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JHan's Journal
JHan's Journal
October 3, 2018

Wither civility right?

It's funny how the same people who had so much to say about lack of civility in politics, are finding a zillion excuses for sexual assault when the alleged assaulter is a rich/privileged alcoholic male.

September 30, 2018

"I'm so appalled, spalding ball, balding Donald Trump taking dollars from y'all"

"Baby, you're fired, your girlfriend hired
But if you don't mind, I'ma keep you on call
We above the law, we don't give a fuck 'bout y'all
I got dogs that'll chew a fucking hole through the wall"

- Kanye West, "So Appalled" - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010

And now...

September 25, 2018

I'm not really surprised.

Even though it's a small sample size, it can give some insight about sentiment if the margin of error is right and the methodology sound.

Last year the results were different because of the failure of Republicans to fully repeal the ACA, now with midterms, tax cuts and a SCOTUS seat on the line, wary Republicans and Libertarian types are warming up to the GOP. Trump is reaping the rewards of Obama putting the economy on even footing after 2008. When the full effect of tariffs and sadistic policies in the tax cut are felt, a Democrat will likely have to fix things again.

Often, voters claim they care about "the economy", when they don't fully grasp the dynamics of why an economy is on the up or down. There's also some tunnel vision in how you assess the success of an administration. Human Development indices aren't considered as strongly as they should be, opportunity costs aren't factored in and I'm more interested in questions like these:

How does the U.S compare to other countries when it comes to Mortality rates, life expectancy, civil rights and social justice, purchasing power, cost of living, manufacturing output?

What is the quality of healthcare services, do more people have access to affordable healthcare or less?

How many "Unicorns" are funded in the U.S?

How does the U.S rank in technological innovation, science, and education compared to her global counterparts?

What is the state of infrastructure compared to other global powerhouses?

The U.S also ranks 20th in the Global Broadband Speed League, how is this being addressed? - because it's a big problem.

How do we rank compared to other countries when it comes to Domestic Terrorism?

How effective is Congress compared to other Governments?
September 24, 2018

Some things I'll keep in mind this week while the Republican spin machine does its thing:

- Ronan and Mayer exposed the Eric Schneiderman Sexual Assault Scandal, the same Schneiderman who declared his opposition to Trump early in Trump's presidency.

- Discussions about Ms Ramirez's recollection of events will be used against her. However, her story is credible precisely because she acknowledges gaps in her memory. Memory is not infallible, and a cautious witness is more reliable than a witness who can confidently recount every single detail of a past event which happened over 2 decades ago. While it's reasonable to question her memory,there were many other ways Ms Ramirez could have described her assault if she had less than honorable motives. Her account truly comes across like someone who was inebriated and taken advantage of.

- I'm not an Avenatti fan, but I wouldn't be surprised if the info pans out. It's in keeping with what we know of the culture at Georgetown Prep.

- Republicans knew about this, which is why girls were used as props during the hearing and why a generic letter signed by 65 women was prepared. They wanted to push through this nomination because they knew the longer it takes to confirm Kavanaugh the greater the likelihood that:
1) more women will come forward.
2) Alumni will also come forward, confirming the sort of toxic culture which existed at Georgetown.
2) Republicans will say dumb shit throughout, pissing off sane women (and men) everywhere.

September 23, 2018

Yes ++ It's tempting to describe this as horseshoe theory BUT..

there's no specific point where the left wing and right wing converge. The impetus for political activism is just different on the hard left compared to the hard right.

What Moore doesn't understand is power, real political power. The GOP understands that, and he's conflating their lust for power with moral conviction.

But our conversation makes me think of how someone can become a useful idiot or how a worldview can make you susceptible to ideas which lead to worse outcomes.

Ideologies are complex, beliefs vacillate depending on changing circumstances but the consequences of elections in a political system where the filibuster dominates, means elections become a zero-sum game. Right after the 2016 election, I saw leftists take aim at Identity Politics, feeding conservative narratives about diverse representation in politics. The same people in the crosshairs of the Trump administration were admonished for demanding political action on the issues which impacted them the most: These people also happen to make up the base of the Democratic party. To make the concerns of the WWC the epicenter of Politics, or characterizing their concerns as the real "bread and butter" issues, dovetailed with Trump's rhetoric. So worldviews converged even though they came from different points.

Historically, we've seen this phenomenon result in disastrous consequences, particularly with anti-semitism. A worldview, even one rooted in "justice for all", can end up punishing the vulnerable. For Polish Communists, for example, it was too easy to buy into Anti-Zionist rhetoric. "Zionism" - which is a call for self-determination among Jewish people - was twisted into conspiratorial theorizing which claimed that Jews were only interested in consolidating economic wealth to the disadvantage of everyone else- a very old tired trope going back centuries. Just 2 decades after the Holocaust, in a country which saw the greatest crimes of the Holocaust, antisemitism reared its head again, with Polish Communists demanding the exile of Jews from public life or demanding Jews denounce Zionism - Which didn't guarantee that Jews weren't exiled anyway, because at the end of it all, even for Communists, a Jew remained someone to be distrusted. To this day, this conspiratorial view of Zionism persists among the left. We're too familiar with how Goldman-Sachs is talked about more than J.P Morgan (it's my belief that Goldman-Sachs gets more attention than J.P Morgan because of the name), and memes like the "Zionist Capitalist Agenda" , "Zionist Banks" etc.

This isn't to say that hard lefties and hard righties are the same, but ideology and politics can make strange bedfellows when you don't correctly identify who the real enemy is.

September 21, 2018

Eyewitness to the Desolation of 'Black Wall Street'

"Her name is Olivia J. Hooker, and she is a sharp and glorious 103 years old. Not only was she the first African-American woman to join the Coast Guard, not only was she a psychology professor and activist, but she is one of the last known survivors of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. During the riot, white residents destroyed the prosperous black neighborhood of Greenwood, which had come to be known as “Black Wall Street.” A report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot said, “It is estimated that approximately 11,000 blacks resided in Tulsa in 1921, most living in the area of the Greenwood section.” As many as 300 people were killed and 8,000 left homeless.

As The New York Times wrote in 2011 on the 90th anniversary, the Tulsa riot “may be the deadliest occurrence of racial violence in United States history.” And yet, as the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum points out, not one act of violence that occurred that day “was then or ever has been prosecuted or punished by government at any level: municipal, county, state, or federal.”"American history is full of stories of black people doing precisely what America says it wants of its citizens — being creative, enterprising and industrious, being self-respecting and self-sufficient — only to have white people destroy what they’ve built, impede their progress and erase their wealth. And those are not far-off stories: Those are also the stories of the living."


She described an idyllic life of school, visits to the grocery store whenever she had two pennies, and her fear of the trolley that ran through town.

But that was all ripped apart one day in her sixth summer, when Greenwood erupted.

White men broke into their house as Hooker and some of her siblings hid beneath an oak dining table, draped with a tablecloth.

“They took a hatchet to my sisters’ piano. They poured oil all over my grandmother’s bed.” They “stuffed the dresser” with ammunition, Hooker told me. Maybe they had intended to burn or destroy the house, but they didn’t.

She continued, “They took all the beautiful biscuits out of the oven and threw them out in the mud.” We both managed a laugh.

They broke the phonograph and the Enrico Caruso records her mother had received as a gift from a friend who had gone to study in Heidelberg, Germany.

“They didn’t appreciate you having anything classical,” Hooker said. “They took all the silverware that Momma had just got for Christmas, coffee pot, teapot — you know, that kind of beautiful stuff. If anything looked precious, they took it.”

September 21, 2018

Republicans, Power and Rape Culture...

Republicans on Rape:

"Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it."
"If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that thing down."
"Rape victims should make the best of a bad situation."
Republicans on Rape

Now we can add to the Republican Cannon of Rape and Sexual Assault :

"Should a man be held responsible for the actions he took as a youth?" - A statement assuming guilt and rationalizing violence.

Apparently, Conservatives can find no shame in the fact that a 53 year old who is accused of sexual assault in his youth is the most qualified person the Trump administration could find to put on SCOTUS.

While the GOP has come to represent everything Anti-Woman, their malignancy is a symptom of Rape Culture and we all swim in its toxic waters.

One of the features of Rape Culture is the presentation of rape only in its most extreme, violent, sadistic form, the sort instigated by strangers. The reality is rape is often not extremely violent, and this fact makes it no less a violation because the cornerstone of rape is non-consent. In most cases, the assailant is known to the victim. The way victims process trauma also differs - it may take them a few days or it may take them decades and by focusing on extreme examples of rape as the sole definition of what rape is, less violent and similarly dysfunctional psychosocial behavior become normalized as "horseplay", and sexual assault trauma is trivialized. In a similar vein, to use an analogy, this same phenomenon is at work when racism is only acknowledged in its most violent forms, like the KKK and Lynching, while discrimination in a million other different, less obviously violent, ways are dismissed and minimized ( anti-semitism and other toxic isms are applicable)

Since Dr. Ford's allegations became public, the idea of whether to "believe" her has also predictably entered the debate, when the focus should be on how structural systems respond to allegations of assault. Far more important than the notion of belief, should be an expectation that a sexual assault accuser's claims are to be treated seriously and with professionalism. How allegations are handled sends a message to sexual assault survivors, both male and female, that demanding accountability will not result in further victimization

Beyond the fact that the GOP denied a sitting President a hearing for his SCOTUS pick, and beyond all arguments about Democrats and their strategies, lies the truth at stake here: We women are not property and it is we who should determine what happens to our bodies.

September 19, 2018

Seems like a lifetime ago we were told it was a fallacy to call Trump a wannabe fascist.

That our concerns were all leftist hyperbole and part of the "anyone who disagrees with me is Hitler" reasoning. There's a lot less of this kind of critique these days from certain quarters.

For those of us who saw the threat, there's no joy in saying I told you so. Recently I thought about the insight of Arendt, Paxton and Umberto Eco, thinkers whose insight resonate more strongly since Trump's inauguration...

“In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. ... Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.”

Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

Paxton's 5 stages of fascism:

Intellectual exploration, where disillusionment with popular democracy manifests itself in discussions of lost national vigor;

Rooting, where a fascist movement, aided by political deadlock and polarization, becomes a player on the national stage;

Arrival to power, where conservatives seeking to control rising leftist opposition invite the movement to share power;

Exercise of power, where the movement and its charismatic leader control the state in balance with state institutions such as the police and traditional elites such as the clergy and business magnates; and

Radicalization or entropy, where the state either becomes increasingly radical, as did Nazi Germany, or slips into traditional authoritarian rule, as did Fascist Italy.

Umberto Eco's 14 common features of fascism

The cult of tradition.- “One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements.”

The rejection of modernism.- “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.”

The cult of action for action’s sake. -“Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.”

Disagreement is treason. -“The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture, the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.”

Fear of difference.- “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”

Appeal to social frustration. -“One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.”

The obsession with a plot. -“The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.”

The enemy is both strong and weak.- “By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”

Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.”

Contempt for the weak. -“Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.”

Everybody is educated to become a hero. “In Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.”

Machismo and weaponry. “Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”

Selective populism. “There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.

Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”
September 16, 2018

The Things Wrong With Dems

There are a lot of complaints about Democrats.

I feel we should break them down:

- Dem failures to get things done in Congress. If Dems can't get something done it's because they're either compromised or too "weak" to fight. Things like procedural votes and deals done when you're in a minority, or the understanding that majorities determine what you can do, is lost... completely. Paying too much detail to policy and getting it right and airtight, is just Dems lollygagging. Any errors of judgment are to be brought up constantly, even 30 years afterward. In fact, forever and ever even if the Dem expresses regret.

- Dems can't hold it together on votes, what's Chuck doing??? - re Kavanaugh. Seems the votes on Trumpcare and the Tax Bill are part of a history that was lost with the Library of Alexandria.

- Democrats are the only ones with agency. Always. Republicans and their evil-doing don't really exist. Does a Democrat get smeared unfairly by Republicans? It's obviously the Democrat's fault if only she didn't [something something something]. Even when there are countervailing forces making progress difficult it's still the Democrat's fault. Even in the face of powerful forces like the famed "Arkansas Project", The Birchers, The Federalists, The Mercers, the loonies who hate anything connected to the New Deal & Great Society or Lee Atwater-esque strategies, it's always down to what Democrats do: are we even sure Republicans actually exist in this schema of Powerful Dem Agency?

- "The Donor Class" - All Donors are Evil, and even aggregate donations from industries are evil. In fact, money is evil. And all industries are evil. Unless someone we like gets money from a venture capitalist then it's okay and if a group we like keeps their donors secret, that's okay too ....btw, we oughta do something about all this dark money in politics.

-"ACA is actually a conservative plan and Obama could have gone for Single Payer but he was too weak" & "Bill Clinton is the reason why everything is bad", "FDR was the greatest, purest politician ever and never compromised!" -File these under Historical Revisionism's Greatest Hits

- Dems are ALWAYS terrible at messaging. Always. And that's why they're seen as weak. The messaging is not even resonating enough with millennial gentrifiers in Brooklyn. When was the last time Chuck or Nancy offered a cri de cœur to young people in a tweet? This is why they both suck even though they keep winning their elections and house members keep placing faith in Nancy, but these facts are beside the point.

- The whole primary thing is corrupt because of SuperDelegates So what if caucuses are similarly problematic and Superdelegates haven't really done much in ages except go with the flow.

- DNC hates progressives and picks faves The DNC is God and rigs everything even though it isn't and hasn't and just organizes fundraising. Donna Brazille's book didn't prove anything on this score - Welcome to reality.

- Dems need to grow a spine. I am surprised they manage to stand upright. Then when they do something the backseat drivers approve of they are complimented with.. "About time they grew a spine: This must be a first! Never happen again from the spineless Dems!" I'm really surprised they're able to walk. Dems also always bring a casserole to a gunfight- this is actually pretty funny even though it's wrong. But who cares.

Dems are still to blame even though the media suffers from the disease of bothsideism


- Actual solid critiques don't appear often - like ignoring state parties which hurt Dems in Obama's second term in a big way, structural issues, securing and updating of data, and the need to improve digital presence.

/snark off.

I am not saying Democrats should never be criticized but hot takes that ignore context and political realities gets a no from me.

September 13, 2018

Voting As An Expression of Personality...

or Why I Didn't Watch Chris Hayes last night.

From the reaction on DU, and social media in general, it was apparently a "kill me now" moment, as Charles Pierce succinctly described on twitter.

There are lots of reasons why voters end up not voting. They may be low information, or in a state where voter suppression tactics are practiced however for voters who had the means to inform themselves, could have voted but still didn't vote, "self-absorbed" doesn't go deep enough to describe them.

When a young man said he needed to be "inspired", he's saying he needed to be seduced and catered to, marketed to even. My generation has been aggressively marketed to since we were kids, is it any wonder he sees voting in this light?

I think this is a reflection of how our marketing models and economic structures embedded themselves in our politics and it reached its zenith in 2016. Chomsky's warning was prescient:

1) Voting should not be viewed as a form of personal self-expression or moral judgment directed in retaliation towards major party candidates who fail to reflect our values, or of a corrupt system designed to limit choices to those acceptable to corporate elites.

2) The exclusive consequence of the act of voting in 2016 will be (if in a contested “swing state”) to marginally increase or decrease the chance of one of the major party candidates winning].

so how did a society which hitherto understood the import of civic action as social action, descend to this point where voting becomes something akin to a vanity project?

Perhaps neoliberalism is partly to blame. The quotes below are lifted from a blog post and some thoughts the author shared on twitter I found insightful when Cornell West attacked Ta-Nehisi Coates as a Neo-liberal.

Neoliberalism was once understood to be an approach to economic policy which favored property rights, limited government intervention in the form of weak or non-existent regulatory frameworks, low taxes, and unregulated markets - in a word laissez-faire economics. Hayek devised this approach at a time when your capitalist was an industrialist and this philosophy was fully expressed in Reaganomics and Thatcherism.

The Neoliberal sees government intervention as tipping the scales in a particular direction. Less government intervention means more equitable outcomes. "The "equitable" here doesn't mean "everyone is equal". It means, "everyone gets what they deserve." Neoliberalism is dedicated to doctrinaire individualism; it assumes that without government, everyone has the same chance at success, so those who do succeed do so through merit"

It "denigrates structures in favor of individuals where deregulation allows everyone to maximize their potential and be their most successful selves. Turning a systemic critique into an individual moral failing is exactly what neoliberalism does".

So what is the net effect of this phenomenon?

The individual becomes a self-interested consumer who cannot see "the forest for the trees". Focus on structural issues are abandoned in favor of individual prejudice, and desires.

None of us are fully immune from this.

We ( royal "we" ) are all customers in a consumerist model where we brand ourselves and signal to the world who we are through our consumer choices. We don't buy things solely for their utility, we also buy things because we think they're a reflection of who we are and this makes us feel good. One of the best examples of this was the hugely successful Marlboro Man advertising campaign in the 50's- Men bought Marlboros not because they liked smoking, they wanted to become a Marlboro man. Today, some buy fair trade coffee because it makes them feel good to buy a product they think helps poor farmers. Pondering on how we all benefit from tariffs which hurt producers of all kinds in third world countries or Protectionist Policies which favor producers in powerful states over others is too grand a scale to consider because then you would have to look at structures and that's way too complicated.

Every advertisement for products focuses on how that product makes you feel and what kind of person you are for having bought it - utility is secondary.

This type of thinking has morphed itself into how civic action is perceived by many - a phenomenon I've observed more on the left than the right. The right has felt aggrieved since LBJ's Great Society Initiative and their reaction to losing ground has been a hyper-focus on recapturing power. They have longed to enjoy getting back at liberals for something long lost, it's why many Republicans are enjoying their little orgy of revanchism at the moment with Trump's vulgarity a minor concern in the big picture. However, on the left, there's been complacency. Rights that were won through blood, sweat and tears have been taken for granted.

Voting has morphed into an expression of Self and Personality. And the candidate must cater to "you" and "earn your vote", which means that the candidate must always fill you with bliss and make you feel "inspired", instead of voting seen as what it actually is - social civic action. One approach focuses on self, the other prioritizes community and best outcomes beyond one's self.

Third Party Voters and Non-Voters have nothing to show for their choices and indecision. For third-party voters, they knew their chosen candidates wouldn't win. Some liberals even voted for Gary Johnson's absurd platform which they ordinarily wouldn't agree with. Some non-voters didn't vote because a candidate wasn't appealing enough to them, she had to be sexy enough in their eyes. But on a deeper level, what is this voter saying to the world? They are branding themselves as "an iconoclast, a free thinker whose views can't be put into neat boxes, You can't force me to vote in either direction."

Sometimes Dems benefit from this kind of approach to voting. The "Obama Brand" symbolized a more diverse America with the promise of a progressive future, and Voters closely identified with this. Hillary would have expanded on what Obama achieved, which is typical for those rare Presidents whose predecessor was in the same party.

But who was the Hillary Clinton voter? did we ever really know? For decades, pundits insinuated that the only kind of Hillary voter was a vagina voter, or a bitter divorcee, or a nagging wife and/or mom. The Media did not really cover Hillary voters who were enthusiastic to vote for her. We either got lukewarm articles, or articles acknowledging support dashed with either antagonistic spin or snark. This erased her accomplishments and dragged her to Trump's level. Her "brand" was tarnished, almost non-existent. There are reasons for this, like sexism and so on, I won't delve into here.

When voting is seen as such an individualistic enterprise, systems and structures are ignored - Like the Supreme Court, the Importance of retaining Control in Congress, Threats to Democracy like Gerrymandering and Voter Suppression. I often heard in 2016: "You can't blackmail me into voting for her with warnings about SCOTUS" Now that Roe V Wade is in the cross hairs of the Federalists, and god knows what else, we may need to experience a whole lot of hurt before lessons are learned.

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About JHan

Be true, be brave, stand. All the rest is darkness.
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