Month: May 2016

Dear Sanderistas: Your candidate is a pushover

Burn it down, Bernie!

Liberal allies turning on Bernie Sanders after Nevada donnybrook,” ran a Washington Post headline. After a public snubbing of Bernie supporters during the Nevada State Democratic Convention, the senator’s groupies are learning a hard lesson: The Democratic leadership hates their guts.

The animus was on full display last week when, according to NPR, “Sanders supporters allege they were denied being seated at the convention and that the state party chairwoman, Roberta Lange, was slanting the rules in favor of Clinton.” This led to a violent uprising, as Hillary was awarded five more delegates than the Vermont socialist, even though she narrowly won the state.

The Bernie Bros. weren’t having it and reportedly created a ruckus after being slighted by party leadership. When Hillary proxy Senator Barbara Boxer got on stage to woo the crowd, the Bernie Brigade let loose a torrent of boos and jeers.

A few thrown chairs and death threats later, the Nevada Democratic Party filed a formal complaint, accusing Sanders of initiating violence. DNC Chairbitch Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the senator’s response to the mayhem “anything but acceptable.”

To his credit, Sanders didn’t take the charges lying down. “At that convention, the Democratic leadership used its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place,” he shot back. Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver accused Wasserman Schultz of “throwing shade on the Sanders campaign since the very beginning.” Bernie even endorsed Wasserman Schultz’s primary challenger – sparking headlines about the senator going rogue and threatening the ability of the Democrats to unify behind Queen Hillary.


There is no such thing as left-wing dissent part II

Google had an interesting Doodle a few days ago.

Before I looked into it, I didn’t know much about Yuri Kochiyama besides the fact that she was some kind of left-wing radical. After I saw the Doodle, I did some Wikipediaing and found out that she’s not only a Maoist — one of the worst kinds of left-wing radical — she’s an Osama Bin Laden supporter.

That’s about as extreme as you can get in the left-wing direction, leading the naive observer to assume that people who hold these beliefs are engaging in the dangerous activity known as dissent.

Groovy. But wait a second — this person was just honored by the second-largest corporation in the world. So we are simultaneously expected to believe that this person is a bold iconoclast while also never questioning what icons are being smashed, no matter how horrifyingly bloody the smashing is.

I previously wrote that classifying left-wing beliefs as “dissent”is a category error, and that conclusion is becoming more and more obvious.

Liberalism After Obama

With the Obama presidency coming to an end, much of the energy that might have been devoted to analyzing his legacy has been diverted by Donald Trump. But how can one make a fair analysis of a polarizing figure in American politics?

Speaking for myself, as someone of the left with libertarian tendencies, it’s difficult to have much sympathy to the man, however a lot of criticism coming from the GOP is sadly too partisan and unthoughtful. I think from the left the criticism is fairly more interesting, CounterPunch is an outlet that continuously had denounce Obama for his liberal interventionism, the bank bailout, the crony capitalism of the Export-Import Bank and even the corporatism of Obamacare. Recently progressive journalist Jeremy Scahill attacked Obama over drone killing. But one has to wonder where the progressive discontent with Obama comes from.

Allow me to suggest the hopes of the progressives were too high — but they were also misled. Back in 2008, Ralph Nader argued rightly that in a lot of issues John Edwards was actually more progressive than Obama, but the symbolism of the first black president trumped any real discussion of who Obama really was. Matt Gonzalez, a former Green Party councilman of San Francisco that was the vice presidential candidate for Ralph Nader argued that Obama was far from the pacifist some on both right and left try to portray.

On the right the thing is more complex. While some argue racism, the main reason is partisanship — liberals hated Bush every bit as much as conservatives hate Obama. Let me be clear, there were racists and white supremacists of different kinds that were against Obama from the get go but in general the reaction was more than just against Obama, it was against a country changing demographically — Obama was a symbol but not the cause.  

While the radical left and average conservative were fierce critics of Obama, the world seemed to like him more than Bush. Obama recovered the image of America but was far from being the new JFK. The Kennedy years gave American liberalism an identity, the Obama years failed to do so. A government that supposedly signified the victory of the McGovern coalition was closer to the neocon foreign policy than the thoughtful realism of the late South Dakota Senator.

The foreign policy of Obama enabled a Cheney-lite candidate like Hillary to have an easy time becoming the next candidate for the Democratic Party. He was less hawkish than Hillary but was far from being a dove, liberal interventionists and other warmongers were very influential in his government and are going to be even more if Hillary gets elected. Even Sanders who calls himself a socialist is very much a military Keynesian and even supports drone killing.

The popularity of socialism among the young makes one wonder what these could mean for the American left. Without major socialist figures, the next leaders of the Democratic Party will probably identify themselves as FDR Democrats embracing New Deal liberalism — plus identity politics, but nothing revolutionary.  

Obama would still be in high regard within the base of his party and is a useful tool for the party. A Hillary presidency would preserve his legacy in a better way, Trump would try to undo what he has done including his major foreign policy victory in the Iran deal. Sanders is still a mystery because if he is successful he would replace a lot of Obama’s major policies including Obamacare.

Back to the real question of what Obama means for liberalism: seems to be more a symbolic image than a revolutionary change, he represents the victory of identity politics. That being said Obama is by far one of the smartest politicians of the last time, a charismatic leader that gave hope to a generation. Liberalism after him could be more populist in the line of Sanders but at the same time more hawkish in the line of Hillary. I still wonder if Russ Feingold could run in the future for president, it seems like he will be re-elected to the Senate. His mix of civil libertarianism and foreign policy restraint seem to be ideal to form a broad coalition. Another thoughtful leader for the future could be Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard who bravely fought against the Clintonite establishment. Tim Canova who is running to unseat corporatist Debbie Wasserman Schultz represent the new generation of insurgents.

You can love him or hate him, Obama had marked a time of extreme polarization. He hasn’t shaped the Democratic Party in the way some thought he would and he had united the GOP against him. He knows that the future is unknown and that his legacy depends on the future, but he did his best. And while he didn’t exactly deliver the change people think he would bring, he changed the image of America in radical way.

(Image source)

The importance of gatekeepers

Blogger Andrew Sullivan is back, and his latest offering in New York magazine is a doozy. Here’s a quick (and predictable) synopsis: Donald Trump is an existential threat to the American system of constitutional order.

Trump Derangement Syndrome gets tiring, even from a sharp guy like Sullivan. But T-Man Sully does get one thing right about the Donald and our fragile Republic. Citing Plato, he argues that the populist swell that propelled Trump to the GOP nomination is a real danger to something our country is losing supply of: legitimate authority.

I know what you’re thinking: Talk of “legitimate authority” usually comes from puritan witch-burners or Stalinists. It’s true that if taken too far, authority can corrupt. But as sociologist Philip Rieff wrote in his book The Triumph of the Therapeutic, the culture before our modern era “was embedded in a consensus of ‘shalt nots.’” The America of yesteryear had “creedal hedges” in place around “impulses of independence or autonomy” that detracted from “communal purpose.” Our country used to have a shared set of standards regarding sexuality, religion, race, and working life. It wasn’t perfect; but at least it kept grown men out of the little girls’ room.

Those informal limits are long gone. Explanations are legion for the collapse; yet one factor in particular stands out: A lack of gatekeepers on truth and knowledge.


Their works will come to nothing

The anti-politics side of neoreaction is hard for people to grasp in our current context. People tend to think of good things as resulting from some kind of activist energy bringing it together. The opposite of this do-somethingism is neoreaction’s passivism, its belief in entropy:  things will inevitably flow a certain way if the foot is taken off the gas.

For example, subsidies for single mothers and no-fault divorce hold together the ~70 percent single motherhood rate in parts of Northeast DC, where I live. This is the closest thing to a smashed patriarchy we have – it’s dented at the very least.

Without such political energy, as well as the not-strictly-political but still irrational cultural trends like alternative family structures being fashionable, this all falls apart. Reality comes crashing, and people are forced to rediscover healthy family structures. The fact remains, however: social entropy can’t be beaten. A return to patriarchy only requires a relief from politics and the (probably painful) correction that follows.

White males have high-paid Silicon Valley jobs in the absence of this kind of energy. All they had to do was be smart, be productive and mind their own business. This naturally makes the blood of New York Magazine types boil, so now we have the #WomenInTech meme to try to remedy this supposedly horrible state of affairs.

“Diversity consultant” is a thing, by the way. But the tech industry was booming before we had people who supplicate the equality spirits for a living, and it will probably continue to boom when they’re gone. Rule of thumb: if your need a hashtag to continue your existence, you aren’t going to exist for long. Capitalists like bragging to their friends about their investments supporting the things we’re supposed to be down with, but even more than that they like their investments making money. The folly of this line of attack can be generalized to all activism:  it’s just an appeal to the sentiments of the powerful.

Few of them will admit it, but the social order that left-wingers prefer is held together by smashy energy that is fighting a Sisyphean uphill battle.

We can see a pretty successful attempt to smash capitalism in Venezuela – we know it’s successful because the government has smashed capitalism so thoroughly that it can’t even supply toilet paper to their citizens. They even tried extending their smashing to the subsequent breadlines by pulling people out of them based on numbers on their ID cards.



Louanne Miller obit picture_smallOn Mother’s Day, I’m honoring Mom, who died two months ago – and you should honor yours, too

My mother, Louanne Vorba Miller of Middletown, took her last breaths on Friday, March 11, in Room 2044 of the intensive-care unit at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. It’s unreal watching your parent, especially your mother, die in front of your eyes.

Within a 10-minute span, everything went from OK to terminal. It was impossible to register what was happening: The woman who created, nurtured and cared for me for 28 years (mothers never stop looking after your well-being) suddenly ceased to be.
No more holiday visits. No more check-in phone calls. No more walking in the door, seeing her reading in her favorite recliner. No more arguing about politics over e-mail.

Those moments are gone. They live on only in memory. As Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly said in T.S. Eliot’s play, “The Cocktail Party,” “We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them.” Mom, being an English major in college, would appreciate the literary reference.

Eliot’s truth never left my mind in the weeks following my mother’s untimely death. Her passing helped me realize just how precious our relations to others are. During our lives, we leave an indelible mark on those around us. We create ripples in life’s ocean that spread out, touch and interact with others, creating a web of connection that binds us, turning us from selfish creatures into beings capable of love and compassion.

Whether they be our friends, family, coworkers, or complete strangers, our essence is made whole by the people we bond with in our short time here.

Louanne Miller lived a simple life. But she, too, left an impression on those closest to her. Here are a few particularities I’ll remember her by: