sham democracy eat each big new hole in the remaining shell of representative democracy, I always feel a tension any more between dismay at how fast it seems to be happening and the lessons of experience about how long zombie systems can shamble along anyway.

Aside from the lessons of America itself over the past couple of decades, I think again on re-reading Gibbon recently, and on how long the Roman Senate existed after the Roman republic ended. This notoriously pathetic zombie institution (the use of which by America’s framers as an explicit model for our government was really Asking For It from the very start) lingered on for centuries after it had surrendered all power to autocratic emperors. The Roman Senate outlasted the republic, its own purpose, and even the Roman religion, by centuries.

That’s a powerful corrective to any expectation of a near-term catharsis, of any kind.

So I’m stuck, usually, with the expectation that things will get worse and worse, but, while some kind of explosion(s) are probably somewhere ahead, even they may not really alter America’s zombie-shuffle very much.

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