Thursday, October 20, 2016

Poll Cats

Yrs trly has had a feeling for some time, which I now commit to pixels, that the election results won't be nearly as close as latest polls indicate.

Yes, this is prompted by a similar growing sense popping up now that the surveys won't tell the whole story. And while more respectable political scientists will point to data gaps and poll lags, my own feeling is based on a certain regard of human nature.

One: there are probably measurable numbers of women who gave pollsters DT's name to keep peace with the men in their lives, knowing all along they'd vote for Mrs. C. We might now add to that number those who were, let's say, notional supporters who now feel duty bound to reject the animal. (And spare a thought to what are likely hundreds, maybe thousands, of relationships nationwide now on the rocks because the male of the household is an inert stone blockhead.)

And, Two: speaking of blockheads, my sense all along that a good percentage of these big-talking Trump fans would, when election day finally arrives, not take their civic responsibility seriously enough to bother even trying to destroy the republic with their votes. There is a reason they're such losers, and a big one is not taking certain important tasks in their lives seriously enough.

This is a problem, though not for Democrats and decent people everywhere. For the Gone Old Party is about to discover that there are hard, real-world consequences for acting on a belief, for years, in patent nonsense. When no one else sees the vermin you do, the exterminator never visits, no matter how much you yell.

And speaking of exterminators, while I put away some time ago my dreams for a House turnover this election, those dreams are back, and I think it'll happen. Again, the notion isn't exactly data driven, but rather the feeling that over the last couple weeks a lot of ex-Republican supporters have come to the conclusion that the party itself is no longer worthy of power above the county level. Thing is: they aren't wrong.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Right Trope Walker

While certain norms have been exceeded this election season, the main one being the bloody end of the GOP, I don't share the deep concern of those like Josh Marshall who fear that the DT campaign has let certain vicious genies out of the bottle forever tainting our Republic.

Mainly this is a stated concern of people under 50, sober, intelligent, well-educated, who have no living memory of what the national mood was like in the early-mid '60s. Unfortunately, I kind of do. Which is to say that very few people now worrying about the Trump effect after Nov. 8, have any grasp of the influence groups like the John Birch Society, KKK, and even the American Nazi Party once had.

People enjoy recalling how Wm. F. Buckley banished the Birchers; and the FBI, and Justice Dept. did a fine job taking down the Klan (while the AmNazis mainly took out each other), with the applied notion that somehow these groups were thereby nipped in the bud. No. They were well-established regional extremist organizations for years before their respective collapses.

Which is to say that the current crop of mean yay-hoos the DT campaign is viciously attempting to gin up is nowhere near the weight of those past failed movements, and should not be showed the respect of fear, or attempted understanding. Losers lose, a lot, and though it may be discouraging that there are so many furious simpletons keen on misunderstanding real life, it is a problem mainly for themselves.

Because, yes, their brand of white Protestant small-stakes culture is dying, but more from its roots, an ingrained suspicion of outsiders, and a patriarchal hatred of things they can't control, than any snide dismissals, like this one, made by outside elites. If any elites betrayed racist, small town America, it was the ones they relied on the most: elected officials who refused to extend federal social services to communities very much in need; churches obsessed with heterosexual probity and female submission in lieu of forgiveness and charity; a popular culture emphasizing national belligerence, patriotic display, guns, big engines, and alcohol consumption, over folk art, history, and community festivals.

Because even if the wider, coastal society didn't offer much to these interior white enclaves, the supposed base of GOP anger, neither did they have much to offer themselves, and the fact that so many fell for a patent conman, a big talking nutjob with his own jet and a fondness for gold leaf interiors, should give you some notion of how successful any political movement growing from the DT campaign will be. Maybe someday they'll come up with someone more like themselves, a plain-talking guy with a cheerful smile and at least a run at coherence to cover the hatred, but, demographically, it may be too late for even that. We'll see.

Yes, some spiteful cretins will threaten and hurt others in the aftermath of Trump's defeat, and promptly end up in jail. Some will attempt to find some justification and meaning in disgrace. But the cat has been belled. It will be very clear going forward who the idiots, useful and otherwise, are, and the losers, unless they give it a rest, will find new ways to utterly fail.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Making America Grate cont.

What had been an essentially boring presidential campaign in which the outcome was never in doubt has in the last twenty-four hours become pure psycho drama, born on and for TV, reflecting the fundamental unseriousness of the whole exercise.

This is not to say that Mrs. Clinton's campaign is an unserious one, just that the nature of her opponent, and the judgement of too many journalists about her, treated her as at best an imposter, someone with no real business putting herself forward in the way she has, or, worse, a ball-busting criminal, ripe for prison.

That this latter case was made by a ridiculous melange of failures, dimwits, and outright sociopaths, all too clear in their markings even as they were taken seriously, made any considered criticism of her policies and judgement mostly meaningless. See? Not serious.

It has been the single point made over and over for over a decade here at H&J that the GOP was either about to implode, or, as events went forward, in the process of doing so. It is now only a handy conceit of news organizations that the Republican Party is an intact entity at all. This notion could change shortly.

See, a real political party has a coherent voice and trusted standard bearers. It is able to institute policy on the national and local levels in accord with norms that flow directly from our organizing documents. It has a consistent means of choosing leaders on many levels and trusting them with greater power and responsibility, to the party and the nation, as they rise to greater prominence. There is grooming and schmoozing, backslapping and horse trading, and hundreds, nay thousands, of political lunches, dinners, conferences, town halls and fund raising events in which the political animals (and here let me say I have tremendous respect for those politicians who put in the constituent work) are vetted and chosen.

Somewhere along the line, this was something the GOP either forgot, or decided was bullshit. Personally, I start the unwinding of the party on the night in 2000 when that squalid little man and Karl Rove screwed John McCain in the South Carolina primary.

But even here, that the charge that McCain fathered a child with an African-American woman could have carried such conclusively negative weight in the first place, spoke to an illness already raging, a persistent low grade fever that first enabled the worst presidency since the Civil War, also begun in the Palmetto State, and then, once the nation had the good sense to choose Barack Obama as president, became utterly septic to the host.

I've probably said this here before, but at first I thought that electing BHO president opened a door, and it surely did, but it also turned over a rock, and the bugs crawled everywhere. I've also said that the clear knowledge that Hilary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee drove what was left of the GOP, its most coherent (in the sense it held fast) and hateful plurality, into backing a manifest conman, a frankly racist and proudly misogynist jackass, to take up the standard once held by U.S. Grant, William Howard Taft, Ike Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan.

Put another way, an opportunistic infection took over a gravely weakened patient.

A month ago, when many were worried about the nature of the campaign and the apparent appeal of D. Trump to so many, I was going to say that this is why we have elections, to bring the stupid up and air it out. That we've had such relatively polite contests over the last 120 or so years is more an accident than a matter of essential norms. This year's has been a throwback to the more rank campaigns of the early 19th century, and that's okay.

Because the last time a major political party collapsed we had a war that killed around 600,000 men and maimed many more, and while it is disheartening to see so many now loyal to another lost and unworthy cause, one that draws some identity from the previous one, it is heartening to see that the electoral system works pretty well, and, like a good sewer, is worthy of respect while it handles the most deplorable refuse tossed into it for a long time.

UPDATE: An alternative, though not especially contradictory, view of how political parties work, from Adam Davidson in The New Yorker. To sum up, the GOP is still toast.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Letter from Standing Rock

Reprinted by permission of the author from the Shawangunk Journal, Margaretville, NY, Sept. 29, 2016 -- WD

Letter from Standing Rock
By Joe Gioia
Special to the Shawangunk Journal

If there’s an old part of Mandan, ND you don’t see it from I-94, only the usual new glass box, big sign establishments and car dealerships, most flying large American flags. Exiting at Main St. and turning left onto ND Rt. 1806 (the year, incidentally, Lewis and Clark passed through here on their way home), you go south seven miles before finding the National Guard roadblock: armed young men in cammo fatigues, and two giant cement cubes staggered in the north and south lanes so that cars must snake carefully between them to get through.
            The land is beautiful; green rolling hills, low and long, with scrub oak and cottonwood trees, starting to yellow, sheltered in the draws. The broad Missouri River is visible on the left, and after another twenty miles on that side, a long ranch fence with dozens of homemade banners, the first sign of Standing Rock, a place where Native American protesters have camped since August, aiming to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project intended to carry oil from the enormous Bakken shale field in western North Dakota under the Missouri here to a depot in southern Illinois.
            Standing Rock is really four encampments; the first, a scattering of tents, is on either side of 1806, about half a mile from the main camp, which sits on approximately forty acres in a small valley on the Cannon Ball River. You pass camp security, stern young Indian men with walkie-talkies, and proceed down an inclined dirt lane lined with dozens of flags, each representing an Indigenous tribe or group assembled here.
            This is the Seven Council Fires Camp, where between 3,000 and 4,000 people, the number changes constantly, have lived since demonstrations began. Tents pitched directly across the Cannon Ball, named for the round rocks found in its waters, make up the Redbud Camp. This is on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, and behind it, on another bend of the river and hidden by a line of hills, is the small Sacred Stone Camp, a religious refuge.
            Seven Fires camp has two centers, a social one, a small tamped grass plaza surrounding a sacred fire circle, where you find the main cook tent, medical facilities, school, message boards, and public address system, and a political/religious one some distance away: a long tipi lodge, held up by many poles and reportedly not erected in over a century, is at the true axis of the camp. Here ceremonies of welcome to tribal delegations are given outside, while inside sacred objects from many nations are kept strictly guarded, to be seen and handled only by medicine men. Here elders are said to be forging a new treaty to govern relations between tribes across North America, a genuine pan-Indian movement.
            Solid information, it should be noted, is hard to come by. The number of represented tribes, and of the smaller camps inside the larger one, is impossible to say with certainty. It is, nevertheless, a lot. Specific details are always shifting anyway, and a feeling of the organized ad hoc prevails. You learn quickly that Standing Rock is a learning experience for everyone involved, native and settler, elder and youth.
            The legal services tent, a two-peaked, fatigue green Army surplus number, is at the top of Facebook Hill, the highest point of Seven Fires Camp where cell reception is modestly available (WiFi was still a work in progress). By late September, nearly everyone arrested in earlier actions had been arraigned and released, their trials set for January. One woman, on a warrant from Nebraska stemming from a protest there, was extradited back. Facebook Hill also has a small media tent, another medical tent, and an Army shelter of Desert Storm tan, covering a good 300 square feet, which is a meeting place available to all.
            The hill presents a startling view of the past and present. At least fifty large tipis, of mainly cream colored canvas, some with brightly painted totem animals or patterns, are surrounded by a tide of more up-to-date camping gear—brightly hued nylon domes from Cabelas, North Face, and REI—and more provisional blue tarp affairs. Five or six pony corrals also dot the camp, some formed from ranch-grade steel gating, others of old school wood slats and fence wire. However penned, the horses are beautiful: dappled, highly spirited, and very well kept. Young riders, some saddled, others bareback, come and go, reminders of finer times on the western plains.
            There is, in fact, a distinct atavistic shock involved in stowing your gear in an Army tent and then scanning a large Indian camp from a hilltop with a pair of binoculars. One sees now, as then, a site of constant activity. Sound carries extremely well; voices of people, horses, and dogs, cars and chainsaws, birdcalls and the endless cadence of crickets hiding in the broad-bladed prairie grass. Flags and banners, flying everywhere, snap in the Dakota wind, which can top twenty miles per hour before calling undue attention to itself.
            The only light at night comes from campfires and, eventually last week, a half moon, strong enough to interfere with the view of the Milky Way. After dark, songs, cries, and drums from the assembled bands that have arranged themselves in the greater whole call and answer across the field. This can go on quite late.
            A deep rest then comes easier than true sleep. You drift off quite without noticing, only to resurface. The boundaries of the daytime self dissolve, replaced by a sense of being part of a greater whole, of every sound and creature around you, human, animal, and wind. Night passes with neither the deep sleep, nor bitter insomnia, usually found in houses.
            Everyday something needs doing. A generous array of port-o-sans, donated and maintained by the Standing Rock Reservation casino, seven miles further south, are cleared by septic trucks early each morning. Fires are fed, food prepared, wood chopped, provisions and donations sorted, trash carted off, kids schooled. Last week the Crow nation donated a buffalo that was blessed, killed, then dressed for eating. Pawnee brought several tree-length logs, unknown on the Great Plains, which were chain sawed into short sections to be split into firewood for all.
            Perhaps Standing Rock’s most radical statement is an immense goodwill demonstrated everywhere at all times. Over four days, I didn’t encounter a single instance of anger, aggression or ill will. Neither was there a hint of alcohol or illegal drug use, hard or kind, all strictly forbidden. There are sure to be infractions in a village of 4,000 souls, but tribal security, a very visible presence, quickly deals with any bad actors. Caffeine and nicotine are in abundance, however, and tobacco, loose and in cigarettes, is freely burned for prayer, and widely exchanged as gifts of fellowship and thanks.  
            Many intend to stay through the winter, and plans are underway to move onto the Rez. Seven Fires Camp is located on so-called treaty land, managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. It is mainly unsheltered from winter wind and sits on a spring flood plain. The greatest problem facing organizers is determining the needs for fall, and the move to winter camp. A general meeting last week defined subjects for smaller group action: health, financial accountability, public relations, security, food prep and distribution. A census is planned.
            While Standing Rock tribal Chairman Dave Archambault handles outside affairs, and was in Washington last week, camp decisions are divided among several elders, all of whom spoke at the winter planning meeting. Men and women in their 60s and 70s, they are shown profound respect and no accord can be reached without them.
            There is more is going on at Standing Rock besides protecting a river and its sacred sites. Evidence of a great awakening is everywhere under the sky there, of old ways shared and new ones accepted. There are tipis and smart phones, drums and social media, sacred fires and solar panels, ponies and 4x4s. What appears to be a lasting change in the American Indigenous community, for thinking and acting in a good way, has started.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Myth America

As the Gone Old Party circles around the big suck hole that is the mouth of its current standard bearer, fated to disappear down the dumb maw of its people's choice, I'd like to take the time to put to rest, if possible, some presiding myths which have been lifted up from several quarters this campaign season in service to the notion that, somehow, this election was ever up for grabs, or that any Republican had a chance to gain the brass ring in November.

Numero Uno is that this was somehow to be a "change" election that would just fall into the lap of any GOOPer who won the primaries. My sense was that if the Kenyan Usurper was able, and wanted, to run for a third term, it would have been handed him in a silver loving cup. We see now his approval lines trending ever upward, along with the sense that his third term is safe in the sure hands of Mrs. C.

Number Two: That Mrs. Clinton is a terrible campaigner, something the Berners loved trotting out at various points in support of that elderly scold, who she out polled by nearly three million votes. (And, sorry folks, some snotty emails from the stupid offices of DW Schultz, do not remotely amount to a conspiracy to deny the nomination to old Bern, who ultimately did the right thing, with tremendous style, in Philadelphia.) One does not gain a major party nomination for president under our current system by being a terrible campaigner; and those of you still insisting on this point may consider that the skills needed to win votes may have changed from when the system was meant to deliver results to white men only.

Number Three: That any other GOP candidate could have beaten Mrs. C. in a walk. Again, nope (see reason #1 above). The Repub's so-called deep bench was a gaggle of hucksters, dingbats, bores, and the out-of-it scion of a poisoned political dynasty. The DT tore through them for a reason, which is every reason to think Mrs. C. would have rendered any one of them to lard by November.

Because, #4, the notion that DT ever had a chance in the first place, especially after the primary clown show is utter nonsense. The national electoral map simply does not favor Republicans anymore, most especially one who antagonizes women and minorities, along with a majority of his own party. The silly idea that he ever did was mainly the hobbyhorse of a workaday news industry terrified of having to report bad political news a bit early to many of its subscribers. This tidbit I gleaned today from the New York Times is an ideal example:

For a candidate who once seemed like an electoral phenomenon, with an unshakable following and a celebrity appeal that crossed party lines, Mr. Trump now faces the possibility that his missteps have erected a ceiling over his support . . .

Christ on a crutch. That unshakable following was a noisy plurality of a minority party, and I have seen zero evidence of his appeal to rank and file Democrats.

Myth #5: OhMyGawd, Hilary is SO vulnerable. A recent cri-de-coeur from a long-time GOP fixer bemoaned how DT has missed an opportunity to drive home some really bad Clinton news this past week, the disasters being:

Clinton falsely claiming the FBI director said she told the public the truth about her private server and email practices.

The $400 million cash ransom payment to Iran

The Obama administration's Department of Justice choosing not to open a public corruption investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

Weak economic reports on gross domestic product growth and productivity.

A story detailing a billionaire Clinton Foundation donor who sought a favor from the Hillary Clinton-led State Department.

Honestly, guys, if that's the best you can come up with . . . Shall we go down the list? The FBI director found her completely truthful to his inquiry. The $400 million was Iran's in the first place, held in escrow for 40 years; oh, and the story broke last January. The Justice Dept., unlike Republican congressional committees, does not conduct exploratory witch hunts. Great employment numbers and a record high stock market were seen this week. And, oh God, some guys asked the State Dept. for a little help.

Take it away, Mr. Drum:

One is from a Clinton Foundation executive asking a Hillary aide if she can set up a meeting for a big donor with someone at State. The Hillary aide says she'll see what she can do, and then blows it off. In another, a foundation executive asks for help getting someone a job. He's told that everyone already knows about the guy, and "Personnel has been sending him options." In other words, he's blown off. In yet another, it turns out that a Clinton aide spent some of her own time helping the foundation look for a new CEO.

So....what? People in Washington schmooze with people they know to help other people they know? Shocking, isn't it? 

Which brings us to myth #6, that Mrs. C. is wildly unpopular with the electorate, which, personally, I have a hard time squaring with her being found to be the most admired woman in America for 14 of the last 16 years. Polls are funny things, and you can understand how people may not find her trustworthy after breathless reports of possible malfeasance, invariably shown wanting, not to mention right-wing rumor mongering and character assassination raised to the level of received wisdom by the easy mechanics of misogyny and a compliant press.

For that is finally what this election is all about, a patriarchal political party, maddened by frustration and loss at the hands of an African American, pushes up the most extreme example of its distempered white man rage against a woman who has taken the worst it's dished out for nearly thirty years and is now, amazingly, all set to brain it with a shovel. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

A Fistful of Dolors

My father, who would be celebrating his 98th birthday this year, were he in any condition to do so, was a US Army captain during the Second World War, serving in the North African and Italian campaigns. Being fluent in the Italian language, both parents having been born in the old country, he was often called upon to speak with the civil authorities of small towns and villages under new US control as the army made its slow way up the peninsula.

"We were never fascists", was a common enough refrain from the freshly liberated, he told me. "But those people," the speakers would go on, indicating the next village over, "they were fascists."

"Yeah, sure" was dad's answer to such intelligence.

I bring up this anecdote as an antidote to the latest crop of stories from political writers straining to find something useful to say now that DT's shitshow has become boring, that tell all who'll listen that the real problem with the GOP nominee is not that he'll win, but how he's racialized and radicalized the political calculus in the nation for a generation.

Few want to be associated with failure, especially those who are not true believers in the first place. And it's a safe bet that a goodly section of DT's supporters are currently going along for the weird kicks the ride offers. A lot of them are going to hop on over to Gary Johnson by election day. I'd say over half of the remainders will deny everything after the inevitable loss. The hard-line balance, maybe 20% of his voters, will stew in their mad juices, as the inevitable toll of old age, and firearm calamities, winnows away their numbers.

And though the Gone Old Party has a stupidity and racism problem that seems likely to cost it, or whatever's left of it, a great deal of power at the federal level, the idea that a new white people's movement of newly energized voters is somehow going to pull any weight whatsoever is pointless handwringing from people who should know better.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Midnight in the Garden of Goobers and Weasels (cont.)

Far more interesting to me than the ongoing implosion of the DT campaign (which has--have you noticed?--succeeded in becoming boring) is the equal culture collapse ongoing at FUX News.

Now that is some interesting shiz, and has the potential to greatly change the way things are said and done in our political realm from this day forward. Though never articulated here, alas, the malign effect of the Dirty Digger's rightwing enterprise has never bothered me that much.

While carried on a ton of cable outlets (and so earned a fortune for ownership), it's viewership is fairly low, and dim. It certainly punched far above it's weight in media circles and galvanized legislative opposition. But that first effect we may now chalk-up to career fear and/or the soothing reassurance of an Old Boy's Club at the cocktail hour; and the second has, now that all has been said and done, ended up only hurting the ones who loved it the most.

We may see now that the folks at FUX preyed upon their viewers as steadily and cynically as Roger Ailes' acted against the women in his employ, as well as his perceived enemies. He was very clearly and obviously a despot, which was most of his professional appeal. Despots, though, inevitably fall, and when they do there's rarely anyone with the talent and skills waiting to take over the job. He is old and sick, and so it was just a matter of time.

That FOX News, and let us now savor all the associations connected to that lupine name, is crumbling in realtime tandem with the Gone Old Party is either a glorious coincidence or speaks to a very deep and irresistible change now underway in the national psyche. And you know me, I say it's the latter.

I think history will very soon show that Barak Obama was the rock upon which the Conservative ship was irresistibly drawn and ultimately shattered, less by what he accomplished, which seen from some perspectives has been considerable, than a kind of rectitude in everything he did, a directness and calm, that stood for a great deal, especially in the face of the stupidity and animus his opponents, nearly all white and male, could not help directing at him. He won by being cool, which is really cool.

Speaking of the dumb GOP, I can't close off without a special shout out to the inane Susan Collins, R-Maine, who gifted us the other day with her late repudiation of the DT. Recall, if you will, those heady early months of the Obama administration when the chief executive insisted everything be done to bring on some GOP senate support for the Affordable Care Act, how it was watered down and changed to accommodate the misgivings of . . . Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, also of Maine; that they had absolutely no intention, ever, of supporting any Obama legislation, but lied and drew out the process as long as they possibly could to scuttle the whole thing. And it nearly worked.

 Keep in mind too that Maine is one of the poorest states, and that Ms.'s Collins and Snowe were therefore acting in direct conflict with the needs of their constituents, all to make some damn point about power and control in Washington, and in so doing prepare the way for the Gusher of Stupid their party has drilled since for the nation, along with the later appearance of the man who has torn her dumb and dying party to shreds.

Thanks, Susan. Now bug off.